From trash to treasure – improve your photos with Google Photos editing tools

If you didn’t know how easy it is to use editing tools for improving photos, you would probably just delete this photo of a deer because it is so dark. In this article, I’ll use two example photos and give instructions how to edit them. It’s always much easier to show you than to explain so I’ve included a YouTube video at the end.

Just one click rescues this photo

If you open it using Google Photos on a computer, you’ll see the edit button at the top right. Click that, and you’ll see a button labeled “Auto.” One click on that button and you will see a much better picture! Now all you have to do is save by clicking the button labeled “Done.”

If you’re viewing the same photo using a mobile device, either an iPhone or an Android device, you’ll see the edit button at the bottom. Once you tap that, the first option you’ll see is “Enhance.” Tap that and, voila! Let there be light! Now just tap the Save button and you’re done.

Just one tap on the “Auto” or the “Enhance” button rescues this deer from the trash heap.

More editing features offer simple, yet powerful improvements

I cherish this photo of me and 2 of my best friends in one of my favorite places, that’s Morro Rock in the background. The problem is that the backlit sky makes our faces so dark you don’t even recognize the people.

I’ll always try the “Auto” or “Enhance” option, but for this photo, it doesn’t do enough. I know I can manually adjust the lighting for the photo, but the problem is I don’t want to lighten the sky or wash out the rock. I just want to lighten our faces – get rid of the shadows. Here’s how you do that:

Computer/Web version

Open the photo and click the edit button

  1. Choose the middle tool, called Adjustments
  2. Click the down arrow to the right of Light to see all the options
  3. Drag the marker for “Shadows” to the right

You should see the faces get lighter, without washing out the sky. When you like the way it looks, click the dropdown (#2) again, then Done.

To add a bit of sharpness and detail to the photos, use the “Pop” option. You’ll find it on the bottom of the Adjustments tab.

That’s better!

Using the mobile app for Google Photos

iOS: on your iPhone you will use the same features, but they’re in different places. As soon as you tap the edit button, you will see a bottom row with 4 options: Suggestions, Crop, Adjust, and Filters. When you select an option from that bottom row, you get a corresponding top row of further choices.

The menus are laid out horizontally on mobile devices. The bottom row is the main menu.

For the picture of 3 friends:

  • Choose Adjust from the main (bottom) menu
  • Scroll over and select Shadows from the upper row
  • Drag the slider that appears to see the shadows get lighter, tap Done
  • Still using “Adjust” scroll all the way to the end until you see Pop, select it and drag the slider to increase, Done
  • Save

Android: Follow the same instructions as for iOS, but notice that there are many more options available on the Android platform. When you see an option with a multicolored 1 badge, that means you must be a Google One subscriber to unlock that premium editing feature. If you have a Pixel (made by Google) phone, then all the premium features are already unlocked.

Let me show you how

Here is a 50 minute YouTube show that demonstrates the editing features in this article plus lots more. Chris was a guest on Michael Daniels “Tinkering with Tech” and her topic was Editing photos with Google Photos.