Google Apps

Quick Tip: Get the most out of your photos with Google Auto Awesome

Handy Google Auto Awesome features help you customize your photos on the fly.

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Whether you're a professional photographer or you use your smartphone camera for work and recreation, Google's latest "Auto Awesome" features may be of interest to you. These are enhancements which Google applies to pictures you take on an Android or iPhone (which are backed up to your Google+ account), or those which you manually upload. They can optimize several so-so shots into one good picture, create animations and provide you with impressive landscapes, to list just a few examples. What is nice is that these apply to old as well as new pictures; they do not merely start working after a certain date.

These enhancements happen automatically on the Google back-end; you don't need to do anything to apply them (with the exception of the "Movie" feature which I'll get to later). Google will display enhanced photos as you're viewing them in Google+ by displaying the following icon in the upper right:

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For the purpose of this article I'll assume you intend to use your smartphone to capture and work with these images, though much of this material also applies to using Google+ to view your photos in the browser.


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Auto awesome

For starters, you must have a Google account and for best results Auto Backup should be turned on in your phone so the pictures you take are automatically uploaded. iPhone and iPad users will need to install the Google+ app. You probably have the app already if you're using Android, but you can get it here if for some reason it's not present on your device.

Once you've confirmed you have the Google+ mobile app you can view your pictures in the Photos component. To see all photos which have had Auto Awesome effects applied, open Google+ and tap the red G+ icon:

Figure A

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Choose "Photos."

Figure B

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Choose "Auto Awesome." All enhanced photos will be shown:

Figure C

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I wasn't able to find a similar option while viewing my Google+ Photos in Chrome, but not to worry. If the effect can apply to your photo, Google will make it so and let you know by displaying the Auto Awesome icon on the upper right of the photo (this applies whether you are viewing it on your mobile device or desktop/laptop).

For example, this screenshot shows several photos of my fearless bird-watching cat as displayed in my browser:

Figure D

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You can see which images have had the Auto Awesome photo effects applied to them; they are the second from the left and the one on the far right.

The photo on the right has had the "Motion" enhancement applied. Although the screenshot doesn't show it, when I view it in the browser I see my cat leaping up to put his front paws on the window ledge and get face-to-face with the bird. See the difference between the left-side and the right-side photo? This is because Google sequenced the photos to provide the animation.

The photo second from the left is using the "Action" enhancement whereby several shots in which the cat moved have been combined:

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I'll admit this example looks a bit freaky and now my cat resembles a porcupine, but you can see how this might have some cool benefits elsewhere, such as jumping a motorcycle over Snake River Canyon.

Eraser is another handy enhancement that combines the best elements of several photos to make one masterpiece.

(images and demonstration courtesy of googlesystem.blogspot.com)

In the example below, the couple on the left has had six photos taken of them.

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These photos are then mingled together by Eraser to present the following result:

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Pretty cool! Even the shadows of the passersby are gone!

There are other Auto Awesome photo effects such as the following:

  • Pano – Creates a panoramic shot of multiple pictures in the landscape format. I took several photos of my son's soccer game (that's my amazing wife with the coaching t-shirt on) and Pano automatically presented me with the following nifty picture:

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    • HRH (High Dynamic Range) – takes multiple shots of the same scene and combines them to enhance the picture quality via these different exposures.
    • Smile – Used for group photos, the Smile feature merges the best shots of each person into the most photogenic group shot. Helps with those stunned and/or distracted looks which invariably kill 1/5 of a great shot – usually more if people are at a party.
    • Mix – Creates a "photobooth style grid" of various photos with similar backgrounds.

    Making movies

    Then we have the Auto Awesome Movie feature. This function can combine photos and videos into a film capturing your experience, such as dining at a restaurant or attending a football game with friends. It is the only feature that has to be activated manually (via the Google+ Photos component). It's sort of like building a scrapbook and is limited to certain Android models. Google states that "Auto Awesome movies are currently only available for some devices running Android 4.3 and up, including the Nexus 4, Nexus 5, Nexus 7 (2013), Nexus 10, HTC One, Samsung Galaxy Note 3, Moto X, and Moto DVX." 

    I'm not lucky enough to own one of these devices so I wasn't able to try the Auto Awesome movie function, but you can view a Youtube video here to see how it's done. Brian Matiash has also presented this Auto Awesome movie on Google+.

    Bottom line

    It might seem like these features are geared towards consumers. However, I use my smartphone to take pictures all the time for my job; photographing server racks, network routers, and company white boards to capture brainstorming efforts, so I can envision several business usage scenarios which can apply here. For instance, someone in Marketing could benefit from the "Eraser" function by eliminating unnecessary background elements when creating a company promotional shot. A store clerk might take advantage of the "Motion" element since it could compile a set of images of a pickpocket to show him stealing a wallet. The "Pano" feature could definitely come in handy if you sell framed nature photographs and want to impress a potential client.

    I'm sure your ability to capitalize on these features will prove interesting. Happy Photographing!



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    About

    Scott Matteson is a senior systems administrator and freelance technical writer who also performs consulting work for small organizations. He resides in the Greater Boston area with his wife and three children.

    2 comments
    Mark W. Kaelin
    Mark W. Kaelin moderator

    Have you used Google Auto Awesome features to customize your photos? How did it work for you? How can these features benefit you?

    linrozi
    linrozi

    @Mark W. Kaelin  

    Hi Mark

    I was trying to find out how to sync my photos edited in Picasa.  I turned on sync but when I check on google+ on my android phone it only shows the unedited photos. HELP!

    thanks much