One of the best reasons to use Google Photos is that Google can automatically back up all of the photos you take with your smartphone for free.

Or at least that used to be one of the best reasons to use Google Photos. Starting June 1, 2021 Google is removing that feature – you’ll still be able to back up your photos. But they’ll count against the 15GB of free storage that Google gives all users.

That storage is shared across Gmail, Google Drive, and Google Photos… which means that you may run out of space pretty quickly if you snap a lot of pictures with your smartphone.

Up until recently Google has offered a few different options for Google Photos backup:

  • Unlimited “High Quality” storage for free
  • Unlimited “Express Quality” storage for free (in some regions)
  • Original quality storage free up to 15GB

Original quality means that no compression is applied – the photos are uploaded straight from your camera to the cloud. High Quality photos are compressed to take up less storage space while still looking almost as good. And Express quality images are compressed even further.

Starting in June, Google will require most users who exceed 15GB in storage space to either delete files to free up space, or pony up some cash — you can pay for a Google One subscription to get extra storage space. Plans start at about $2 per month for 100GB of storage.

There is one exception – Google will still offer free unlimited photo and video backup to folks with Pixel 5 or earlier smartphones. But that suggests that next year’s Pixel will no longer come with that perk.

Google also notes that the new policy will only apply to new photos and videos uploaded on June 1, 2021 or later. The company won’t delete files you’ve already backed up… but you may have to delete them yourself if you want to free up space. Google will also roll out a new free tool in the Photos app next year to let you manage backed up photos by helping delete “dark or blurry photos or large videos.”

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