Google Unleashes PhotoScan App for Digitizing Prints, Adds New Editing Features to Photos App

A simple photo scanning app built on complex technology

Google PhotoScan App
The PhotoScan app requires several pictures of the same image in order to fight glare.Google

Recently, companies have been making a push to get photos off of our computers and the cloud and into the real world in the form of prints. Google, however, is going the other direction with its new PhotoScan app, which is meant to digitize old photos using a smartphone camera as a makeshift scanner. The company has also added a few new editing features to the Google Photos app.

Google PhotoScan works kind of like the popular document scanning apps, finding edges, straightening borders, and tweaking exposure. There’s actually more going on behind the scenes in order to get rid of glare, though.

Photographing glossy photos can be tricky because of the amount of glare from overhead lighting, so PhotoScan relies on computational photography to remedy that situation. The app puts four dogs on the screen, which you align in the camera in order to take four photos. Those photos are then combined to create one seamless image without glare. It’s like the process of taking a 360-degree photo with Google Earth.

There are already quite a few scanning apps in the app store now, but this one is tightly integrated into the Google Photos infrastructure, so you get that unlimited storage in the cloud to go with it for the low price of free.

The process of scanning a single image isn’t exactly fast since you have to take several photos, but if you don’t have a dedicated scanner, or you only scan prints every once in a while, it’s worth giving it a try.

Google Photos Light Sliders
These adjustment sliders look a lot like those found in Lightroom.Google

Google Photo Features

In addition to the new app, there are also several new features in the normal Google Photos app meant to enhance its image editing capabilities. Google says it has improved the auto-enhance feature, too.

There are 12 new “looks” that you can now automatically apply to the images—basically image presets. Some of them actually looks pretty good, despite the rather cutesy names like Eiffel and Blush.

Perhaps the most interesting new development, however, is the addition of the advanced Light controls. You get a series of sliders such as Exposure, Contrast, Whites, Highlights, and Shadows, much like the sliders you expect to find in Adobe Photoshop Lightroom or Camera Raw (ACR).

Many folks use Google Photos simply as a backup strategy for its ability to store an unlimited number of reasonably high-res photos in the cloud for free. However, it seems that Google is still dead set on making its software a more visible and essential part of the mobile photography workflow.

The new app should be rolling out to iOS and Android promptly, and I'm looking forward to seeing the enhancements. I have been using Lightroom Mobile and the excellent Filmborn app more and more lately, so this mobile editing space is getting more interesting by the day.

Google Photo Features

In addition to the new app, there are also several new features in the normal Google Photos app meant to enhance its image editing capabilities. Google says it has improved the auto-enhance feature, too.

There are 12 new “looks” that you can now automatically apply to the images—basically image presets. Some of them actually looks pretty good, despite the rather cutesy names like Eiffel and Blush.

Perhaps the most interesting new development, however, is the addition of the advanced Light controls. You get a series of sliders such as Exposure, Contrast, Whites, Highlights, and Shadows, much like the sliders you expect to find in Adobe Photoshop Lightroom or Camera Raw (ACR).

Many folks use Google Photos simply as a backup strategy for its ability to store an unlimited number of reasonably high-res photos in the cloud for free. However, it seems that Google is still dead set on making its software a more visible and essential part of the mobile photography workflow.

The new app should be rolling out to iOS and Android promptly, and I'm looking forward to seeing the enhancements. I have been using Lightroom Mobile and the excellent Filmborn app more and more lately, so this mobile editing space is getting more interesting by the day.

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