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How to get the most out of the Pixel 4 camera

With just a little time and effort, you can take your Pixel 4 photography game to the next level.

google pixel 2 camera lens android
Image: Joe Rice-Jones / KnowTechie

Google released its latest Pixel smartphone, the Pixel 4, and it has been met with mixed reviews. Some claim it a masterful win for the company, while others say the poor battery life keeps it from standing at the top of the Android heap.

But no matter which side of that fence you stand on, there is one incontrovertible truth about the Pixel 4—the camera stands head and shoulders above the competition. This camera is as remarkable as it gets on current smartphone hardware.

By getting a significant boost from AI, the Pixel camera app is able to take incredible portrait mode photos (Figure 1), even in less-than-ideal lighting.

Figure 1

pixel 4 camera portrait mode`

A portrait mode photo in low lighting.

And although just about anyone can take impressive photos using the Pixel 4, it’s possible to take your photo skills to the next level just by taking a deeper look at it – and without having to turn to an IT staffing company to learn how!

Let’s dive in and see what’s what.

Gridlines

You may not realize this, but most smartphone camera apps have the option to show gridlines. This will superimpose lines over your screen that create a grid. With it, you can line up and balance your shot more easily. There is a theory for using grid lines that says if you place points of interest at either a grid intersection or along the grid lines, your photo will be more balanced.

To turn on gridlines on in the Pixel 4, follow these steps:

  1. Open the Camera app.
  2. Tap the downward-pointing arrow at the top of the screen.
  3. From the resulting popup (Figure 2), tap the gear icon.
  4. Tap Grid type and then select 4 x 4 from the resulting popup.

Figure 2

pixel 4 camera

The Pixel camera popup menu.

You should now see the grid in your camera viewfinder (Figure 3).

Figure 3

The grid is now ready.

Focus is Your Friend

Don’t just open the app and snap the photo. You need to use the camera app’s ability to focus on a subject. To do that, open the app, aim the camera at your subject, steady the camera, and tap the subject in the display where you want the app to focus. This is especially important if you’re taking a photo in Portrait Mode.

Portrait Mode

Speaking of Portrait Mode, this is one of the most impressive features of the Pixel Camera. The easiest way to explain portrait mode is blur.

You’ve seen photos where there’s a primary subject in focus and everything behind that subject is blurry? In standard photography, that’s possible thanks to something called depth of field. In smartphone terminology, you can use it automatically in Portrait Mode.

To get a good photo in this mode, you need to keep these things in mind:

Lighting is your friend. Portrait Mode is a little less reliable in low light situations. Because of this, you want to make sure you have plenty of available light. You also don’t want to have too much light. You’ll need to experiment with this until you find the sweet spot between too little and too much.

Get the exposure right. Exposure is the amount of light per unit area that reaches a sensor. If a photo is underexposed, it’ll be too dark. Too much exposure and the photo will wash out with light. To change the exposure, frame your image and tap on the subject to focus. You should then see two sliders (one vertical and one horizontal – Figure 4).

Figure 4

Adjusting the exposure for a photo.

Slide the vertical slider up (to increase) or down (to decrease) to change the exposure settings.

Go the distance. This one is crucial to get the right amount of distinction between subject and background. You need distance between them. The further your subject is from the background, the easier it is for your phone to measure depth.

The Pixel 4 AI does a much better job of blurring the background when it can get a proper measurement. If your subject and background are too close together, the edges around your subject can become jagged and unrealistic.

At the same time, you want to make sure to get close enough to your subject. Try to fill as much of the frame with your subject as you can. As you can see (in Figure 5), too much distance and the camera cannot distinguish between subject and background as well. With the subject better framed, the blur in the background becomes more dramatic.

Figure 5

Framing your subject properly makes for a better Portrait Mode shot.

Fine Tune Your Photos

You might not know this, but after you snap that photo, you can fine tune a few things. Once the photo is taken, you’ll see an icon of three slider bars at the bottom. Tap that button to reveal a number of adjustable options.

First, you can select from a number of color filters (Figure 6). Slide the filters to the left or right and tap on an option to see how it will change your photo.

Once you have the photo exactly as you like it, tap Save copy and the newly edited photo is ready for sharing.

With just a little time and effort, you can take your Pixel 4 photography game to the next level. This phone is capable of taking professional-level photos. Give yourself a little time to get to know the phone and camera, and you’ll be impressed with the results.

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