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How to make the most of Google’s camera app

Google’s camera app has features to help you take the best photo or video for any situation

Google’s Pixel phones are some of the best Android phones available and are well-known for taking amazing photos. Google’s computational photography has made photos look amazing since 2017. Google has a number of different modes built into its camera app to help you take the best photo for the situation you’re in. Let’s take a look at the modes and features Google’s camera app has to offer.


App Layout

Before we look at the features and modes in the app, let’s look at how to navigate the app.

  • In the middle of the app, you’ll see the Viewfinder, which gives you a preview of the photo or video you’re taking. Clicking in the Viewfinder brings up the brightness and contrast sliders. These allow you to modify their respective settings.
  • At the top of the app, in the middle, you’ll see a gear icon that opens the Settings menu. Clicking this gear opens some additional settings for the mode you’re using. You can also click the More settings button when this menu is open to see another series of settings.
  • In the upper-right corner of the app is a folder icon, which allows you to change the location photos are saved to.
  • Below the Viewfinder is the Zoom toggle. This allows you to change the lens or digital zoom depending on your device. You can also pinch on the Viewfinder to zoom in or out.
  • Below the Zoom toggle is the Shutter button. Press this button to take a photo or start a video. Hold down this button to take a series of rapid photos.
  • To the right of the Shutter button is the Photo library, where you can see all the photos in your library. If you select this with your phone locked, you will only be able to see the photos you have recently taken.
  • To the left of the Shutter button is the Camera toggle, which flips between your front and back cameras. You can also twist your phone twice to switch cameras.
  • Below the Shutter button is the Camera mode selector, which lets you change the camera mode you’re using. You can navigate it by swiping to the left or right.

Now that you know the layout of the Google camera app, let’s take a look at what modes it offers.


The Camera mode is the default mode selected when you open the camera app. This mode takes regular photos without any blurring or special effects. There are many settings available in this mode.

  • Night Sight: Night Sight takes nighttime photos. You can turn Night Sight on, off, or on automatically.
  • Top Shot: Top Shot takes a short video and suggests frames to save as photos. You can turn this on, off, or on automatically.
  • Timer: You can set the Timer for three or ten seconds or shut it off so that the camera takes photos immediately.
  • Ratio: The Ratio setting allows you to toggle the resolution of photos you take.

The Camera mode also suggests Night Sight or Astrophotography if they will improve your photo. This mode also allows you to set all zoom settings through the Zoom toggle.


Swiping right from Camera mode brings you to Portrait mode. Portrait mode takes portraits, so it blurs the background to focus on the subject of the photo. The settings available in this mode are the same as in Camera mode except for Top Shot. Portrait mode replaces Top Shot with Face retouching. Face retouching changes the look of faces in your photos. The options for this setting are off, smooth, or subtle.

The Zoom toggle gives you the option of swapping through all zoom settings unless it’s less than 1x. Portrait mode can also turn on Night Sight if it thinks it will help you take a better photo.

Night Sight

To the left of Portrait mode is Night Sight mode. Night Sight mode helps take photos in low light situations without using flash. This mode has the same Timer and Ratio settings as the other two modes but adds a couple of new ones.

  • Astrophotography: Astrophotography is a setting that helps take pictures of stars and other celestial objects seen in the night sky. This setting lets you toggle it on or off.
  • Focus: This setting helps determine where the camera should be focusing. You can switch between automatic, near, or far.

Night Sight mode can use all zoom settings.


Changing from photos to videos, we get to the Video mode. Video mode lets you take videos and adds some new settings that help you take better videos. Clicking the gear icon will bring up three new settings.

  • Flash: The flash turns on a light while you’re recording, and you can turn it on or off.
  • Resolution: This setting changes the quality of the video you’re recording. You can switch between Full HD (1080p) or 4K (Ultra-high resolution).
  • Frames/sec: Modifying this setting changes the frame rate that your video records in. At Full HD resolution, you can choose between automatic, 30 FPS, and 60 FPS. At 4K, you must choose either 30 or 60 FPS.

The Zoom toggle lets you use all available zoom settings while taking videos. An additional toggle underneath the Zoom toggle lets you swap between video modes. The Camera app allows for Normal, Slow Motion, and Time Lapse video recording. To the right is a button for video stabilization that lets you choose between four modes.

  • Standard: This mode is best for light movement and is the default setting.
  • Locked: This mode allows you to lock onto a subject and requires you to use 2x or greater zoom.
  • Active: This mode performs best when you’re recording something with heavy movement.
  • Cinematic Pan: For smooth, panning shots, this mode works best. It records at half speed and records muted video.
Video mode only lets you change the brightness setting when you tap the Viewfinder, not the contrast.


All the way to the right is the Modes section. This section includes three unique modes with narrow use cases.

  • Panorama: This mode allows you to take a panorama photo, which lets you spin around to take a very long photo.
  • Photo Sphere: If you’ve ever wanted to take a 360-degree photo of everything around you, this is the mode for you.
  • Lens: Lens mode looks at everything in the viewfinder and lets you search for items it identifies.

Keep your photos organized

Google’s camera app houses a ton of features to help you take the best photo or video for the situation you’re in. Now that you’ve learned how to take great photos and videos, learn how to manage your media using Google’s Photos app.

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