The best camera is the one you have on you. That’s what makes smartphone shooters so essential. DSLRs might be able to take better-looking shots, but your Pixel can fit in your pocket, and can go anywhere you can. Not only is it convenient, but you can turn standard photos you’ve already taken into striking shots filled with bokeh and depth, thanks to Google Photo’s Portrait Blur.
Portrait Blur isn’t necessarily new. Launching as a Pixel-exclusive, the feature allowed you to add blur to the background of photos you didn’t shoot in Portrait Mode in the first place. However, in the past, this feature was limited to only human subjects. While Portrait Mode works with other subjects in-camera, Portrait Blur wouldn’t appear for photos of pets, plants, or other objects you’d like to bokeh-fy.
With a new Google Photos update, however, that all changes. Google has now added the ability to apply Portrait Blur to just about any photos in Google Photos, widening the scope significantly beyond just human subjects.
How to use Google’s Portrait Blur on virtually any subject
To try the feature out for yourself, you’ll need a Google Pixel device, or you’ll need to be subscribed to Google One. Your phone must have at least 3GB of RAM, while running Android 8.0 or newer. (At this time, the feature doesn’t appear to be compatible with iOS.)
In addition, you’ll need to install the latest update of Google Photos to upgrade your Portrait Blur feature. The update is brand new and is just starting to roll out, so it’s possible it isn’t available for your device yet.
Once it is, it’s the same Portrait Blur feature you might already know and love. To use it, choose a photo from Google Photos, then tap “Edit.” Allow the settings to load, if necessary, then choose “Portrait.” From here, you can tap “Tools” from the other menu bar to find “Blur;” let Google Photos attempt to pick the best level of blur with “Auto,” or move the slider to adjust the blur manually. Tap “Done” to lock-in your settings.
While Google doesn’t offer any specifics, it does warn this feature might not work on every photo. If you’re not happy with how Portrait Blur performed, you can return to that photo’s Blur settings page to change or undo any level of blur. If you want to turn it off, just move the slider all the way to “0.”