How to change the blur effect in photos using the Pixel 3 camera

The Pixel 3 includes the best camera on the market. Find out how to make those portrait photos even better.

How to change the blur effect in photos using the Pixel 3 camera

If you're an owner of the Pixel 3 , you know it has a best-in-show camera. In fact, of all the cameras I've used, on all the phones I've owned or tested, nothing beats this camera--so much so, I've always been willing to overlook a number of the phone's shortcomings. 

One of the really cool features of the phone is the portrait mode. This isn't new to smartphones, it's just done really well on the Pixel. But up until recently, there's been no control over the blur effect for photos. You pretty much had to settle with the level of blur offered by the camera app. That is no longer so, as you can now manually adjust the blur for portrait mode photos. It's not quite as intuitive as you might like, but at this point it's better than nothing.

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Why use portrait mode?

You might be asking yourself: "Why is portrait mode in a phone camera important to business?" The answer is pretty simple. If you sell products or services, chances are you're going to be needing images for promotional opportunities, or even just to give examples of your work to clients. When using portrait mode, you are able to place focus on a specific object in a photo. That can mean the difference between you selling your goods and services or not. 

After all, a picture is still worth a thousand words.

What you'll need

The only thing you'll need for this is an updated Pixel phone. The device I am using for the demonstration is running beta 6 of Android 10.

How to change the blur

By some strange twist of UX design, you can only change the blur of a photo after it's taken. That tells us everything we need to know about portrait mode on the Pixel--that it's mostly software-driven. So to change the blur effect, you must first snap a photo in portrait mode. Once you've snapped the shot, open the photo in the camera app viewer by tapping the round thumbnail of the photo just taken. 

In the resulting window (Figure A), tap the settings button (the icon at the bottom of the screen that looks like three horizontal sliders).

Figure A


Our photo has been taken.

The resulting screen (Figure B) allows you to change the color of the photo, crop the photo, edit the photo in markup, and alter the blur effect. 

Figure B


We can now make changes to the photo.

Once again, tap the slider icon to reveal the effect sliders for:

  • Light
  • Color
  • Blur

In this window (Figure C), tap the object in the photo you want to keep in focus and then adjust the Blur slider until you have just the right amount of blur.

Figure C


Adjusting the blur effect.

Remember, however, the amount of blur effect you can achieve is dictated by how well you've composed the photo. If the background objects are too close, you won't get much in the way of blur. You can also gain more clarity in the photo by adjusting both the light and color. Play around with these effects until you get the optimal look for your photo. When the photo looks exactly how you want it, tap Save Copy and your photo is ready to share.

And that's all there is to changing the blur effect in photos, using the Pixel camera. Enjoy that added business, thanks to your outstanding shots.

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Image: Jack Wallen