Google made photography a major part of Google+ almost as soon as the service launched, and today the company has yet another big addition to its photo feature set. At an event this morning in San Francisco, Google's Vic Gundotra announced a slew of new features to help photographers organize, share, store, and edit all of their images. For starters, the next version of the iOS Google+ app will automatically upload full-sized images from the iPhone — a feature that brings the app to parity with the Android app. It'll also have improved backup sync so your photos will get uploaded even if you haven't opened the app. There's no word on when the update will come; Google simply said it would be out "soon."
The company is also extending the "deep learning" rolled into Google+ photo search — at I/O, the company announced that you can search for terms and Google+ would surface photos related to those terms, even if you hadn't already tagged the photo. Now, Google's adding 1,000 more terms to improve that search feature, and you can specifically search through highlighted images as well. This search works across your photos as well as photos of your friends in your circles (assuming that you have the permission to see those images).
Nothing revolutionary, but a whole host of useful new tools
As for editing, there's a whole host of tweaks across both its quick edit features and more in-depth editing options. Auto-enhance got finer controls — you can apply either a low and high setting to it, and you can control it on a by-album basis. That means if you have an album of photos you've already edited in other programs, you can simply have Google+ leave it off for that set of photos while still adding it to other uploads. There's also a new and improved HDR setting called HDR Scrape as part of SnapSeed — by swiping left to right, you can control the strength of the filter and provides some pretty impressive results, if Google's demo is to be believed. Google also added a new filter to its Nik collection of professional-grade photo editing tools called Analog Efex Pro — Gundotra says that it lets you "explore the look and feel" of classic camera, lenses, and films. It's a free addition for users who've already paid for the Nik collection.
Auto Awesome, a tool that essentially makes GIFs from a series of images you've uploaded, picked up a few new options today as well. There's an "action" feature that lets you see someone in motion — examples included a skateboarder and a basketball player — and lets you see multiple images of that person in motion all rolled into one photo. The other new feature is "eraser" — it literally lets you remove distracting, extraneous people from your images. Photobombers can be removed with ease. If you wanted to remove all the people entirely and focus on the landscape, it'll let you do that as well.
Google just took a shot at iMovie
Auto awesome is coming to video, as well — a new feature called Auto Awesome Movie will use Google's machine learning applied to both videos and photos to pull together various related media you've uploaded and automatically make a video for you. You can also built your own simply by selecting photos and video, and the service will go through and create a movie for you — it's a lot like what Apple touts with iMovie (or the new Cameo app), except everything is done for you. If you swipe across the vide you built, you can apply different styles and filters to change the feel of your creation. There's finer controls available, as well; for example, you can specify how long you want the creation to be, change the automatic soundtrack, and more.
It's already been a big year for Google+ photo services — at Google I/O, the company introduced a major revamp with instant optimization, auto GIF creation, editing tools, more storage, and a number of other new features. The company improved on those editing tools just a few months ago, bringing an editing feature set that comes close to matching that of dedicated apps — something that ChromeOS users would certainly appreciate. Earlier this year, Google+ started supporting full-size photo uploads; all of these additions have made it one of the best overall photo sharing, editing, and backup options on the internet. And the company's been courting the photo community for a long time, going after both pros and amateurs alike.
This emphasis on photos has led to some big increases in overall Google+ engagement — Gundotra said Google+ now has 540 million monthly active users (logged in Google account holders who use the service at least once a month), up from 390 million announced back at Google I/O in May. There's also 300 million users directly visiting the Google+ "social stream" every month, up from the 190 million announced at I/O. Gundotra also says that Google+ users upload a whopping 1.5 billion photos to the service each week. On the whole, none of the new features Google introduced today are revolutionary on their own, but the combined efforts mean that Google+ will likely continue to be one of the better free destinations for working with your photos online.