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Android 101: how to download or share a Google Photos album

It’s not as easy as it sounds

Photo by James Bareham / The Verge

One thing Google really wants you to do is, well, stay in Google — because the more you do things the Google way, the more data the company can monetize. The result is that while it is possible to pull your emails, photos, and other material outside of the Googleverse, it’s just a little bit more difficult.

For example, let’s say you want to show an album of family photos that are stored on Google Photos to your favorite grandparent. If they’re reasonably Google-savvy, it’s not a problem at all — you just share the album with them.

Share a Photos album on the web

  • Click on “Albums” in the left menu.
  • Hover the cursor over the album you want to share, and click on the three dots.
  • Click on “Share album.”
photos share album
All you have to do is click on “Share album.”

Another way to go:

  • Click on “Albums” in the left menu.
  • Select the album you want to share.
  • Click on the “Share” icon in the upper-right corner.

Share an album using the mobile Photos app

  • Tap on “Library” at the bottom of the screen.
  • Select the album you want to share.
  • Select “Share.”

However, let’s say your grandparents want to download copies of the photos to email to a friend or to upload to a non-Google app. Then things get slightly more complicated.

Download a Photos album on the web

Actually, complicated may be the wrong word. It’s not difficult to download an album; you just have to know where to look.

  • Click on “Albums” in the left menu.
  • Open the album you want to share, either by clicking on the album in the main section or selecting the album name in the left-hand column
  • Click on the three dots in the upper-right corner and select “Download all.”
  • Google will then download a zip file containing the photos from your album.
google photos download album
It’s not difficult to download albums from the web.

You can also download multiple albums (or all your albums) by using Google Takeout, which lets you export data being held in your Google Account:

  • Go to the “Download your data” page of your account.
  • Click on “Deselect all” (because this page automatically checks off every Google service you use).
  • Page down to Google Photos and select it by clicking in the check box.
  • Click on the button that says “All photo albums included.” Again, click on “Deselect all” and then check the boxes of those albums you do want to download. (Of course, if you want download all your albums, then just keep it the way it is.)
  • Click on “Multiple formats” for information about how your photos will be downloaded. For example, the actual photos will be downloaded in the same format that they were uploaded, while metadata will be downloaded as JSON files.
  • Scroll down and click on “Next step.”
  • You can then choose how you’ll receive your albums. You can receive the file via an email link or have it send to Dropbox, Drive, OneDrive, or Box. You can also choose if you want this to be a one-time download, whether you want it as a ZIP or TGZ file, and what the maximum size of the file should be.
  • Click on “Create export.” Be aware that it may take a while for you to receive your export — According to Google, it could take hours or days (although when I tried it with a single album, it took about a minute).
  • You will receive an email informing you of the successful download and offering you a link to download your files, or if you choose to send them to a cloud storage service, to where they were sent.

Download an album using the mobile Photos app

The answer to this is very simple: you can’t. There are, however, a couple of workarounds that you can use. For example, you can use Google Takeout using your mobile device’s browser and follow the steps listed above. You can also share the photos within the album to email or Google Drive, and then download them from there. This second method is pretty awkward, but it does work.

Here’s how you share to email or Drive. (The photos shown are from a Pixel 3 XL running Android 12 beta, but the process should be the same for most Android phones and iPhones.)

  1. In the Photos app, select “Library” from the bottom of the screen.
  2. Look for the “Albums” heading, and then tap on the album you want to download.
  3. Press and hold onto the first photo until you see a check in the box in the upper-left corner of the photo. Then drag your finger down until all the photos in the album are checked.
  4. Tap on the “share” icon on the top right of the screen.
  5. From here, you can either email the photos to yourself (an oldie but goodie) or save them to your favorite online storage service and download them from there.
You can find your albums by using the “Library” tab.
You can find your albums by using the “Library” tab.
After you’ve checked the photos you want, share them however you like.
After you’ve checked the photos you want, share them however you like.

As more people work using their phones rather than on laptops or other larger systems, the inability to do certain tasks on a mobile device — for example, download an album — is going to become, to say the least, irritating. Hopefully, Google will take note.

Update August 30th, 2021, 11:50AM ET: This article was originally published on June 4th, 2019, and has been updated to account for changes in the Google Photos interface.