How to Take Bokeh Photos With Your Android Phone

Bokeh Photos Android Featured

The blurred background effect, known as bokeh, is a popular choice for mobile photographers. Previously associated with DSLR cameras, this effect is now accessible to most Android smartphone users. This tutorial shows how to take bokeh photos with Android.

Good to know: learn how to back up Google Photos to your computer.

How to Take Bokeh Photos with Your Android Phone

Bokeh pronounced as BOH-lay – originates from the Japanese term “boke,” signifying blur or haze. Commonly employed to describe the background blur in portrait photography, bokeh creates a sharp focus on the subject, while delicately blurring the background. This technique makes the background less distracting, often isolating the subject of a photo and drawing attention to it.

To achieve the bokeh effect with a DSLR camera, photographers manipulate three essential factors: aperture, focal length, and photographer-to-subject distance.

Bokeh on a smartphone, on the other hand, involves leveraging computation photography techniques, due to the inherent limitations of small lenses and sensors. Many modern smartphones feature dual or multiple cameras that work in tandem to simulate a shallow depth of field. These phones use software algorithms to analyze the scene and identify the subject, then strategically blur the background, creating a simulated bokeh effect. Some smartphone models utilize machine learning to refine the separation between subject and background.

Tip: learn how to remotely transfer photos from an Android phone to a computer.

Use Your Smartphone’s Camera App

Many Android phones come with a “Portrait Mode” embedded into their Camera app, allowing you to take pictures with bokeh.

If you have a smartphone from one of the major brands, such as Google or Samsung, then you probably have this option. For this tutorial, we’re demonstrating how to shoot a bokeh photo using a Pixel phone.

Open the Camera app on your phone, and switch to Portrait at the bottom. Frame your subject at the center of the composition, and tap on it to indicate that it should be the focus. Follow the directions that appear on the screen, if any, such as moving closer to the subject or finding an environment with better lighting.

Capturing image in Portrait mode using the Google Pixel Camera app.

After you’ve carefully composed your shot, press the large shutter button located at the bottom of the camera to snap your photo. You should be able to view the results immediately.

We should note that some phones allow you to use Portrait Mode to take selfies with bokeh. Not all models will have that option, though. If that’s not the case with your phone, you should know that you can take selfies using your phone’s main camera. This requires a bit of skill, but it’s not hard to do.

Image with Bokeh applied on Google Pixel phone.

Note: on some devices, bokeh is also available when shooting video. For instance, on Pixel 7 phones (and up), Google offers Cinematic Blur, which adds a blurry background behind your subjects.

How to Apply Bokeh Effect to Existing Android Photos

If you have an older photo that could look better by adding bokeh, you can add the effect afterward. You can do that using the Google Photos app, which is a preinstalled app on most Android phones.

Google Photos can automatically upload any photo you take with your phone’s camera to the app if you have the option enabled. If not, you can manually upload the image to apply bokeh to.

Once you’ve opened the photo, tap on Edit at the bottom.

Tapping on Edit button in Google Photos app.

Swipe your finger to the right on the options menu until you find Tools.

Selecting Blur from Tools menu in Google Photos app.

Select Blur. Tap where you want the image’s focal point to be, then set the desired amount of Blur or Depth.

Playing with Blur and Depth in Google Photos app.

Alternatively, reverse the bokeh effect that was applied to an image by using the Color Focus option (only shows up for images in Portrait Mode.)

Reversing the bokeh effect in photo using Google Photos app.

Tip: if you’re an Apple user, check this guide that covers some of the best iPhone photography tips.

How to Apply Bokeh Effect with a Third-Party App

If you don’t have Google Photos on your phone or prefer to use another app, there are various other options in the Play Store. For instance, you can grab Auto Blur: Blur Background, which automatically blurs the background in your photos.

Simple bokeh effect in Auto Blur app.

There are also multiple blurring effects to choose from for an even more striking look.

Various blurring effects in Auto Blur app.

The app allows you to change the focal point of your image, as well as adjust the blur level.

Playing with focus and blur in Auto Blur app.

The results aren’t always super accurate, but for casual photographs, it’s more than enough.

There are many other apps that can help you add a bokeh effect to your images, including Snapseed or PhotoDirector. Give those a try as well.

Tip: if you’d like to take a break from digital, check this list of the best instant cameras to help you snap retro photos.

After capturing your photo, don’t forget to secure your creation. Learn how to watermark photos on Android in this article. At the same time, You may also be interested in learning how to remove EXIF metadata from photos on Android.

Image credit: Unsplash. All screenshots by Alexandra Arici.

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Alexandra Arici

Alexandra is passionate about mobile tech and can be often found fiddling with a smartphone from some obscure company. She kick-started her career in tech journalism in 2013, after working a few years as a middle-school teacher. Constantly driven by curiosity, Alexandra likes to know how things work and to share that knowledge with everyone.

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