You’ve just landed in that beautiful city or town you’ve been dreaming of for months, but it’s cloudy, dreary, and you know every photo you take will be very depressing. So you go about your day, enjoy your time, but every time you take a photo to keep the memories alive, you end up being a little disappointed. If only there was a way to quickly improve these images to be a little more appealing … or at least as appealing as you see them in your mind. Well, the solution is in Google Photos but it is not available to everyone.
Google Photos added sky effects several months ago, but they landed as a Pixel exclusive in the December patch. It’s a bit of an obscure montage, so you might not know it – I had forgotten about it until one of our tipsters reminded us. Thanks Eduardo!
Edit: It looks like the feature is also available for Google One subscribers, but I couldn’t get it to show up on my OnePlus 7 Pro. Either the photos I tried were not recognized by the sky algorithm, or something is wrong with my One subscription. My fault.
On compatible devices, when you open the editing options in Google Photos and the AI detects a sky, the corresponding changes will automatically appear among the top suggestions. You can find seven different effects: Vivid, Luminous, Radiant, Ember, Airy, Afterglow, and Stormy. Each one gives a different mood and tone to your photo, ranging from a sunrise effect to a harsh midday to a colorful twilight, and more.
If you want more control over these effects, you can head to the Adjust tab, then find the Sky option. On top of that you’ll find the same seven effects, except that you now have control over their intensity, so you can reduce or push them to the max.
Among the different effects, Vivid is the one that feels the most natural. This increases the saturation a bit and improves the blue of the sky. I have found it to work well for city and landscape photos taken on a cloudy or gloomy day.
(Up and down) Left: Original. Right: Lively.
The Airy effect is a bit similar, but it cools the non-heavenly elements a bit too much. It works great for some photos, however, if the sky is predominant.
Left: Original. Right: Aerial.
Ember, Radiant, and Afterglow don’t work very well for daytime photos. But for photos taken at sunrise or sunset, they can add a very moody effect. This is a good example of a sunset photo transformed into a more dramatic purple shade with the Afterglow effect.
Left: Original. Right: afterglow.
In this other photo, Radiant intensifies the existing sunset effect, while Ember completely changes the mood of the photo to a sunrise feel.
Left: Original. Middle: radiant. Right: Ember.
Personally, I’m not a big fan of the Luminous and Stormy effects; the former gives the impression that it darkens photos unlike its name and the latter just adds a more cloudy effect. I prefer happy photos so sadness and unhappiness is not my thing, but if this is the outcome you are looking for then please feel free to push them to 100 and enjoy it. darker mood of the photo.
Of course, not all of these changes are a replacement for full-featured image editing software, but they can come in handy before you share photos with your friends and family or upload them to Instagram or Twitter. It’s also one of the millions of reasons Google Photos is great.