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Get started with the Pixel 2's new camera features

Google's latest phones have some pretty sweet camera tricks.

Josh Miller/CNET

We've been busy putting the Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL's new camera to the test, and now it's time we explain how you can use these features yourself. There's a new portrait mode, a motion feature, and Google thinks the phone is now smart enough to handle HDR on its own. 

Now playing: Watch this: Pixel 2 vs. iPhone 8 Plus: Which takes better photos?


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Instead of using two cameras on the back of the Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL for a blurry background Portrait photo, Google uses a single camera and a bit of magic to capture some impressive photos.

To use Portrait mode, tap the menu button on the top-left corner of the screen and select Portrait. A prompt will instruct you to tap on the subject so the camera can focus on it. Press the shutter button when you're ready to capture.

Just as important is the fact that Portrait mode is also available on the front-facing camera for taking selfies. And, I have to admit, they come out looking pretty good.

Screenshots by Jason Cipriani/CNET

The first time you view a Portrait photo, there are a few things you'll likely notice that can be a bit confusing. For example, if the entire picture looks blurry right after you take a pic and view it, it's because the phone is still processing the photo. Wait for a second and it will come into focus.

Additionally, each Portrait photo is actually two photos. The first one you'll see has a blurry background and all the fancy effects along with it. The second photo, presented as a small thumbnail, is an ordinary photo with no blurriness.

Tap on either thumbnail to view the respective photo. You can then delete the selected photo, or set it as the main picture for the combo.


Jason Cipriani/CNET

Motion photos are similar to Apple's Live Photos feature. When you take a photo, the Pixel 2 will record a small video before and after you tap the shutter button.

By default, the Pixel 2 will automatically capture Motion Photos in situations where it's warranted. Basically, whenever there's motion in the photo.

Screenshots by Jason Cipriani/CNET

If you'd rather not capture Motion photos with every shot, tap on the Motion button along the top of the Camera app followed by Off. Alternatively, you can use the same setting to enable auto-motion or have it on at all times.

Viewing a Motion photo in the Photos app is as simple as opening the photo. Along the top of the screen will be an option to turn Motion off if you want to share just the photo, without all of the fancy extras. Select the three-dot menu icon in the top-right corner for options to save just the photo, or save the video version of the Motion photo you captured.

Keep in mind, any editing of a Motion photo will remove the "motion" part.  


Screenshot by Jason Cipriani/CNET

The Pixel 2 automatically identifies when a photo will benefit from its HDR+ mode and applies the effect as you press the shutter button. Original Pixel ($982 at Walmart) owners had a toggle to enable or disable the feature at will. Buried in the Camera app Settings is the option to bring back this toggle, for those who want a bit more control.

Open the Camera app then slide out the menu and select Settings > Advanced > move the HDR+ Control to the On position. When you go back to the Camera app, the HDR+ button will once again be present.