Saturday, June 29, 2013

You should be using Google+ Photos

When Google+ first launched, one of the coolest features was called Auto Upload. Once turned on, it would automatically upload all of the photos taken with your phone to a private album where you could then share, edit, delete, or just leave there privately as a photo backup. Nothing quite like it had been done before and it was a great addition.

This past May at their annual developer conference, Google showed off a ton of new features for photos, making the service even more compelling. They added features like auto-enhance, content search, highlights, etc. which all combine to make it one of the best photo storage and showcase services available.

Many of the new features aren't advertised, but once people discover them, everyone's impressed. Let's quickly take a look at my three favorites:

Auto Enhance
This one does just what it says. All your uploaded photos are automatically enhanced (which you can turn off). The enhancements are made by identifying faces, clouds, landscapes, landmarks etc. and enhancing the photo appropriately. I've personally found that most photos are very minimally edited, but some (like landscapes) are really improved.

When you click to view your photos on Google+, the first thing it shows you are the highlights. It analyzes the pictures you've taken and shows you the best ones first, arranged by date. It looks for things like duplicate pictures, poor lighting, blurry, etc. and doesn't show those. You can always click to view all your photos, but highlights actually does a really good job of showing just the best ones. It even does some facial recognition and if it finds happy, in-focus, faces, it shows those, too.

Content search
I saved this for last because it's my favorite and also one of the most hidden. Google+ analyzes all of your photos to do image recognition. So you can go to the photos page and search for things (like clouds, flowers, food, grass, etc.) and it will show you all the pictures you've taken of those things. Even if you never previously tagged or titled a photo as "clouds" it will still automatically recognize that clouds are in your photo. It's location aware, too, so you can search for "Disney World" or "New York City" and it will show you the pictures you've taken at those locations.

Content search works from the main Google Search page or search apps, too. If you're signed in, you can just search for "my pictures of flowers" and your own photos will appear in the main search page. From your phone you can do a voice search for "my pictures from New York" and they'll show right up.

If you don't already use Google+ for your photo backup, you should really check it out. It's available for Android and iOS, or you can upload photos from your desktop, too.

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