Take Better Pictures with Your Pixel
Google can barely keep its Pixel smartphone in stock, and it's one of the best selling phones at Verizon, which is the only carrier to offer the device. And one of the big reasons for that popularity is the Pixel's camera, which combines strong optics and industry-leading computational photography to produce pictures you simply can't get on other phones. To help you get the best out the Pixel, here are 10 tips that make using its camera even easier.
Set HDR+ to Auto
One of the most impressive parts of the Pixel's camera is its HDR mode, which takes multiple shots at different exposures and then combines them into single image with better contrast, colors and dynamic range than you get with a regular pic. The first thing you should do when you get a Pixel is set HDR+ to auto by tapping the icon at the top of the screen and leave it on.
Turn on Gridlines
Photography involves a lot more than how many times you can yell cheese and slam the shutter. By turning the grid lines on (hit the icon that looks like a tic tac toe board), you can better utilize what photographers call the "Rule of Thirds" and compose shots by placing your subject at strategic locations in the photo. The grid will help you leave room for lead space, avoid putting faces and subjects dead center and align the horizon with the top or bottom third instead of leaving it in the middle.
Take Advantage of Shortcuts and Gestures
While the Pixel doesn't have a traditional physical home button, you can still open the camera almost instantly by pressing the lock button twice. And when you want to switch between the rear and front cams, all you have to do is rotate the phone toward or away from you twice in quick succession. You can even go into the camera settings and program the volume rocker to function as shutter button or to zoom in or out.
Don't Forget to Tap to Focus
You've got a touch screen, so use it. Instead of just pulling out your phone and hitting the shutter, frame your shot and touch the subject. That way, the Pixel’s camera can adjust focus and exposure accordingly. On top of that, once you've selected a subject, you can further fine-tune your photo by adjusting exposure compensation using the brightness slider on the side of the Pixel’s screen.
Tap the Hamburger Icon to Get More Effects
Google's Camera app might not have all the filters and effects you'd get from apps like Snapchat or Instagram, but it does have a few nifty tricks, including Panorama, Photo Sphere (pictured here), and Lens Blur mode that far surpass what you from get other apps. The Lens Blur is especially impressive given that the Pixel doesn’t have a second rear camera gathering data about depth like the iPhone 7 Plus does. Just tap the icon that looks like three horizontal lines — otherwise known as the hamburger icon — to select the effect you want.
Play Around with the White Balance for Better Colors
Google's auto white balance is generally pretty good, but every now and then, the algorithms in your phone get confused and need a little help. If you find that colors aren't looking as rich or accurate as you'd like, tap the icon that looks like an old school thermometer to change the white balance from auto to cloudy, sunny, fluorescent or tungsten to better match the kind of lighting you're in.
Use Google Photos to Automatically Create Gifs
If you hold down on the shutter instead of taking just a single pic, the Pixel will go into full burst mode, capturing a series of shots continually until you lift up your finger. From there, if you have auto-generate creation settings on, the phone will automatically turn your photos into an animated gif. (You can find the toggle for it under Burst settings in the camera app’s settings.) When you're done, open up Google Photos to see your newly created gif, just make sure to give it some time to process.
Turn HDR+ to On Instead of Auto
It's not the most intuitive distinction, but there is a difference between HDR+ being set to "auto" or "on." Auto HDR+ is made for everyday shooting, so its image processing isn't as aggressive compared to HDR+ On, which combines more photos into a single composite image than normal. HDR+ On works best for shots like landscapes, but less so for things like sports and action where you need a more stable shot. You can think of HDR+ On as if Google is turning up the HDR dial to 11. You shouldn't do it all the time, but when it works it can feel like magic.
Know When to Turn Off Video Stabilization
For a camera without optical image stabilization, the Pixel's electronic alternative is pretty impressive. However, the Pixel does have issues with slow pans or tilts, especially when recording video, so if you run into footage the looks jerky even during relatively slow camera movements, try turning the image stabilization off in the camera apps settings menu.
Try a Third-Party Camera App for More Control
If you want real manual controls, you'll need to use a third-party camera app to change settings like shutter speed, ISO and more. Unfortunately, you'll lose Google's HDR+ feature, since its the only camera app to support that capability. Our favorite third party camera app is Manual Camera ($2.99), but if you're looking for something free, Open Camera and VSCO are good options too.
MORE: Best Android Camera Apps