The Google Photos editor gets smarter & more powerful

“Perfection is achieved, not when there is nothing more to add, but when there is nothing left to take away.” – Antoine de Saint-Exupery


When I joined the Google Photos team, they’d just integrated Snapseed into Google+ (the predecessor of Photos). As I hope is obvious, I’m a huge Snapseed fan, but when we looked at what most users actually did in G+ (crop, rotate, tweak brightness, and maybe apply a filter), it became clear that Snapseed was dramatically more complex & powerful than they needed.

Therefore we made the hard decision to reset & build a new editor from scratch. We aimed to deliver great results in a single tap, offer just a few powerful sliders (which under the hood adjusted numerous parameters), and keep Snapseed just one extra tap away (via the overflow menu) for nerds like me.

The vision was always to keep learning from users’ behavior, then thoughtfully enable just the controls needed to deliver extra power when needed. I’m delighted to say that Photos now does just that: the update released Tuesday on iOS, Android, and Web (try it here) manages to keep a simple top-level UI while revealing a lot more of the power under the hood.

The filters UI applies Auto (which can now produce more accurate results) as part of every filter:

These unique looks make edits based on the individual photo and its brightness, darkness, warmth, or saturation, before applying the style. All looks use machine intelligence to complement the content of your photo. [1]


In the adjustments section, in addition to the Light, Color, and Pop sliders:

  • Light opens to reveal Exposure, Contrast, Highlights, Shadows, Whites, Blacks, and Vignette
  • Color opens to reveal Saturation, Warmth, Tint, Skin Tone, and Deep Blue

I continue to find Auto to be highly effective for the bulk of my images, but I like being able to pop the hood when needed.

Please take the new features for a spin & let us know what you think!

Oh, and since you’ve been kind enough to read this far, here are some useful shortcuts for use on desktop:

  • E to enter & exit the editor
  • R to enter & exit crop/rotate
  • Shift-R to rotate 90º
  • A to Auto Enhance
  • O (press & hold) to see original
  • Z to zoom
  • Left/right arrows to move among images
  • Cmd-C/V to copy/paste edits among images
  • After clicking a slider, use arrow keys to adjust it & press Tab to put focus onto the next slider

7 thoughts on “The Google Photos editor gets smarter & more powerful

  1. This is great news. The lack of more powerful editing had kept me away from Google Photos, this is what I need to take the plunge.

    Snapseed is good but you can only access the edits on the device on which the edits were made. Also it is not available on the desktop.

  2. I did a quick spin of the web version, selecting a photo of a bedroom with a horrible green/yellow cast because I forgot to tell my fancy new camera about the fluorescent light bulbs.

    Wanted: A button I could click to say “Yo, those are WHITE sheets – fixit!”
    Got: A color slider that couldn’t save the day.

    To be fair, Photoshop’s Auto Color couldn’t save it either. It took tweaking three different color sliders, and I really should have spent half an hour watching a Deke McClelland video on how to fix it properly by converting to the Lab color space.

  3. Are all the old filters (Mars, Phobos, Deimos, etc.) now gone? I used to use them frequently and as much as I play around with the new tools, I can’t recreate the same effects.

    1. Yes, they’re gone. Sorry for the hassle. If you’d like to show some examples of what you used to accomplish but can’t anymore, that could be really helpful. Please ping me (nack at employer’s name dot com). Thanks.

  4. I find duplicates a problem on Google Photo. I can find out why sometimes I get a batch of photos duplicated three times.

    Google Photo d needs a way of automatically finding and deleting them or better yet not creating them in the first place.

    What causes them?

    1. Hmm—by design the should be de-duplicated. Would you be open to sharing some examples? If so please ping me (nack at my employer’s name dot com). Thanks.

  5. I know this is a really old post, but could you tell me what the Palma filter does generally? Does it mainly brighten things up and increase saturation?

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