Google Auto Awesome: Your Ticket to Awesome Photos

An Auto Awesome HDR shot of Yates Mill on a cloudy day. Photo: Maryann Goldman

A short time ago in a galaxy not so far from you, Google started doing awesome things to your photos. That is, if you are a G+ or Picasa user, Google started automatically taking your photos and creating Motion, HDR, Action, Smile, and other versions of your shots. Google calls these Auto Awesome photos. They kind of snuck up on me one day when G+ started sending me notifications about new Auto Awesome photos. I wondered, “What the heck is that?”

Well, I checked them out, and often they are really cool. Take a look at these HDR shots of historic Yates Mill near Raleigh, North Carolina. I don’t think I could have created an HDR photo as good as these with Photomatix or any of my other photo editing tools. And, as a bonus, this HDR was created with no effort from me!  Just make sure to take some bracketed photos.

An Auto Awesome HDR shot of Yates Mill on a sunny day. Photo: Maryann Goldman

HDR processing can really give your photos that professional flair!

An HDR of Linville Falls, NC.
An Auto Awesome HDR of Linville Fall, North Carolina. Photo: Maryann Goldman
An Auto Awesome HDR taken on the Blue Ridge Parkway in North Carolina. Photo: Maryann Goldman

This past winter, Auto Awesome started adding snow to winter shots. It seemed to look for background snow or snowmen in the shot; we really aren’t sure what it was doing because sometimes it was snowing inside the house. Okay, so all the Auto Awesome photos are not accurate or ones you want to write home to Grandma about, but for me, they are still a value added. Who can resist a cute pirate and his snowman out in the falling snow!

An Auto Awesome Snow shot of my son, Johnny, and his pirate snowman. Photo: Maryann Goldman

Even more recently, G+ also started allowing you to share Stories and started making Movies. I am really enjoying these features too. Check out this movie of my trip to the Conservator’s Center near Burlington, North Carolina. I probably could have cranked out something like that in 8+ hours, but somehow G+, and the programming behind it, was able to generate it without any input from me or any other human for that matter. Whoa!

So, how can you get Google to make Auto Awesome photos for you? How can you maximize its capabilities? From my experience, the Conservator’s Center movie seemed to be generated because: 1. I had about 100 pics in the album.  2. There were five short videos from the day mixed in with the pics. I see now that there is a generate movie link available in the G+ album, but I also think for events where you are taking a lot of pics that if you also shoot some short videos interspersed between the pics, a movie will automatically get generated for you.

If you want motion shots, take five or more photographs in a row either by taking back-to-back shots or by figuring out how to turn on continuous shooting with your camera. Enjoy a sampling of some of the short movies that Google+ created for me:

An Auto Awesome Motion shot showing an American Robin eating a berry. Photo: Maryann Goldman
An Auto Awesome Motion shot showing my son, Johnny, checking out the view through a piece of ice. Photo: Maryann Goldman
Another Auto Awesome Motion shot preserving a 4th of July fireworks display. Don’t you feel like you’re there? Photo: Maryann Goldman
An Auto Awesome photo of my son, Johnny, swimming with the fish at the aquarium. Photos: Maryann Goldman

Do you want perfect smiles? Take several shots of groups of people, and let G+ pick the best smiles for you. Recently, I took two shots of my son, Johnny, and his new best friend, Phyllis. Johnny has a great smile in one of the shots, and Phyllis has a great smile in the other. I was bummed. But, before I knew it, Auto Awesome had created a Smile photo with the best face for Phyllis from one of the pictures and the best face for Johnny from another. Now how cool is that?!? I really appreciate that Auto Awesome preserved this special moment for us.

The best smile for Phyllis and Johnny!
An Auto Awesome Smile photo using the best smile from both people. Photo: Maryann Goldman

It can be so hard to capture the true beauty of a majestic landscape. So, when Auto Awesome creates a panoramic photo from multiple horizontal or vertical shots left to right or top to bottom, more of the scene is preserved. Check out this pano from the Carolina Skytower at Carowinds. As the ride moved in a circle, I kept taking shots, and then Auto Awesome stitched them together for me to create this panoramic view.

An Auto Awesome pano image created from images taken on the Carowinds Carolina Skytower. Photo: Maryann Goldman

This pano from Raven Rock State Park in North Carolina is just gorgeous!

An Auto Awesome pano created from pictures taken at Raven Rock State Park in North Carolina. Photo: Maryann Goldman

On April Fool’s Day this year, Auto Awesome created photo bomb style shots where David Hasselhoff was inserted into pictures. Pretty funny! I can’t wait to see what is on the agenda for April Fool’s Day next year!

An Auto Awesome photo bomb shot with David Hasselhoff. April Fools! Photo: Maryann Goldman

Also amazing, Auto Awesome made my Christmas tree twinkle last year! Whenever Auto Awesome detected Christmas lights, it would twinkle them capturing the magic of my Christmas tree.

An Auto Awesome Twinkle shot really beautified my Christmas tree. Photo: Maryann Goldman

Not only did G+ twinkle the inside lights, but it would twinkle outside light displays too!

An Auto Awesome Twinkle shot of an outdoor Christmas light display. Photo: Maryann Goldman

Mix style shots where three or more images are taken of the same people or object also turn out well. When you take several shots trying to get just the right one, Auto Awesome may group them into a collage to show the various poses and facial expressions.

An Auto Awesome Mix style grouping of photos. Photo: Maryann Goldman

I’ll add that Google purchased Nix Software in 2012, and G+ now incorporates many editing options from the Nix inventory of tools for free. When I discovered these settings recently, I was impressed with the power of photo editing that G+ now provides.

Screen capture: Maryann Goldman

I’ve really enjoyed studying Auto Awesome photos, and they continue to fascinate me. With the holidays coming up, maybe you should give them a try too! You just might get some real winners for the online photo album and for Grandma! All you have to do is sign up for Google+, enable Auto Awesome, take a lot of pictures, and enjoy!