Upload media

Uploading media items is a two-step process:

  1. Upload the bytes of your media files to a Google Server using the uploads endpoint. This returns an upload token which identifies the uploaded bytes.
  2. Use a batchCreate call with the upload token to create a media item in the user's Google Photos account.

These steps outline the process of uploading a single media item. If you are uploading multiple media items (very likely for any production application), review the best pratices for uploads to improve your upload efficiency.

Before you begin

Required authorization scopes

Uploading media items to a user’s library or album requires either the photoslibrary.appendonly or the photoslibrary scope.

Media items can also be created using the photoslibrary.sharing scope. To create items with the photoslibrary.sharing scope, you must first create an album and mark it as shared using shareAlbum. You can then create media items that are shared with the user in the album. You can't create items directly in the user's library or in albums that your app hasn't shared.

When listing albums, the isWriteable property indicates whether your application has access to create media in a particular album.

Accepted file types and sizes

You can upload the file types listed in the table below.

Media type Accepted file types Maximum file size
Photos BMP, GIF, HEIC, ICO, JPG, PNG, TIFF, WEBP, some RAW files. 200 MB
Videos 3GP, 3G2, ASF, AVI, DIVX, M2T, M2TS, M4V, MKV, MMV, MOD, MOV, MP4, MPG, MTS, TOD, WMV. 10 GB

Step 1: Uploading bytes

Upload bytes to Google using upload requests. A successful upload request returns an upload token in the form of a raw text string. Use these upload tokens to create media items with the batchCreate call.

REST

Include the following fields in the POST request header:

Header fields
Content-type Set to application/octet-stream.
X-Goog-Upload-Content-Type Recommended. Set to the MIME type of the bytes you're uploading. Common MIME types include image/jpeg, image/png, and image/gif.
X-Goog-Upload-Protocol Set to raw.

Here is a POST request header:

POST https://photoslibrary.googleapis.com/v1/uploads
Authorization: Bearer oauth2-token
Content-type: application/octet-stream
X-Goog-Upload-Content-Type: mime-type
X-Goog-Upload-Protocol: raw

In the request body, include the binary of the file:

media-binary-data

If this POST request is successful, an upload token which is in the form of a raw text string, is returned as the response body. To create media items, use these text strings in the batchCreate call.

upload-token

Java

// Open the file and automatically close it after upload
try (RandomAccessFile file = new RandomAccessFile(pathToFile, "r")) {
  // Create a new upload request
  UploadMediaItemRequest uploadRequest =
      UploadMediaItemRequest.newBuilder()
              // The media type (e.g. "image/png")
              .setMimeType(mimeType)
              // The file to upload
              .setDataFile(file)
          .build();
  // Upload and capture the response
  UploadMediaItemResponse uploadResponse = photosLibraryClient.uploadMediaItem(uploadRequest);
  if (uploadResponse.getError().isPresent()) {
    // If the upload results in an error, handle it
    Error error = uploadResponse.getError().get();
  } else {
    // If the upload is successful, get the uploadToken
    String uploadToken = uploadResponse.getUploadToken().get();
    // Use this upload token to create a media item
  }
} catch (ApiException e) {
  // Handle error
} catch (IOException e) {
  // Error accessing the local file
}

PHP

try {
    // Create a new upload request by opening the file
    // and specifying the media type (e.g. "image/png")
    $uploadToken = $photosLibraryClient->upload(file_get_contents($localFilePath), null, $mimeType);
} catch (\GuzzleHttp\Exception\GuzzleException $e) {
    // Handle error
}

The suggested file size for images is less than 50 MB. Files above 50 MB are prone to performance issues.

The Google Photos Library API supports resumable uploads. A resumable upload allows you to split a media file into multiple sections and upload one section at a time.

Step 2: Creating a media item

After uploading the bytes of your media files, you can create them as media items in Google Photos using upload tokens. An upload token is valid for one day after being created. A media item is always added to the user's library. Media items can only be added to albums created by your app. For more information, see Authorization scopes.

To create new media items, call mediaItems.batchCreate by specifying a list of newMediaItems. Each newMediaItem contains an upload token that's specified inside a simpleMediaItem, and an optional description that is shown to the user.

The description field is restricted to 1000 characters and should only include meaningful text created by users. For example, "Our trip to the park" or "Holiday dinner". Do not include metadata such as filenames, programmatic tags, or other automatically generated text.

For best performance, reduce the number of calls to mediaItems.batchCreate you have to make by including multiple media items in one call. Always wait until the previous request has completed before making a subsequent call for the same user.

You can create a single media item or multiple media items in a user’s library by specifying the descriptions and corresponding upload tokens:

REST

Here is the POST request header:

POST https://photoslibrary.googleapis.com/v1/mediaItems:batchCreate
Content-type: application/json
Authorization: Bearer oauth2-token

The request body should specify a list of newMediaItems.

{
  "newMediaItems": [
    {
      "description": "item-description",
      "simpleMediaItem": {
        "fileName": "filename",
        "uploadToken": "upload-token"
      }
    }
   , ...
  ]
}

Java

try {
  // Create a NewMediaItem with the following components:
  // - uploadToken obtained from the previous upload request
  // - filename that will be shown to the user in Google Photos
  // - description that will be shown to the user in Google Photos
  NewMediaItem newMediaItem = NewMediaItemFactory
          .createNewMediaItem(uploadToken, fileName, itemDescription);
  List<NewMediaItem> newItems = Arrays.asList(newMediaItem);

  BatchCreateMediaItemsResponse response = photosLibraryClient.batchCreateMediaItems(newItems);
  for (NewMediaItemResult itemsResponse : response.getNewMediaItemResultsList()) {
    Status status = itemsResponse.getStatus();
    if (status.getCode() == Code.OK_VALUE) {
      // The item is successfully created in the user's library
      MediaItem createdItem = itemsResponse.getMediaItem();
    } else {
      // The item could not be created. Check the status and try again
    }
  }
} catch (ApiException e) {
  // Handle error
}

PHP

try {
    $newMediaItems = [];
    // Create a NewMediaItem with the following components:
    // - uploadToken obtained from the previous upload request
    // - filename that will be shown to the user in Google Photos
    // - description that will be shown to the user in Google Photos
    $newMediaItems[0] = PhotosLibraryResourceFactory::newMediaItemWithDescriptionAndFileName(
            $uploadToken, $itemDescription, $fileName);

    $response = $photosLibraryClient->batchCreateMediaItems($newMediaItems);
    foreach ($response->getNewMediaItemResults() as $itemResult) {
        $status = $itemResult->getStatus();
        if ($status->getCode() != Code::OK) {
            // Error while creating the item.
        }
    }
} catch (\Google\ApiCore\ApiException $e) {
    // Handle error
}


You can add media items to the library and to an album by specifying the album id. For more information, see Create albums.

Each album can contain up to 20,000 media items. Requests to create media items in an album that would exceed this limit will fail.

REST

{
  "albumId": "album-id",
  "newMediaItems": [
    {
      "description": "item-description",
      "simpleMediaItem": {
        "fileName": "filename",
        "uploadToken": "upload-token"
      }
    }
   , ...
  ]
}

Java

try {
  // Create new media items in a specific album
  BatchCreateMediaItemsResponse response = photosLibraryClient
      .batchCreateMediaItems(albumId, newItems);
  // Check the response
} catch (ApiException e) {
  // Handle error
}

PHP

try {
    $response = $photosLibraryClient->batchCreateMediaItems($newMediaItems, ['albumId' => $albumId]);
} catch (\Google\ApiCore\ApiException $e) {
    // Handle error
}

You can also specify albumId and albumPosition to insert media items at a specific location in the album.

REST

{
  "albumId": "album-id",
  "newMediaItems": [
    {
      "description": "item-description",
      "simpleMediaItem": {
        "fileName": "filename",
        "uploadToken": "upload-token"
      }
    }
    , ...
  ],
  "albumPosition": {
    "position": "after-media-item",
    "relativeMediaItemId": "media-item-id"
  }
}

Java

try {
  // Create new media items in a specific album, positioned after a media item
  AlbumPosition positionInAlbum = AlbumPositionFactory.createFirstInAlbum();
  BatchCreateMediaItemsResponse response = photosLibraryClient
      .batchCreateMediaItems(albumId, newItems, positionInAlbum);
  // Check the response
} catch (ApiException e) {
  // Handle error
}

PHP

try {
    $albumPosition = PhotosLibraryResourceFactory::albumPositionAfterMediaItem($mediaItemId);
    $response = $photosLibraryClient->batchCreateMediaItems($newMediaItems,
        ['albumId' => $albumId, 'albumPosition' => $albumPosition]);
} catch (\Google\ApiCore\ApiException $e) {
    // Handle error
}

For more details regarding positioning in albums, see Add enrichments.

Item creation response

The mediaItems.batchCreate call returns the result for each of the media items you tried to create. The list of newMediaItemResults indicates the status and includes the uploadToken for the request. A non-zero status code indicates an error.

REST

If all media items have been successfully created, the request returns HTTP status 200 OK. If some media items can't be created, the request returns HTTP status 207 MULTI-STATUS to indicate partial success.

{
  "newMediaItemResults": [
    {
      "uploadToken": "upload-token",
      "status": {
        "message": "Success"
      },
      "mediaItem": {
        "id": "media-item-id",
        "description": "item-description",
        "productUrl": "https://photos.google.com/photo/photo-path",
        "mimeType": "mime-type",
        "mediaMetadata": {
          "width": "media-width-in-px",
          "height": "media-height-in-px",
          "creationTime": "creation-time",
          "photo": {}
        },
        "filename": "filename"
      }
    },
    {
      "uploadToken": "upload-token",
      "status": {
        "code": 13,
        "message": "Internal error"
      }
    }
  ]
}

Java

BatchCreateMediaItemsResponse response = photosLibraryClient.batchCreateMediaItems(newItems);

// The response contains a list of NewMediaItemResults
for (NewMediaItemResult result : response.getNewMediaItemResultsList()) {
  // Each result item is identified by its uploadToken
  String uploadToken = result.getUploadToken();
  Status status = result.getStatus();

  if (status.getCode() == Code.OK_VALUE) {
    // If the request is successful, a MediaItem is returned
    MediaItem mediaItem = result.getMediaItem();
    String id = mediaItem.getId();
    String productUrl = mediaItem.getProductUrl();
    // ...
  }
}

PHP

// The response from a call to batchCreateMediaItems returns a list of NewMediaItemResults
foreach ($response->getNewMediaItemResults() as $itemResult) {
    // Each result item is identified by its uploadToken
    $itemUploadToken = $itemResult->getUploadToken();
    // Verify the status of each entry to ensure that the item has been uploaded correctly
    $itemStatus = $itemResult->getStatus();
    if ($itemStatus->getCode() != Code::OK) {
        // Error when item is being created
    } else {
        // Media item is successfully created
        // Get the MediaItem object from the response
        $mediaItem = $itemResult->getMediaItem();
        // It contains details such as the Id of the item, productUrl
        $id = $mediaItem->getId();
        $productUrl = $mediaItem->getProductUrl();
        // ...
    }
}

If an item is successfully added, a mediaItem is returned that contains its mediaItemId, productUrl and mediaMetadata. For more information, see Access media items.

If the media item is a video, it must be processed first. The mediaItem contains a status inside its mediaMetadata that describes the processing state of the video file. A newly uploaded file returns the PROCESSING status first, before it is READY for use. For details, see Access media items.

If you encounter an error during this call, follow the Best practices and retry your request. You may want to keep track of successful additions, so the image can be inserted into the album at the correct position during the next request. For more information, see Create albums.

Results are always returned in the same order in which upload tokens were submitted.

Best practices for uploads

The following best practices and resources help improve your overall effeciency with uploads:

  • Use one of our supported client libraries.
  • Follow the retry and error handling best practices, keeping the following points in mind:
    • 429 errors can occur when your quota has been exausted or you are rate limited for making too many calls too quickly. Make sure you do not call batchCreate for the same user until the previous request has completed.
    • 429 errors require a minimum 30s delay before retrying. Use an exponential backoff strategy when retrying requests.
    • 500 errors occur when the server encounters an error. When uploading, this is most likely because of making multiple write calls (such as batchCreate) for the same user at the same time. Check the details of your request and do not make calls to batchCreate in parallel.
  • Use the resumable upload flow to make your uploads more robust in the case of network interruptions, reducing bandwidth usage by allowing you to resume partically completed uploads. This is important when uploading from client mobile devices, or when uploading large files.

As well, consider the following tips for each step of the upload process: uploading bytes and then creating media items.

Uploading bytes

Creating media items

  • Do not make calls in parallel to batchCreate for a single user.

    • For each user, make calls to batchCreate one after another (in serial).
    • For multiple users, always make batchCreate calls for each user one after another. Only make calls for different users in parallel.
  • Include as many NewMediaItems as possible in each call to batchCreate to minimize the total number of calls you have to make. At most you can include 50 items.

  • Set a meaningful description text that has been created by your users. Do not include metadata such as filenames, programmatic tags, or other automatically generated text.