Even if you don't use Google+ for its social aspects, you might want to use the service for its stellar photo capabilities alone. From unlimited photos storage to automatic enhancements and robust photo editing tools, here are the things you can do with your photos on Google+ that you might be missing out on.
Photo by Google+ Photos
Automatically Back Up Photos And Videos With Unlimited Storage
First off, Google+ Photos conveniently backs up the photos and videos on your phone or computer. With auto backup turned on, you don't need to worry about uploading them manually to the cloud. Other online storage services, like Dropbox, do this too, but Google offers one important feature the others don't: unlimited storage space, as long as your photos and videos are uploaded at a standard size. For photos, that means anything under 2048 by 2048 pixels, and for videos, anything under 15 minutes long. If your photos or videos are larger than that, they will count towards your 15GB of free Google account space, shared by Gmail and Google Drive.
Turn on auto backup in Android or iOS in the Google+ app settings or download the auto backup software for PC or Mac. Make sure you have the photo size set to "standard" if you want the unlimited free storage.
Alternatively, you can easily drag-and-drop photos to your browser when you're on the Google+ Photos upload page to send them to Google+.
Get Awesome, Automatic Photo Correction And Special Effects
It seems redundant to call Google+'s Auto Awesome feature awesome, but it's an apt description. With auto backup turned on, Google+ may create new, optimised photos for you or ones with special effects. For example, Google+ might create a more balanced version of your photo or adjust the contrast. Here's a before and after of a photo after Google+'s auto enhancement (enhancement set to high; top is before, below is after):
You can set the auto enhancement level to off, normal or high in your Google+ settings.
If you upload five or more photos in a sequence (such as a person throwing a basketball), Google+ could create an animated photo for you. Take a photo of a Christmas tree with lights and Google+ might make the lights blink.
Jonathan "WydeOpen" McMillan found this panoramic photo automatically created by Google after backing up six separate photos to his account (top three photos are part of the six stitched together to make the wide photo on the bottom):
Here are the auto awesome effects you might find in your Google+ Photos section if you're lucky:
- Snow: adds falling snow to a photo that has snow in it
- Eraser: removes moving objects in the background from 4+ successive shots (for example, get rid of passersby at a tourist location -- no need for Photoshopping to get rid of tourists)
- Action: shows full range of movement from 4+ photos of the same scene with something moving (for example, show a pitcher's arm in motion while throwing the ball)
- HDR: combines the best lighting from 3+ photos of the same scene when nothing is moving (for example, landscape photos)
- Motion: creates a short animation from 5+ successive shots of something moving
- Smile: combines 2+ photos of a group of people so each person looks their best (that is, smiling)
- Pano: turns 3+ partly overlapping photos into a wide view
- Mix: creates a composite, photobooth-style grid from 3+ photos of someone with the same background
Don't worry, your originals are still available on Google+; the auto awesome photos and movies are simply additions, which you can delete if you want or, in some cases, edit.
You never know when this automatic goodness is going to happen, but to improve your chances of finding this surprise in your Google+ photos collection, take several consecutive shots of the same subject.
Take video at those moments as well, since Google+ can compile photos and videos clips into "Stories", automatic travelogues based on location and date. For videos not travel-related, it will create a highlight reel of your videos, complete with soundtrack. (The Stories travelogues are pretty neat. The compile photos and videos into one set, where you can add captions and such. I found ones for a few trips and home events over the last few years I had forgotten about.)
Manually Create "Auto Awesome" Photos In Android
Android users can create their own "auto" enhanced photos from within the Google+ Photos mobile app. (They're auto in the sense that once you select your photos, Google+ will do the rest.)
Tap on the "Auto Awesome" option in the left sidebar in Google+ Photos, then the "+" sign to create a new movie (mix of video clips and photos), motion (sequence of photos to be animated) or "Mix" (collage of your photo selection). It helps to have sequences of photos to work with.
Apply Filters And Edit From Any Device
Auto awesomeness aside, Google+ Photos is also a powerful photo editor, thanks in large part to its integration with Google-bought Snapseed.
One simple, quick way to optimise your photos is to check several of them in your photos view and then in the new drop-down menu, select More > Auto Enhance to let Google adjust the batch of photos for you.
Besides basic photo editing tools like cropping and adjusting brightness and saturation, you can easily apply filters or selectively edit areas of a photo. Creative adjustments include vintage, dramatic, black and white, HDR and even tilt-shift effects.
The desktop editing tools offer more control than the mobile apps, but regardless of whether you work on the desktop in the browser or on a mobile device, your changes are reflected everywhere on Google+ (and your originals are still there for comparison and downloading).
Use Your Google-Fu To Find Photos
Finally, as you might expect from a Google product, Google+ Photos search can be very intelligent. It can recognise objects in your photos ("visual recognition"), so you can search for things like "flower" or "playground" and get relevant results. It's not foolproof, but sometimes is pretty impressive -- like the rest of Google+ Photos.