From shooting to sharing, Google is trying to integrate itself into your photographic process
When it comes to social networks, there's already a lot for photographers to like about Googe+. It has some of the best intellectual property practices around and it doesn't crunch your photo quality as much as some others like Facebook. Today, at their Google I/O conference, they unleashed some new photo features on Google+, which are available right now.
One of the most intriguing new additions is the Highlights tab. When you visit the photos page, you'll see images that Google's algorithms have deemed "good" or "important." Sounds a little creepy, but it's based on things like whether or not an image is sharp or properly exposed. it also looks for your friends in the photos and landmarks it might recognize. Even more creepy, but also pretty cool.
My Google+ profile is something of a wreck, so my highlights tab is all over the place, but it's an interesting idea and a tab you can totally ignore if the idea of a robot criticizing your photos makes you angry.
There's also a new Auto Enhance mode, which I suspect is closely related to the mode you'll find in Google's desktop photo application, Picasa. The interesting thing is that it doesn't just tweak the histogram. In a picture of me (from 2007 -- I'm not that good looking anymore) it added some blurring to my skin to even it out like a portrait retouching software would. That's pretty advanced for an "auto enhance" mode. In the photo below, you'll notice the color balance has shifted a little warmer and the skin next to my nose has been smoothed. Left is the original and right is the "enhanced" version.
There's even more stuff, like a "motion" mode that will stitch together frames that were clearly shot in sequence into some kind of animated .gif. It can create panoramas and even HDR images from bracketed photos. The interesting thing is that this isn't done on command, it's done automatically. You can turn it off, but if you don't, Google will just go ahead and make a sequence or an HDR for you.
Ultimately, it's the kind of stuff you'd expect to do with tablet or smartphone apps, but it's brought in at the sharing level. It seems like Google would be happy to take over your entire photography experience from shooting to sharing.
Have you tried any of the new features yet? If so, what do you think? Here's the Google page to see what's new.