Whether you’re a professional photographer or you use your smartphone
camera for work and recreation, Google’s latest “Auto
” 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:

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

Choose “Photos.”

Figure B

Choose “Auto Awesome.” All enhanced photos will be

Figure C

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

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:

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

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

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

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

There are other Auto Awesome photo
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:

  • 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
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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