You’ve just landed in that beautiful city or country you’ve been dreaming of for months, but it’s cloudy, gloomy, and you know that every single photo you take will look very depressing. So you spend your day, enjoy your time, but every time you take a photo to preserve the memories, you end up getting a little disappointed. If only there was a way to quickly ramp up those images so they look a little more attractive … or at least as attractive as you see them in your mind. Well, the solution is in Google Photos but it’s not available to everyone.
Google Photos added sky effects several months ago, but they arrived as a Pixel exclusive in the December patch. It’s a bit of an obscure change, so you might not be aware of it – I forgot about it until one of our informants reminded us. Thanks, Eduardo!
On Pixel devices, when you open the editing options in Google Photos and the AI detects a sky, the corresponding changes will automatically show up as a top suggestion. You can find seven different effects: Vivid, Luminous, Radiant, Ember, Airy, Afterglow and Stormy. Each of them gives a different vibe and tone to your photo, going from a sunrise-like effect through a harsh midday to a colorful twilight and more.
If you want more control over these effects, you can go to Regular tab, then look for the Sky option. Beyond that, you’ll find the same seven effects, except you now have control over their intensity, so you can turn it down or push it to the max.
Of the different effects, Vivid is the most natural. Increase the saturation a little and improve the blue of the sky. I’ve found it works well for city and landscape photos taken on cloudy or dull days.
(Above and below) Left: Original. Quite right: Vivid.
The Airy effect is a bit similar, but it cools the non-sky elements a little too much. It works really well for some photos, though, if the sky is predominant.
Left: Original. Quite right: Airy.
Ember, Radiant, and Afterglow don’t work very well for daytime photos. But for shots taken during sunrise or sunset, they can add a very moody effect. This is a good example of a sunset photo turned into a more dramatic purple hue with the Afterglow effect.
Left: Original. Quite right: Afterglow.
In this other photo, Radiant intensifies the existing sunset effect, while Ember completely changes the mood of the photo into a sunrise-like impression.
Left: Original. medium: Radiant. Quite right: Embers.
Personally, I’m not a huge fan of the Glowing and Stormy effects; the former seems to darken the photos contrary to its name and the latter just adds a more murky effect. I prefer happy photos, so darkness and doom are not for me, but if that’s the result you are looking for, feel free to push them to 100 and enjoy the darker atmosphere of the photo.
Of course, all of these tweaks don’t replace proper 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. They are also one of the millions of reasons why Google Photos is great, especially on the Pixel.