Google Photos High Quality vs Original

Google Photos High Quality vs Original

What’s the difference between Google Photos High Quality vs Original setting? There is no great surprise if you have never heard of that. If you are like most people, you don’t really pay much attention to the prompts when you install new apps.

It’s when you download Google Photos onto a new device that you will be asked to choose between High Quality or Original Quality. In this article, you’ll learn a bit more about both and which one is more adequate for you.

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Google Photos High Quality vs Original

Google Photos High Quality

When you choose High Quality to back up your photos in Google Photos, you are given unlimited free storage. All of your photos larger than 16MP will be compressed and/or resized to 16MP. It will also convert all of the different photo formats into JPEG. If you upload a video that is higher than 1080p, it will be resized to Full-HD 1080p.

Google Photos Original

As the name suggests, when you back up your photos in original quality, photos and videos will remain in the same format and the same size as when you took them.

With this option, Google Photos offers you a limited amount of free storage which Google currently has set at 15GB (though you can buy more). Uploading images in original quality is generally recommended for photos over 16MP, videos over 1080p, and printing large banners.


For small photos

We wanted to discover if there was actually any difference between the quality of the image using the different storage options and a 12MP photo. Our original photo had 16.7 MB. Once we had stored it as high quality, the megapixel rating remained the same but it was now taking just 1.05MB, which is a massive saving in storage.

What surprised us was that there was no perceptible difference in the image quality. We even cropped the image and took a closer look. There was still no visible loss of quality. It wasn’t until we zoomed by 500% that we could just make out a small difference in the quality. But really, when are we ever going to zoom in on our photos that much?

For large photos

Many smartphones are now equipped with 20MP and even bigger sensors. In this case, images backed up to Google Photos will be resized. Our 20MP image was 9.19MB. Once we had saved it as high quality in Google Photos, it was compressed and resized to 16MP and 4.93MB. Once again, there was no perceptible difference in the quality of the compressed image.

Using RAW Images

RAW photos are those that have all of the image data recorded and unlike JPEG, the information is not compressed. The quality of a RAW photo is much higher than JPEG. RAW formats can be ERF from Epson, RW2 from Panasonic, or DCR from Kodak.

When looking at a 23MP DNG, it was compressed to an 82KB Jpeg. Here, we noticed a difference! With Google Photos High Quality setting, the image wasn’t quite as crisp as the original.

This is probably something that would only concern professionals as the difference was slight. What was more noticeable was the color. The colors weren’t as vivid and the overall image was a fraction darker.


While we were impressed with the images that were compressed, uploading videos in High Quality left us somewhat disappointed. And we weren’t alone. We tried a range of different sized videos expecting them all to convert into HD 1080p.

When uploading each one, we noticed that the files were anywhere from 360p to 720p. After a few days to fully process, we did see an increase in the quality, but rarely to the full 1080p as advertised.

Google Photos Original vs High Quality: How to change from one to another?

Now that you are aware of the different settings, you might want to change yours, particularly if you are low on storage space. Here are two ways to adjust your settings depending on your device:

On an Android or iOS (smartphone or tablet):

  • Open Google Photos app and sign in to your Google account;
  • Click on your account profile photo or initial at the top right-hand side;
  • Choose “Photo Settings” and then “Back up & sync”;
  • Here you can choose between High Quality and Original. If it won’t allow you to go from High Quality to Original, it could be that you don’t have enough storage space.

On a computer:

If you access this link it will open your Google Photos settings. Now you will have two options. The Original setting shows you how much space you have left and below is the High Quality option. The one that is selected is what you have active now. Just choose the setting according to your preference.

Wrap Up

The debate between Google Photos High Quality vs Original will depend on the type of use of your account and on the purpose of your photos. If you only need to keep all of your memories in a safe place, the High Quality setting is perfect, especially when you consider how many photos and videos we have on our phones.

Moving them into Google Photos means that they are still easy to access but your device will have more space available and will probably run better. On the other hand, if you prefer your photos in a RAW format, or you are using videos for professional use, we highly recommend backing up in the Original setting.

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