Google Photos’ New AI Editing Tool Could Pose Threat to Adobe

Updates made to Google Photos consistently astound me. I like the app’s cloud backup and easy search for people and locations. And though, while other apps offer similar features, Google’s use of artificial intelligence helps it stand out.

A successor to Google+ and Picasa, Google Photos is the company’s first AI-native apps. At one point, it stored more than 4 trillion photos, with 28 billion new photos and videos uploaded every week. So with all those images now collecting dust, what’s next?

Expanding Beyond Photo Storage

According to Google Chief Executive Sundar Pichai, the app’s mission isn’t to just let you search for them, “it’s to help you make them better.” Today, more than 1.7 billion images are edited each month through Google Photos. While it has standard editing features, one of the first AI-powered tools Google Photos received was Magic Eraser. With it, people can remove unwanted items from their photos, including telephone wires, debris, crowds, and more.

Even with these capabilities, for more robust editing, you’d need to use apps like Adobe Photoshop and Lightroom, Snapseed, Priime, and VSCO. But does Google Photos need all the bells and whistles of apps used by trained photographers and hobbyists? Or can AI do all the necessary heavy lifting?

Streamlining Your Photo Editing Workflow

At its developer conference this year, Google announced a new tool coming to the Photos app: Magic Editor. The company describes it as “a new experimental editing experience that uses generative AI to help you reimagine your photos and make editing even easier.”

With Magic Editor, you can modify any part of an image, whether it’s the sky, subject or background, giving you greater control over the look and feel. And while Google would like to keep you within the Photos app for all your storage, viewing, editing and sharing needs, it has lacked pro-level editing features … until now.

By using Magic Editor, most people won’t need to export their photos from Google Photos to a third-party app for editing, and then sharing it back. It’s likely the majority of users simply want a better quality image to share with friends and family, not the equivalent of what you might see in a National Geographic magazine.

Taking on the Elephant in the Photo Editing Room

As Google Photos adds more editing capabilities, it’s slowly on a collision course with Photoshop, Lightroom and Snapseed — and the last one is noteworthy since it’s owned by Google. Like Google, Adobe is integrating AI into Creative Cloud, an offering that includes its photo-editing programs. Though all these apps are appealing to different audiences, it won’t take much for them to start playing in the same waters.

Take a look at some of the headlines touting Adobe’s AI usage:

Prior to Magic Editor’s launch, Adobe could bank on people sharing their work from Google Photos. It’s likely more people store their memories on Google’s app than on anything Adobe has. However, with the addition of Magic Editor, Adobe’s “traffic” could take a hit, though it might not be as significant since the feature will only be available to Pixel device owners or if you’re subscribed to Google One.

I’m interested in trying out Magic Editor, but believe it won’t be an exact apples-to-apples comparison to anything else out there. There are capabilities Adobe’s products can offer beyond what Google has right now, including support for presets and granular editing settings. But AI can quickly change things. Google is probably going to appeal to casual photographers, not the more serious creators — the ones with dSLRs or work at Getty Images.

And it’s never going to be a zero-sum game. In the end, when it comes to photo editing, you’ll likely use more than one app anyways to get the memory just right. So maybe it’s possible for Google and Adobe to be friends.

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