Portrait pictures with blurred background (aka bokeh) are all rage these days. Once considered a feature exclusive to only DSLR cameras, today many smartphones have dedicated portrait modes to create these artistic images.
Back in 2014, it was HTC who first introduced a separate depth-sensing camera to create a bokeh effect with their M8 smartphone. However, the mainstream popularity of portrait shots shot up last year, with the launch of Apple’s iPhone 7 Plus. It continued with Samsung, OnePlus and others joining the bandwagon.
We have seen that to capture these portrait shots, all manufacturers have utilised a dual-camera setup where the primary lens captures the subject and secondary telephoto/wide lens senses depth to differentiate between the subject and background. Once combined, the data is then used to isolate the subject from background to give a perfect portrait shot.
Now Google's Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL are armed with a single camera, yet promises quality portrait shots using dual pixel focus, software algorithms including machine learning and computational photography. Not only that, Google’s portrait mode works for both front and rear camera which means you can take portrait selfies as well.
So if you own one of the latest Pixel phones and want to take the best portrait shots, here is how you should do it —
Get Closer: The less distance between you and your subject, the more likely your photos will have beautiful blur. Compare the photos on the right, below, with those on the left which are taken from farther away.
Increase distance between your subject and the background: The further your subject is from the background, as on the image on the right below, the more the background will be blurred. In the left image, the background isn't far enough away.
Tap that: For the best results, tap to focus on your subject, whether a person’s face or an object. Tapping also tells the Pixel 2 what’s most important to you in the photo and adjusts the exposure to prioritise your subject. This is especially useful when your subject has strong light source (the sun or a window) behind them.
Tip —you can always adjust the exposure by tapping on the screen and dragging your finger up or down.
Put the subject in the front: Seems obvious, right? But you’ll get more blur and beautiful bokeh if your main subject stands out, is prominent, and is clearly located in the foreground, like the image on the right below, not the middle ground, as on the left.
Remember the rule of thirds: Pixel 2 makes it easy to follow this classic photography recommendation. Tap the grid icon in the camera app to activate the 3x3 grid on your screen. Placing the subject along one of the lines or where the lines intersect can improve your composition.
Change your perspective: A unique angle adds visual interest to your photos, as in the examples below. Get low to match the eye level of a child or an animal, or shoot from above to emphasise shapes and graphic components in an object.
Get in line! This is one of our favorites. Look for lines, like bricks or tiles, staircases, or a building’s grid. Lines can enhance the sense of depth in photos and emphasize your subject.
Lighting is everything: You can’t always control lighting conditions, but you can find better light. Outdoors, find better light by changing your location or the camera’s orientation, repositioning subjects, or taking photos in the shade (especially at midday). Clouds are your friends, creating a more soft, diffuse light. At night, try lighting up your subject from the side using a second phone in flashlight mode, or any simple light source.
Ditch the crowds: Portrait mode works best when all your subjects are the same distance from the camera. This is easier with small groups of people.
Keep it simple: A photo’s success can be compromised if too many details compete for attention with your subject. You can avoid this fate by filling the frame and shooting in front of clean backgrounds. And don’t forget to check the outside edges of your photo before you press the shutter button to prevent clutter from protruding into the sides of your picture....