I have 300GBs of neatly organized photographs of my past 10 years in 500+ folders (albums) with names like:

20150320-20150320 Partial Solar Eclipse (Szentes, Dónáti domb) [Sarah]
20150330-20150331 Siófok-Tihany (Balaton) [Mom, Sarah]

Each of these folders contain 10-1000 x 1-4MB JPEG files taken via several cameras and phones.


While I like the idea of just dumping everything at Google Photos and it will organize them by date, I would like to still keep my Albums intact, especially since I may have 2-3 albums for different events on a single day sometimes. I can make piece of losing some quality with the "High quality (free unlimited storage)" option, but I don't want to re-do all my organizing of re-picking each event's photos into albums in the browser if I have it already.

I'm looking for any options that might preserve the existing folder structure (instead of Photos' yyyy/mm/dd/*.jpg) or create albums on the UI for each folder. A nice to have feature would be to also upload an occasional .txt file that's in the album too.

Without these features I would lose months of organization work and I will have the inability to ever re-create the current structure I have.

I tried the following options already

  1. Upload to Google Drive as folders and move to Google Photos folder, this counts against Drive quota, which is not unlimited
  2. Upload via Google Photos uploader, images are scattered into yyyy/mm folders merging a lot of events into one folder AND NOT creating any albums in the meantime at https://photos.google.com/collections
  3. Searched for new Google Photos API to write my own "albumizer", but none found :(
  • If you support this, go to Google+ and +1 and comment on this post
    – TWiStErRob
    Commented Aug 9, 2015 at 13:45
  • I have the exact same problem. Did you ever find a solution? Your Google+ link in the previous comment is no longer available.
    – Lynn
    Commented Oct 18, 2015 at 3:06
  • @Lynn thanks for the heads up, it seems that they did some changes to the Photos related communities and my post lost its connection. I'll re-check and re-post if this is still not possible.
    – TWiStErRob
    Commented Oct 18, 2015 at 10:47

11 Answers 11


If you upload using the Google Photos uploader, albums won't get automatically created, but the folder name will get saved with the photo metadata.

Try this: after uploading your photos from multiple folders, do a search to one of the folder names ("solar eclipse" in your case). This will list all your photos uploaded from that folder. Now - for the moment - you can put up with this funcitonality (always accessing your albums by a search).

  • Thanks for registering to answer! I guess I could use Photos as the non-primary service, keeping and updating my physical backups, and when the time comes (albums are created from folders), clear and reupload everything again. There's just a problem of not being able to see a list of things to search for, I'll have to maintain a separate list.
    – TWiStErRob
    Commented Sep 11, 2015 at 14:28
  • 2
    One can create an album from such "folder name search" simply by selecting all the search results and adding these to a new album.
    – Kozuch
    Commented May 16, 2016 at 19:21
  • Actually, I can't see the folder namens being added to Metadata of the photos :-( When I have a folder like "50th Birthday Karin" and I search "Birthday Karin", I don't find exactly those pictures. I can ONLY find a superset of birthday images by search "Birthday"..
    – tim
    Commented Jun 11, 2016 at 7:38

Finally the solution is here.

Google added a tiny "Recover Storage" button on the web interface (photos.google.com -> Settings -> Recover Storage).

  1. Use Picasa desktop client to upload all your folders in original quality

  2. This will create Collections corresponding to folders on your computer. This will also count towards your storage quota.

  3. Compress all your photos with the new button.

Of course, you either need temporary storage to store the uploaded photos before they are compressed, or you can stop uploading from time to time when you near your quota, recover the space using the button, then continue the upload once the photos are compressed.

(Since currently 100 GB costs $1.99/month, maybe the easiest is the purchase it for 1 month until everything is neatly uploaded and compressed.)


What I am doing now is drag and drop folders one by one in the web browser and once it finishes uploading it will ask to rename the uploaded album. (Of course it’s difficult for a big collection with too much folders.)


The Google Photos API does not support what you, and many other people, want to do.

The correct answer to this question is that as of July 2016 there is no way to do what you want to do using Google Photos.

  • Yay, so all those days went into organizing photos will be negated once I upload them to Photos. I guess this means I'd have to pay for normal Drive storage and then everything will be preserved. Let's hope they come around and implement something.
    – TWiStErRob
    Commented Jul 8, 2016 at 0:13
  • When you say "Google Photos API" did you actually found one, or you're referring to Picasa's API?
    – TWiStErRob
    Commented Jul 8, 2016 at 0:15

If you have access to Picasa uploader (I use Mac version) it provides album options. Uploads to Picasa appear in Photos. I cannot guarantee, however, that this won't count against storage quota, it probably doesn't use the Google Backup app's compression.

Bad news about the missing API. We really need that.


After reading the answers to summarize...

In Picasa 3, I import just the folders I want to become collections/albums. Then I click on the "Upload to Google Photos" button which is green, one at a time, it will then queue and upload creating a collection in the mobile app.

Don't have any folders in other folders, as it will not work well.

You can then choose the album cover you wish when viewing a full image.

  • This doesn't provide answer. If it does please use edit button and edit your answer in proper way.
    – serenesat
    Commented Sep 15, 2015 at 9:57

The Google Desktop Uploader will backup images from your PC.


It offers the choice between "High quality (free unlimited storage)", and "Original".

  • 2
    Quality is one thing, folder structure is another. Does that uploader keep folders=albums?
    – TWiStErRob
    Commented Oct 31, 2016 at 19:56

I tried by Drag and Drop an album to Google Photos. But it didn't preserve the original dates of the pics.

The Google Photos uploader should have the option to keep the folders as albums in the web.


Create a little program that adds the current path of the photo to the 'Comments' metadata of each photo.

This won't help you in Google Photos, but if you had to download them all, you can reverse your program to build a folder structure based on the path in 'Comments'

  • What you mean by you can reverse your program?
    – serenesat
    Commented Jul 11, 2016 at 18:02
  • 1
    Reversing the logic...i.e. After you download all photos to a single folder, write a program that reads each path in the 'Comments' field per photo and moves the photo to that folder (creating it if it doesn't exist).
    – eych
    Commented Jul 11, 2016 at 19:23

If you have an Android device (including a Chromebook), you can upload folders straight to albums using the Album Uploader app at: https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.blackramlabs.photos.upload

You can connect a hard drive to most modern Android devices and upload from there.

Disclaimer: I wrote it, and it’s still in Beta. It's free for limited use, with a one-time payment for more albums and photos


just turn Sync to web on from picasa and it turns them into albums on google photos

  • That sounds nice, but Picasa has been shut down for a year now: picasa.google.com
    – TWiStErRob
    Commented Feb 22, 2017 at 23:30
  • but you can still go download it and it works lol. filehippo.com/download_picasa This is how i've been doing it for all my photos just this week.. 15000 photos in many different folders with the naming scheme: "2015-05-13 Mt. Rainier" The only problem i run into is when there is a video file, it sometimes gets hung up and an error occurs during upload, but if there are no videos, it uploads all of them just fine.
    – imdokdokhe
    Commented Mar 1, 2017 at 11:32

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