Google+ Hangouts and Photos: save some time, share your story

We could all use more time for ourselves, and less time figuring out technology. So today's improvements to Google+ Hangouts and Photos aim to take a lot of the work out of messaging, video calling and photo editing.


Hangouts enable conversations among close friends, as well as broadcasts with the entire world. Today we're improving both:
  • Hangouts for Android now supports location sharing and SMS. This way you can send a map of your current location (vs. finding and typing an address), and you can send and receive SMS (vs. switching between apps). Animated GIFs also play inline.
  • Broadcasters can now schedule Hangouts On Air, then promote them with a dedicated watch page. Once you're live, Control Room lets you moderate the conversation with eject and remote mute.
  • In both cases, the video calling experience is significantly improved. It's now full screen across mobile and desktop, and it fixes and enhances webcam lighting automatically.

From left to right: location sharing; SMS support; and animated GIFs

From left to right: schedule your Hangout On Air; promote it with a dedicated watch page; and moderate the conversation with Control Room

From left to right: video call before lighting fixes; video call after lighting fixes

The Android app and video calling features will be available in a few days, while the On Air improvements will roll out over the next few weeks.

Photos and videos

Photos and videos capture life's most precious moments, but it’s way too hard to save, organize, edit and share your stuff. Google+ can make things easier, automatically.
  • For starters, full size backups and background sync are coming soon to Google+ for iOS. This way you can backup your photos as you take them.
  • In addition, finding your photos is actually fun. We now recognize over a thousand different objects—from sunsets to snowmen—so you can just type what you’re looking for, and find matching items in your library.
  • Auto Enhance improves each photo you add to Google+, and now you can now dial the enhancements up or down. If you’re already processing your images elsewhere, you can choose to exempt an album entirely.
  • If you like to edit on the go, then you’ll enjoy Snapseed and its new HDR Scape filter. While high dynamic range (HDR) imaging requires multiple photos to create its effect, HDR Scape can deliver similar results with a single tap.
  • We’re also adding Analog Efex Pro to the Nik Collection (still just $149). With it you can reimagine your images using classic cameras and processing methods—from toy and medium format to wet plate and vintage.

From left to right: photo searches for "beach", "sunset" and "snow"

From left to right: original image; Auto Enhance at "normal"; Auto Enhance at "high"

From left to right: original image; image enhanced with Snapseed HDR Scape

Auto Awesome can help bring your story to life in creative ways. Today we’re adding three new techniques:
  • Action. Maybe it’s your child’s first gymnastic meet, or you’re skateboarding with a friend. Action can take their tumble or half pipe trick, and create a strobe-effect photograph.
  • Eraser. When you’re taking pictures of landmarks, people and cars often get in the way. Eraser can take a sequence of these photos, and erase whatever’s moving to give you a “cleaner” image.
  • Movie. Movie produces highlight reels from your photos and videos—complete with effects, transitions and a soundtrack—automatically. You can share the movie as is, or dive into the editing process to customize even further.
From left to right: sequence of action shots; Auto Awesome Action

From left to right: sequence of images with people in the way; Auto Awesome Eraser

All of today’s photo and video improvements will be available this week. Auto Awesome Movie works on certain devices with Android 4.3+, but all the other app features are widely supported.

With 540 million people active across Google each month, 300 million people active in just the stream and more than 1.5 billion photos uploaded every week, the Google+ community is growing faster than we ever could have imagined. Today’s updates are our way of saying “thank you”—we hope they save you time, and help you share your story.

Your favorite apps, with Google Drive (Holiday Edition)

For the second installment of our Apps in Google Drive series, we’re giving things a holiday twist with apps that can help you out with some (last-minute) personalized gifts. Once you install one of the third-party Drive apps below, you can use them to create a variety of one-of-a-kind gifts: your pug on a mug, your very own holiday song, or a video of this year’s biggest moments.

CafePress: Create a personalized gift using pictures stored in Google Drive. 
Use photos you keep in Drive to add a personal touch to hundreds of potential gifts. Just select a photo in your Drive open it with the CafePress app. Get the app
WeVideo: Make a video (fancy editing skills not required). 
Make a recap video of the highlights of 2012 with the photos, videos, and other files that you keep in Drive. Then add a personal touch with text, effects, music, and voiceovers. Get the app

UJam: Create new holiday tunes. 
Grab some sleigh bells and write your own full track with a variety of backing instruments, beats, and styles from scratch, or start with a song template. Get the app

Check out many more apps that work with Google Drive to spread some of your own holiday cheer. 

Posted by Google Drive Elf #12

5,000 new stock images in Google Drive, thanks to you

A few months ago, many of you submitted ideas on how we can expand the selection of stock images in Google Drive to add to the categories that you’re most interested in.

Thanks to your suggestions, 5,000 new photos of nature, weather, animals, sports, food, education, technology, music and 8 other categories are now available for your use in Docs, Sheets, and Slides. More than 900 of these photos were selected directly from your submissions -- we really appreciate your help!

Thanks again for your submissions, and keep the ideas coming on the Google Drive +page.

Posted by Adah Berkovich, User Operations Specialist

Google+: Communities and photos

For our international readers, this post is also available in ChineseFrench, German, ItalianJapanese, RussianPortuguese and Spanish (Spain, Latin America). - Ed.

During the holidays we reconnect with loved ones and rediscover what makes us tick. And it's times like these that remind me why we started Google+ in the first place: to make online sharing as meaningful as the real thing. Too often our online tools miss the subtlety and substance of real-world interactions, and Google+ aims to fix this. Fortunately we've got a vibrant community to guide us.

Today Google+ is the fastest-growing network thingy ever. More than 500 million people have upgraded, 235 million are active across Google (+1'ing apps in Google Play, hanging out in Gmail, connecting with friends in Search...), and 135 million are active in just the stream.

This enthusiasm, we think, stems from our building tools that build real relationships—in a live hangout, around a breathtaking photo, or with an inner circle of friends. So today we're launching two new improvements that help bring the nuance and richness of real-life sharing to software.

Google+ Communities: for all the people you ought to know
From photography to astronomy (and everything in between), Google+ has always been a place to crowd around common interests and meet new people. What’s been missing, however, are more permanent homes for all the stuff you love: the wonderful, the weird, and yes, even the things that are waaay out there. With Google+ Communities there’s now a gathering place for your passions, including:
  • Public or private membership to support all kinds of groups—from topics and interests to local neighborhoods to regular poker nights
  • Discussion categories to find the conversations you care about most
  • The option to start hangouts and plan events with community members
  • The ability to share with your community from any +1 button across the web

To give it a try just click on the new "Communities" icon (rolling out today), then create or join your favorite community. It’s only a preview, and mobile’s coming soon, so we’re keen to get your feedback.

Snapseed: beautiful photos with your mobile device
Great pictures aren’t taken, they’re made—and Nik Software has been helping people make awesome photos for years. Having welcomed Nik to the Google family, we're excited to bring their Snapseed app (last year's iPad app of the year) to Android. It includes:
  • Basic adjustments like tune, straighten and crop
  • Creative filters like drama, black & white, and vintage that you can apply individually or in combination
  • Control Point technology to selectively enhance your photo—to brighten just a face, for instance, or deepen just the sky
  • The ability to share your creations via Google+ and other services
Snapseed is rolling out now to Google Play and the App Store, and starting today, both versions are free.

Sample image created with Snapseed; gallery available here

This time of year we honor the past, and imagine what’s ahead. So we want to thank you for lending your big hearts to this small project. And we invite you to a future where everyone’s cared for and comfortable in their own skin—in life and online. Let’s keep building Google+ together, and let’s be excellent to each other this holiday season.

The Google Photography Prize 2012 winner

Last week we shared the names of the 10 Finalists for the Google Photography Prize 2012. Today we’re delighted to announce the winner: Viktor Johansson from Sweden.

Viktor is a 24-year-old student at the Swedish photography school Nordens Fotoskola Biskops-Arnö. The judges were captivated by his series that focused on Christoffer Eskilsson, Sweden’s best male diver from 10 meters. Viktor spent three days with Christoffer in Eriksdalsbadet, Stockholm where Christoffer trains and perfects his craft. Viktor came to realize that training to become the number-one male high diver in Sweden is a lonely pursuit.

Viktor has chosen to show us an alternative perspective on the life of a professional athlete—a view that we’re not used to seeing from sport photography in the media. Instead of glamorous action shots of an athlete in competition, he’s produced arresting and unexpected photographs that focus on the long, lonely hours of repetitive training and practice that it takes to excel in a field.

In addition to the exhibition at Saatchi Gallery, London, Viktor will go on a once-in-a-lifetime photography trip to a destination of his choice with a professional photography coach.

Celebrating the Google Photography Prize Finalists

Back in November we announced the Google Photography Prize 2012, a competition offering student photographers a chance to share their best photographs with the world.

Groundbreaking photographer Ansel Adams once said, “There are no rules for good photographs, there are only good photographs,” so we left the themes for submission suitably broad, with 10 categories that combined classic photography genres with online photography trends including “Night,” “Travel,” “Sound/Silence” and “Me.”

We were thrilled by the interest in the contest: nearly 20,000 students from 146 countries took part, of which 100 were shortlisted. You can see these in the gallery on our website.

Our judging panel of seven leading photography experts chose the 10 finalists whose work will be shown in our exhibition in the Saatchi Gallery. Today we’re announcing the finalists: Collin Avery (U.S.), Viktor Johansson (Sweden), Kyrre Lien (Norway), Alexandra Claudia Manta (Romania), Balázs Maté (Hungary), Adi Sason (Israel), Oliver Seary (UK), Dana Stirling (Israel), Sasha Tamarin (Israel), Zhao Yi (China). Here are examples of the finalists' work—you can see their full albums on their Google+ profiles.

If you’re in London, come to the Saatchi Gallery to see the work of our finalists displayed alongside a new exhibition of international photography, Out of Focus, starting April 25. The overall winner of the Google Photography Prize will be announced on April 24, and will go on a once-in-a-lifetime trip to a location of their choice with a professional photographer as their mentor.

We hope you enjoy these fantastic photos as much as we did.

Google Photography Prize: Looking for the photography stars of the future

Google+ is only a few months old, but the photography community is already thriving on it. Take a look at the profiles of Scott Jarvie, Thomas Hawk, Colby Brown or Claire Grigaut to see just a few of the inspiring photographers on Google+. More than 3.4 billion photos have been uploaded to the platform in the first 100 days.

We’re really excited about this, and think great art deserves great exposure. So we’re teaming up with Saatchi Gallery, London for the Google Photography Prize, a chance for students around the world to showcase their photos on Google+ and have their work exhibited at a major art institution.

The contest is open to students around the world (some exceptions apply, see for more details). From far-away places to up-close faces, there are 10 different categories to spark your imagination. And there are some great prizes to be won: 10 finalists chosen by a jury of renowned photographers will show their work at Saatchi Gallery, London for two months in 2012 alongside Out of Focus, a major photography exhibition, and win a trip to London to attend the exhibition opening event with a friend. One winner will go on a once-in-a-lifetime trip to an amazing destination with a professional photography coach.

It’s easy to enter: After you pick a category, upload your photos to Google+ and share them with the world as a public post, then visit the submission form on by January 31, 2012 to enter.

Saatchi Gallery, London will share updates on their Google+ page for the contest, so add it to your circles if you want to see the great work that’s being submitted.

We can’t wait to see your photos!

Update Nov 14: We've had a few questions and comments about who can enter. The contest is open to all students in higher education, including but not limited to those studying photography. Please have a look at the eligibility criteria on the contest website.

Google moms share tech tips for your family

As a Googler I often take my work home with me—in a good way. With two young boys at home, life is always busy, so my husband and I are always looking for ways to save time, get organized and enrich our lives in simple ways. Because the products I beta test and use in the office have become an integral part of my own family life, for Mother’s Day this weekend I’d like to share some favorite tips, including a few from other Googler parents.

Capturing and sharing memories
  • Instead of keeping 500 crayon masterpieces, store digital photos of all your kids’ artwork in Picasa Web Albums
  • Collect trip or party photos in one place by letting all of your paparazzi upload their snapshots to a collaborative online album
  • Tag friends and family in Picasa photos so you can easily create and share personalized collages, gift CDs/DVDs or movie slideshows
  • Use Picnik to edit your Picasa Web Albums photos. Use the “Create” tab to add text, stickers, frames and other effects to your photos—your kids can help, and you can email them as digital cards to distant relatives
  • Safely share home videos with family by inviting them to view a private YouTube video
  • Keep a running family history by encouraging relatives around the world to contribute stories and biographies in a shared Google doc or blog
Communicating and entertaining
  • Video chat through Gmail for free with long-distance grandparents and friends—this is also great for connecting kids with their parents when traveling
  • Entertain kids on the run with kid-friendly YouTube channels—like Sesame Street and School House RockAndroid apps or your own photos and videos on your mobile phone (kids love watching themselves!)
  • Have your kids help you create a video card or a cartoon on YouTube
  • Explore the world from the couch—fly around Google Earth on your mobile phone or tablet
  • On camping trips, use Sky Map to explore and name constellations. You can even travel back in time to show your kids what the sky looked like on the day they were born
  • Read the classics—like Anne of Green Gables, The Wind in the Willows and Grimm’s Fairy Tales—for free from Google eBooks; for older kids, many books that are required reading for school are also free. Google eBooks are accessible and readable on devices your family probably already has—like laptops or smartphones
My son Kai chatting with his dad while on a business trip

Organizing and planning
I hope these tips inspire moms (and dads) to celebrate your family this weekend. Here’s hoping you can save time and energy to focus on having fun with your kids!

More “I do”s, less “to-do”s: wedding planning simplified

(Cross-posted on the Google Docs Blog and the Google Photos Blog)

For many, your wedding day is one of the biggest, most momentous days of your life. The perfect dress, the right tuxedo, the proper shade of blue, the three-tier cake with chocolate fondant, and all of your closest family and friends—these are just a few of the many things you might think about for your special day. Although there’s much to consider and a lot of work to do, the payoff is great: it’s one of the happiest days of your life.

To help you plan this important day we’ve created wedding-specific templates in Google Sites, Google Docs and Picnik, and gathered tips and tricks for using these and other Google products at From wedding websites to save-the-date cards, these tools simplify wedding planning, letting you focus your time on the fun things—like tasting cakes!

We teamed up with renowned wedding planner Michelle Rago, who provided her insight and creativity to guide the designs you’ll find on this new site. Michelle also shared her experience to provide tips and advice to keep your guests comfortable and you sane.

We’re also hosting a wedding sweepstakes, so if you’re getting married in the next year you can enter for a chance to win $25,000 towards your dream wedding (see Official Rules). Plus, Michelle Rago and her team will advise the winning couple on location, flowers, food and other design elements to create a day that is uniquely their own. (Update March 29, 2011: The Google Dream Wedding Sweepstakes is closed and is no longer taking entries. Thanks for your interest.)

Visit to start planning, or share the site with your favorite betrothed couple and help them on their way to wedded bliss.

Announcing the Panoramio Photo Contest

(Cross-posted from the Lat Long Blog)

The Panoramio community enables you to share your photos and explore them on Google Earth, Google Maps and other places. If you’ve never geo-tagged a photo, watch this video to learn how easy it is to add photos to the Panoramio layer in Google Earth.

Now you can add some excitement to your photo project and enter your photos to the monthly Panoramio Geotagged Photo Contest! Starting this month, we’ll be giving away the new Casio Hybrid-GPS camera EX-H20G to the winner of each category (Scenery, Heritage, Travel and Unusual Location). The Panoramio community reviews all of the submissions and votes for what they consider to be the best each month.

Casio’s new Hybrid-GPS camera combines a GPS engine with autonomic positioning made possible by a motion sensor. This makes geotagging easy—both outdoors and indoors.

If you haven’t joined the Panoramio community yet, try it out and don’t forget to participate in our monthly contest. To enter your photo, click on “Submit to the contest” and choose a category. Good luck and we can’t wait to see your photos!