I have been having a blast with my photos since I started using Google+ (free; apps available for Android, iOS and Web) to back them up online. I once took photos with the intention of someday finding time to edit them, turn them into little animated vignettes, create slide shows and share them with friends and family. Now I just take the photos, and the Google+ Auto Awesome feature does the rest. Even uploading my shots to Google+ happens automatically.
I discovered Auto Awesome completely by accident when I snapped a series of photos of my husband at the beach. He always makes a face (not his best face) when I point a camera at him. He wanted a new picture for his Facebook profile; I wanted one picture of him not making that face. So I took 20 photos in a row, hoping I would catch a candid expression. When I opened the Google+ app on my phone to browse through the photos, though, I discovered it had automatically made a short animation of my husband from some of the shots. The animation was terrific. It was short, but it caught the movement of his hair, the wind and the ocean, and a range of expressions that eliminated all my concerns about "that face." It was like those animated newspaper photos in the Harry Potter movies. I sent the animation (GIF) to my husband and he loved it so much that he posted it all over his social media pages. He was impressed with my photo-editing and animating skills, and grateful that I had spent so much time on the project. I didn't explain. I just said, “You're welcome.”
Since then, I intentionally take a burst shot of photos or a series (I take at least five to give Auto Awesome enough to work with) whenever I'm shooting something that looks like it would make a fun animation: the cat chasing our bird, my daughter goofing around, sporting events, a car race, birds on the beach. It’s super fun. And I don’t have to do anything except check out what final result Auto Awesome has come up with.
Auto Awesome is not limited to animations. Sometimes it decides my photos would make a nice panorama, so it stitches my landscape photos together. Sometimes it takes a series of portraits and merges them into one really great shot of my subject. Sometimes it decides a series of pics would translate nicely into a photo-booth-style grid. And sometimes it just fixes the colors or lighting in my shots. I can undo any of this, of course. (It marks any photo it has retouched with a sparkly Auto Awesome icon.) But mostly I've been very impressed with its choices. (And I can also do editing of my own online if I get ambitious.)
Google has just launched an Auto Awesome movies app feature. (To access it, you will need the latest version—4.3—of Android.) Choose the photos and videos you want to turn into an Auto Awesome short film, and the app does the rest. It's a great way to share a happy moment—like this man did of the day he became a dad—or a holiday get-together with friends and family.
Christina Tynan-Wood has been covering technology since the dawn of the Internet and currently writes the Family Tech column for Family Circle. You can find more advice about buying and using technology at GeekGirlfriends.com.