Can Google Photos Replace Adobe Lightroom?

I’ve been using Google Photos since the Picasa Web days. From storing photos and albums it’s today turned into a smart photo library.

If you use Google Photos, you would’ve noticed the ‘Assistant’ automatically creating new variations of your images, animated versions and even making a movie out of your photos. 

Cheetah gif google photos animation
Cheetah GIF created from a burst of photos

I recently decided to experiment with my photography workflow by uploading images directly from my Fuji X100s to Google Photos. I expected to see a movie and some gif images show up.

But to my surprise I noticed HDR images it had created by merging 3 different exposures of the same scene I had shot. While the result was not perfect, I was amazed to the extent to which Google had invested in this product. 

HDR images google photos
HDR image of the underground train tunnel in Vienna
Pano image google photos
Pano image stitched from multiples images by Google Photos

If you haven’t tried the search feature, give it a shot and you will be surprised at the results. It searches using AI and will pick landscapes, snow, trees or whatever else you search for and can be found in your images. This is not simple file name or meta information search, but looking for those artifacts in the image itself.

None of these images have any description in the file name or album name that indicates rock climbing

After seeing these rather good HDR images created automatically, it got me thinking if in the future a product like this with AI, can replace Lightroom?

Old Town area of Vienna

What if it learned your photography and post processing style over time and applied that automatically to images? I would take that 9 out of 10 times, while still retaining the option of manually correcting images if required.

That kind of AI in photography and post processing specially, is not too far away. The Snapseed app and the Google Photos web app auto correct for horizontal alignment. Think of more such basic corrections that can be done without human intervention.

I’ve been using Lightroom for the longest time as it fits my post processing workflow perfectly. It’s a huge time saver, but if you’re a photographer, it can still suck a lot of your time. Heck, I have images waiting to be processed from as far back as two years.

For folks like me who don’t need Photoshop or too much of post processing, this automated processing of images could be great. We still have a long way to go of course before it can completely replace Lightroom, but would’ve thought all of this was possible a few years ago.

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