root the Google Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL

The Google Pixel 2 camera is arguably the best photo-taker among its peers. It’s capable of capturing insanely good photos and videos without requiring much photography or cinematography “know-how” from the user.

But with a little extra effort on your end, you can take your photos from good to great and beyond. So, whether you’ve had the phone since launch, like me, or you just got it for Christmas, here are 20 Pixel 2 camera tips and tricks to help take your mobile photography to the next level.

Google Pixel 2 camera tips and tricks

20. Portrait Mode

The Pixel 2’s “bread and butter” is its ability to take stunning portraits using – yep… you guessed it – Portrait Mode. This mode zooms in slightly on your subject and produces a blurry background with the subject in focus.

Other modern phones, like the Galaxy Note 8, use two lenses to accomplish this feat, but Google opted for a single lens that employs AI and machine learning to do the same thing. And it does a damn good job at it. Even better, using Portrait Mode produces two shots; one with the blurry background, and one without. So, you have options if you’re not 100% sold on the results with blur. And options are always good.

19. Turn face retouching on or off

The face retouching feature adds a subtle and smooth filter to your subject’s skin that helps to mask any blemishes that may appear. There are times when face retouching doesn’t look natural, however. You can enable or disable this by tapping the face-shaped icon at the top of the camera app screen if you don’t like the results.

18. Motion Photos

Every non-Portrait Mode photo you take creates a still image and a short, looping Motion Photo. While they don’t always come out perfect, there are times when the short burst of motion is super cool. But, if they aren’t your thing, you can always disable them using the circular icon with the ‘A’ inside of it. There are three settings to choose from: Motion off, Motion auto, and Motion on.

17. Use manual exposure

The Pixel 2 camera might not come with full-on manual settings, but you can tweak the exposure level manually to achieve a specific amount of brightness in your shots. To use manual exposure, simply tap on your phone screen to focus, and the exposure slider appears on the right-hand side of the screen. Sliding up makes your shots brighter, sliding down makes them darker. A pretty simple, yet useful concept that gives your photos an entirely different look, depending on your preference.

16. Locking manual exposure

Following up on the last tip, there are times when you’ll want to lock manual exposure. You can do this by tapping the lock icon at the top of the exposure slider after you’ve manually set the exposure. Tapping a new focal point on your screen resets the exposure. Tapping the lock icon a second time after locking exposure unlocks it again.

15. Shoot RAW images

Ok, this isn’t technically a Pixel 2 camera trick, because the stock Google camera doesn’t allow you to shoot RAW images. But that doesn’t mean you can’t do it. In fact, I already wrote a guide explaining how to do it – and why you should. In short, you get a lot more control in post-production, as your RAW image files contain much more data than the JPEG files the stock camera produces.

14. Save photo locations

Shoot a lot of images on the go? Vacation often? You may want to enable the Save Location option. This tags each photo and video you shoot with the GPS location where the file was captured. It’s a pretty helpful feature for keeping your photos organized, especially in Google Photos, where you can search your images by location.

13. Gestures

You can use Gestures to speed up and simplify the process of taking photos. Available in the camera settings menu are options for “Double tap to zoom” and for volume key functionality (shutter, zoom, or volume). Additionally, you can enable “Flip camera” in System Settings > Gestures. This allows you to move the phone in a twisting gesture to swap back and forth between the rear and selfie camera.

12. Turn camera sounds on or off

By default, the Pixel 2’s shutter sound is fairly quiet and unobtrusive. You press the button and there’s a faint clicking sound. But should you want to go completely silent, there’s an option for that in the camera setting that allows you to turn camera sounds on or off.

11. Toggle HDR+ control

To clear up any confusion about HDR+ and HDR+ Enhanced on the Pixel 2, I had to do a bit of digging on the Google Product forums. In short, HDR+ is an always-on setting that Google uses to balance the darkest and brightest areas of your photos, making them more vivid. HDR+ Enhanced makes pictures even more vivid but takes a little bit longer to process.

Head into the camera app Settings > Advanced, and you’ll see a toggle for HDR+ Control. After you enable it, you’ll see an icon on the camera app screen to toggle HDR+ off, HDR+ on, or HDR+ enhanced.

10. Grid

You may or may not have heard of the “rule of thirds” in photography. In case you haven’t, the rule of thirds involves mentally dividing up your image using two horizontal lines and two vertical lines. You then position the important elements in your scene along those lines, or at the points where they meet. Using the Grid feature eliminates the need for guesswork. There are four settings to choose from: 3×3, 4×4, Golden Ratio, and Grid Off. Use whichever suits you best.

9. Change photo resolutions

By default, the Pixel 2 camera (rear) shoots 12.2 megapixels at a 4:3 ratio. This is your best bet for photo resolutions, although you can change them if you want to. The top resolution for 16:9 ratio is 8.3 megapixels, however, so you’re going to lose some image quality if you choose this setting. Ideally, you should shoot in 12.2 megapixels at a 4:3 ratio and then crop to a 16:9 ratio, if you’re going for a wider image.

8. Ditch the flash

You’ll want to avoid using the flash unless you absolutely need it. The Pixel 2 camera has a f/1.8 aperture and performs particularly well in low-light situations. Using the flash gives off an unnatural look to your photos, so try shooting without it first and then switch it on if you must. Both of the above shots were taken in a room only lit by the television and a light in the hallway. It’s a matter of taste with this shot, and I like the one without flash.

Let me know what you think in the comments.

7. Adjust white balance

Adjusting the white balance of your photos makes them appear cooler or warmer. It’s a great way to change the overall look and feel of your photos, in either a subtle or dramatic manner, depending on what you’re going for. You can adjust white balance using the icon shaped like a thermometer with the letter ‘A’ beside it on the camera app screen. There are five options to choose from here: Auto, Cloudy, Sunny, Fluorescent, and Tungsten.

6. Video stabilization

Not only does the Pixel 2 take stellar photos, but it’s also great for taking videos – especially with “Video stabilization” enabled. This helps to eliminate shaky footage and make things look a bit smoother. You turn this on in the camera app settings, in the video section.

5. Change video resolutions

The Pixel 2 camera can shoot video in 4K resolution at 30 frames per second, and they more often than not come out looking amazing. But sometimes you don’t need full-on 4K. If that’s the case, you can always change video resolutions. There are three to choose from on the rear camera – 4k (30 FPS), HD 1080p, and HD 720P. The lower the resolution, the lower the size of your video files.

4. Slow motion

If you’re shooting videos that have lots of movement and action in them, you may want to give slow motion a try. This mode captures video in 1080p resolution at 120 FPS. After shooting a slow-motion video, your video shows up on the preview screen with a progress slider and two bars. The first bar marks where you want the slow motion effect to begin, the second bar marks the end of the effect. Everything outside of the bars plays at regular speed.

3. AR Stickers

Pixel 2 phones on Android 8.1 and up have access to an epic set of effects known as AR Stickers. I covered these pretty extensively when they came out, and I’m still nerding out pretty hard over them. AR Core stickers work in both photos and in videos. And as you can see from (Android Police Founder) Artem Russaakovskii’s tweet – things can get pretty hilarious!

2. Pick up a Moment Lens, or two

If you have a few extra bucks to throw at some attachable lenses for your Pixel 2 camera, you absolutely, positively must pick up a case and a couple of Moment Lenses. Not only are the cases great, but the lenses produce some amazing images. Take a look at my review of the new Macro Lens for more detail, but if you want to take my word for it, you can always head over to the Moment online store and start shopping.

1. Infinite Google Photos storage

When you buy a Pixel 2 or Pixel 2 XL, you also get free storage for all of your images – at their original quality – until January of 2021. Considering how awesome the Pixel 2 camera is, you’re likely going to take a bunch of photos and videos with it, just like I’ve been doing. Having cloud storage for your photos can become costly if you’re paying for a service, so having options that don’t cost money is always nice.