Wednesday, September 20, 2023

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Google Introduces Much-Needed Enhanced Google Photos Feature

Google Photos web users can now use a powerful selection of enhanced editing features previously available only via the company’s mobile apps.

As recently announced via Twitter, the new web-based features include a range of ‘suggested edits’ which can be applied to your photo with a single click. These include, among others, Portrait Light, Portrait Blur, Dynamic, Color Pop, HDR and ‘Sky’. However, these much-needed changes go further than this, adding a whole range of advanced tools and adjustment controls to the web interface.

This significant update brings:

  • The suggested edits feature mentioned above
  • New aspect ratio options
  • New photo manipulation tools
  • Revamped adjustment options with new controls

You’ll need a Google One subscription, a computer with at least 4GB of RAM and an ‘updated’ browser in order to take advantage of all the new features.

I’ll go into the changes and new features in detail below.

Google Photos Upgrade: New Functions In Detail

Selecting a photo and clicking the edit button now displays a row of five control icons instead of three, adding new Suggestions and Tools icons to the existing Color filters, Basic adjustments and Aspect ratio/cropping controls.

The editing page first opens up with the Suggestions tab selected. There may be a brief delay at this point while Google Photos analyzes your picture after which a menu of suggested edits will appear. You can click on these individually to try them out. If you find one you like, click Save copy to keep the changes alongside the original photo.

Next up is the Aspect ratio tab. This has been redesigned with a clickable menu of popular image shapes presented down the right-hand side and a rotation tool along the bottom. A new 5:4 aspect ratio has been added and separate buttons are now provided for horizontal and vertical crops. Strangely, the useful auto-alignment option, found in the app, seems to be missing from the web version. You’ll just have to straighten up your photos manually.

Moving on, the new Tools tab contains a menu of editing tools that Google populates automatically based on your photo. Note that if no tools are deemed appropriate for your photo, the Tools tab won’t appear at all (see the ‘snail’ picture below).

New options you may find here include:

  • Blur: provides a ‘portrait mode’ blurry background bokeh effect, with an adjustable strength slider beneath. Unfortunately, the accompanying depth control, present in the mobile app, isn’t currently available on the Web.
  • Color focus: removes color only from the background to make your subject pop. Again, with a strength slider along the bottom.
  • Portrait light: lets you move a simulated light source around your image to adjust the lighting on a person’s skin.
  • Sky: lets you control the tint and saturation of the sky based on a selection of color presets.

Sadly, Google’s powerful Magic Eraser tool is nowhere to be seen.

The Basic Adjustments tab, now named simply Adjust, is no longer quite so basic! In addition to the usual light and color-based controls, there’s a new HDR slider to help you balance highlights and shadows, as well as a White Point control to adjust only the very brightest highlights. The whole layout has been revised too, with all control sliders visible at once by default rather than collapsed into sections such as Light and Color which previously had to be opened up to reveal the controls. Helpful icons have also been added, matching those displayed in the Google Photos mobile app.

Lastly, the Color Filters tab has been moved from first position to last, featuring all the same color presets as before, but with a shiny new layout, although once again, the Auto function seems to have been removed.

A further change affecting all tabs is the removal of the Done button, which has been replaced with the more familiar ‘x’ to cancel and a Save button to save your changes. The magnifying glass icon has also been removed, but you can zoom in and out using the mouse scroll wheel (or equivalent) while editing.

Google Photos Upgrade: Paying Customers Only

Currently, these new features are restricted to Google One subscribers so, sadly, you won’t see them unless you’re a paying customer. This means that not only do Google One customers now have more functions than ‘free’ users, but also a radically different interface which could prove confusing. Hopefully, in time, Google will bring parity between the two, even if the most advanced features never make it into the free version.

If you’re a Google One customer you should already see the changes in place.

Follow @paul_monckton on Instagram

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