When you're looking for a good photo editor, it's likely that your first thoughts might turn to an Adobe product. Adobe has a lot to offer, whether it's Lightroom, Photoshop, or one of the many mobile offshoots of its Creative Cloud products. But, instead of installing something new and trying to figure out a different UI, you might want to look at an app that's likely already installed on your phone: Google Photos.
No matter what phone you use, Google Photos is one of the best apps you can download and it's even one of the best photo editors on the market especially if you're a Google One subscriber. Yes, that includes both Android phones and iPhones since Google has opened the floodgates for features like Magic Eraser.
It's not perfect — I'd still like to see some AI-powered upscaling features like our friends over at iMore highlighted — but it'll get the job done quicker and probably better than any other photo editing tool you're about to download.
Simplicity is bliss
Over the years, Google has gotten very good at designing UIs that present the things you want right up front. In many cases, you'll often find that apps like Google Photos know what you want to do before you do it.
Pull up a photo of you and your family and Photos will display a toast notification asking if you want to blur the background. Swipe over to a photo that's way too dark and it'll ask if you want to brighten it up. You'll even get surprise automatic edits from time to time like Color Pop — where it turns the background black & white and leaves the foreground in colors — or animated GIFs from a photo burst.
But how about when you want to manually edit a photo? Tapping that edit button at the bottom of every photo brings you to a wonderful suite of options that's even larger for Google One subscribers.
And if you swipe over to the tools section there are even more options that'll make you giddy with joy. Tricks like portrait light will take those dull, flat-lit cloudy day pictures and transform them into something vibrant and beautiful thanks to Google's impressive AI routines.
Blur will let you blur parts of the image — like the background — even after taking the picture. Sky and Color Focus options will give your photos life in a new way and, of course, Magic Eraser is now available for everyone with a Google One subscription, not just Pixel phone owners. Yes, that even includes iPhones.
As we've seen in the past, few tools are as good or effective as Magic Eraser. I compared it with Samsung and Adobe's similar tools, which normally come out on top. That's even more impressive when comparing it to the full Adobe suite since both cost more money and require photo editing skills you may not have.
But while Google Photos does an exemplary job of organizing your photos and making them easy to edit, it is missing one key feature I'd love to see: AI upscaling.
You can actually do this in a roundabout way by using the “denoise” and “sharpen” tools in Google Photos but it only cleans up the photos — it doesn't actually make them higher-resolution. I've used these tools more than once to clean up old photos and it works pretty similarly to Photo Unblur, a Pixel-exclusive feature that's much closer to the one-click AI upscaling option that I'm looking for.
I'd be surprised if that feature didn't get announced soon as Google pushes further and further into using AI to power everything but, until then, sharpen and denoise are pretty fantastic alternatives that'll clean up most old photos you have floating around in your photo albums.