Google Pho­tos’ best new fea­tures

It’s time to un­lock all the ma­chine-learn­ing power that Google Pho­tos has within. RYAN WHITWAM re­ports

Android Advisor - - Contents -

Google has been dab­bling in photo host­ing for years, but it wasn’t un­til it re­leased the re­vamped Google Pho­tos in May 2015 that it re­ally took photo ar­chiv­ing se­ri­ously. We can now back up all our pho­tos for free, and even get our im­ages printed in Photo Books. But Pho­tos lever­ages

Google’s ma­chine learn­ing mus­cle to do a lot of other cool things – you just need to know where to look.

1. Favourite pho­tos

Google Pho­tos makes it easy to save all your pho­to­graphs, but there are prob­a­bly some you like more than oth­ers. When you come across those pic­tures, you can add them to your favourites for easy ac­cess in the fu­ture. To mark some­thing as a favourite in Pho­tos, just tap to view it and look for the star at the top of your screen. Tap the star, and your photo ap­pears in­stantly in the ‘Favourites’ al­bum. This is a spe­cial al­bum vis­i­ble only to you in­side Google Pho­tos, but you can still share the items in­side it.

2. As­sis­tant tab

You’re prob­a­bly fa­mil­iar with ‘As­sis­tant’ as the voice­ac­ti­vated AI in your phone and Google’s smart speak­ers. How­ever, there’s a dif­fer­ent As­sis­tant in Google Pho­tos. Just slide over to the As­sis­tant tab to see what it can do.

The As­sis­tant tab in­cludes ba­sic house­keep­ing sug­ges­tions like ar­chiv­ing screen­shots or re­ceipts. How­ever, it also gen­er­ates sug­gested ed­its to your pho­tos. For ex­am­ple, you might get a fun fil­tered ver­sion of a pic­ture or a lit­tle col­lage of sim­i­lar im­ages. You might even get a fancy ‘colour pop’ im­age that high­lights the sub­ject in colour and fades the rest of the photo to mono­chrome. When you see some­thing you like in the As­sis­tant tab, just tap the ‘Save’ but­ton to add it your li­brary.

3. Cre­ate cus­tom col­lages

Should you poke around in the As­sis­tant tab, you’ll prob­a­bly see col­lages. If you want to make your own, there are tools for that in the app. Open the over­flow menu and se­lect col­lage. You can also go over to the As­sis­tant tab and tap col­lage at the top of the screen. You can pick be­tween two and nine pho­tos for Pho­tos

to drop into the col­lage. Un­for­tu­nately, you don’t have con­trol over which im­ages go in which frames. Google’s AI op­ti­mizes the com­po­si­tion for you.

4. Google Lens

Google uses ma­chine learn­ing to cat­a­logue all your pics in Google Pho­tos, but you can take it a step fur­ther with Google Lens. This im­age anal­y­sis tool goes be­yond sim­ply fig­ur­ing out what’s in a photo,

and ac­tu­ally pro­vides ac­tion­able in­for­ma­tion. It’s not per­fect, but Lens al­ready has some very cool ca­pa­bil­i­ties. To use Lens, find a pic­ture to an­a­lyse and ex­pand it to full-screen. Tap the Lens icon at the bot­tom of the dis­play to turn Google’s neu­ral net­work loose on the im­age. Cur­rently, Lens is great at iden­ti­fy­ing books, lo­gos, land­marks, ad­dresses, and so on. You’ll get use­ful web links and other ac­tions based on the rec­og­nized ob­jects. You can also use Lens to copy text from an im­age.

5. Edit your videos and movies

The pho­tos in Google Pho­tos get most of the at­ten­tion, but let’s not for­get that the plat­form also backs up your videos. Google even in­cluded some ba­sic video edit­ing tools in the app. These tools come in two ver­sions. When look­ing at one of your videos, you can tap the set­tings but­ton at the bot­tom of the screen. This page lets you ro­tate and sta­bi­lize the video – great if you were hold­ing the phone at an awk­ward an­gle to cap­ture the mo­ment. The other edit­ing in­ter­face re­sides in the movie

cre­ation sec­tion of the app. This is ac­ces­si­ble from the over­flow menu in the main photo tab. You can choose one or more video (un­der ‘Se­lect Pho­tos and Videos’), and then splice them to­gether, trim the ends, and ex­port the project as a new file. Also, don’t ig­nore the au­to­matic movie op­tions in this menu like Selfie Movie, Doggy Movies, and so on. These are gen­er­ated us­ing Google’s AI, so they take a while to process on Google’s servers.

6. Free up stor­age

So, now you’ve got­ten all your im­ages in Google Pho­tos, do you re­ally need them all lo­cally on your phone as well? If you’re in need of space, Google Pho­tos makes it easy to clear out the clut­ter. Scroll up to the top of your main photo tab and tap on the line that says ‘Free up [some amount of space] from de­vice’. After con­firm­ing on the pop-up, Google

Pho­tos will re­move all pho­tos and videos from your phone that have al­ready been backed up to Google’s cloud. You can still ac­cess those im­ages at any time in Google Pho­tos.

7. Name peo­ple

Face de­tec­tion was one of ear­li­est ex­am­ples of Google Pho­tos’ ma­chine-learn­ing. From the very be­gin­ning, can could open the Pho­tos search in­ter­face, type in ‘peo­ple’, and see group­ings of all the faces that com­monly ap­pear in your pho­tos. That’s neat, but you can make this fea­ture even more use­ful by at­tach­ing names to those faces.

To add names, open the search screen and type ‘peo­ple’ – the app should sug­gest Peo­ple & Pets. You can also tap the ar­row next to the line of por­traits un­der the search box. This opens a se­ries of thumb­nails of all the com­mon faces that ap­pear in your Pho­tos ar­chives. Tap a face (or pet), and then se­lect ‘Add a name’ to add a pri­vate la­bel. With that done, you can use that la­bel to search for pho­tos of

that per­son. For ex­am­ple, ‘Rachel in Tun­bridge Wells’ will pull up pho­tos of some­one you’ve la­belled ‘Rachel’ that were taken in Tun­bridge Wells.

8. Quick se­lect pho­tos

Google Pho­tos makes it easy to save every photo you take, but that can add up to a lot of pho­tos. If you need to se­lect mul­ti­ple pho­tos – say, for batch dele­tion – the de­fault way in most apps is to long­press then tap on ad­di­tional items. How­ever, you can se­lect mul­ti­ple items in Google Pho­tos without a bunch of te­dious tap­ping. To se­lect mul­ti­ple pho­tos, sim­ply long-press and drag up or down. Pho­tos will be se­lected as you go, and the fur­ther you drag, the faster

pho­tos will be se­lected. When you re­lease, you can tap in­di­vid­ual pho­tos to add or re­move them from the se­lec­tion. This is great for bulk ac­tions when shar­ing, creat­ing al­bums, or just clearing out un­wanted pics.

9. Shared li­braries

A re­cent Pho­tos ad­di­tion that re­ally shows off Google’s ma­chine learn­ing is ‘Share your li­brary’, which you can ac­cess from the app’s nav­i­ga­tion slide­out menu. You can share your en­tire photo li­brary with some­one else, but there are a num­ber of op­tions that make it a more tar­geted and use­ful ex­pe­ri­ence.

The first step is de­cid­ing which con­tacts you want in­cluded in the share. Once you pick a re­cip­i­ent, the app will ask you to nar­row down your shar­ing pa­ram­e­ters. The de­fault set­ting is ‘All pho­tos’, but you can limit the share to only pho­tos of spe­cific

peo­ple – per­fect for par­ents who want to share pho­tos of their kids with other fam­ily mem­bers. Just pick your chil­dren’s face from a list of all de­tected faces, and that’s it. You can also set a date from which pho­tos will be shared go­ing for­ward. It can be the cur­rent day or some day in the past.

Your re­cip­i­ents will get in­stant ac­cess to match­ing pho­tos as you take them, and can choose to copy them into their own li­brary. You can also turn off the shared li­brary at any time.

10. Shar­ing links

When you share a photo in Google Pho­tos, it pops up the stan­dard An­droid share menu. How­ever, there’s a spe­cial op­tion hid­den in there. Tap ‘Cre­ate link’, and you in­stantly cre­ate a link that works for any­one with the URL. This works with mul­ti­ple im­ages, and there’s also a tog­gle to al­low oth­ers to add pho­tos

to the al­bum at that link. The link is copied to your clip­board, so you can send it to any app you want. Only those with ac­cess to the link will be able to see the al­bum. Should you ever want to dis­con­tinue ac­cess to that shared im­age or im­ages, just head over the shared tab in the Pho­tos app. Your links are shown here, along­side reg­u­lar al­bums. Tap on the link and use Menu > Delete. This is also where you can add more im­ages to your shared link, if you so choose.

11. Shared al­bums

It’s easy to share in­di­vid­ual im­ages with Google Pho­tos, but you can also share en­tire al­bums. This gives you ex­panded shar­ing ca­pa­bil­i­ties, and it’s much sim­pler when you need to share a lot of pho­tos.

The first step is sim­ply to pick an al­bum. This can be some­thing you’ve made your­self man­u­ally or an au­to­mat­i­cally gen­er­ated al­bum from Pho­tos. This

sec­ond point is key be­cause Google Pho­tos is great at or­ga­niz­ing pho­tos from an out­ing or event. When view­ing the al­bum, tap the share but­ton at the top of the screen. You can use any method you like to let peo­ple see the pho­tos in your al­bum, but you should choose the di­rect Pho­tos shar­ing op­tion if your friend is also a Pho­tos user. You can al­low oth­ers to add pho­tos to the al­bum, and if you con­nect to some­one via Pho­tos, they get no­ti­fi­ca­tions when new pics are added. You will al­ways see user icons at the top of shared al­bums to re­mind you of who has been in­vited. Those view­ing the al­bum can even leave com­ments for ev­ery­one to see. Like link shar­ing, you can shut off ac­cess to the shared al­bum at any time.

12. Ar­chiv­ing pho­tos

Google Pho­tos up­loads ev­ery­thing, and some­times you don’t want all the stuff it backs up to be in the main feed. That doesn’t mean you want to delete it, though. That’s why ar­chiv­ing was added to Google

Pho­tos. To ar­chive pho­tos, open them or se­lect mul­ti­ple im­ages at once us­ing the quick-se­lect trick ex­plained above. Then, go to Menu > Ar­chive. Archived pho­tos will re­main in your pri­vate ar­chive, ac­ces­si­ble via the nav­i­ga­tion menu. Archived im­ages are kept in any shared al­bums, but they won’t clut­ter up your main feed. This is great for screen­shots and im­ages of re­ceipts. Google Pho­tos had been get­ting plenty of at­ten­tion be­cause it’s the per­fect place to show off ma­chine learn­ing. That means we’ll prob­a­bly see new in­no­va­tions on a reg­u­lar ba­sis. These tips are only the be­gin­ning.

Google Lens

Edit your videos and movies

Free up stor­age

Name peo­ple

Quick se­lect pho­tos

Shared li­braries

Shar­ing links

Shared al­bums

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