How to set up a shared library with Google Photos

Sharing family photos with your significant other has never been easier.

Matt Elliott Senior Editor
Matt Elliott is a senior editor at CNET with a focus on laptops and streaming services. Matt has more than 20 years of experience testing and reviewing laptops. He has worked for CNET in New York and San Francisco and now lives in New Hampshire. When he's not writing about laptops, Matt likes to play and watch sports. He loves to play tennis and hates the number of streaming services he has to subscribe to in order to watch the various sports he wants to watch.
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Matt Elliott
2 min read
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Although we are both equipped with an iPhone , I take many more photos than my wife, which makes me the photo keeper of the family. When the occasion arises to show a photo of one of our two kids to a friend (that we have not already posted to Instagram), she asks me to dig through the photos on my phone and find the requested image. Now, thanks to new shared libraries from  Google Photos , I no longer need to serve as the family's photo retriever.

With the new shared libraries, my wife can have immediate access to every photo I take. She just needs to install the Google Photos app first. And since I'm on an iPhone and not Android, I need to turn on Back up & sync on my end, which sends every photo I snap to Google Photos. (Even before shared libraries, I had this feature enabled as a painless way to backup my iPhone photos.)

Set up a shared library

To share your library or part of it with someone, open Google Photos and follow these steps:

Screenshot by Matt Elliott/CNET
  • Tap the hamburger button on the top left and choose Share your library
  • Tap Get Started and then select a partner from your list of contacts
  • Grant access to All photos or Photos of specific people
  • Choose to share all photos from the beginning of your photo library or from a specific date forward
  • Tap Send invitation
Screenshot by Matt Elliott/CNET

One thing to note: You can set up only one shared library. To test this feature with my wife and her iPhone at work, I commandeered my daughter's iPhone so I could see what happened on the receiving end, but then I thought it would be fun and useful to share family photos with both of the iPhone-toting members of my family. Once I shared my library with my daughter, however, the Share your library option disappeared.

On the receiving end

Your invitee will receive a notification that you want to share photos. After your invitation has been accepted, your shared library will be listed on the Shared library section of the main Google Photos menu. By default, the photos in the shared library are not added to the person's main feed of Google Photos, but you can make that happen or just for photos of specific people. Go to Settings > Shared libraries to set your preference.

Screenshot by Matt Elliott/CNET

You can also manually add photos from a shared library to your main Google Photos library. Just select the photos in the shared library and tap the button in the top right.

A shared library can also be a two-way street where both sides of a shared library can contribute photos. You'll find this option in the same settings panel for shared libraries. You send an invitation to share some or all of your own photos with the person who started the shared folder.