Pixel’s camera is designed to help you capture life’s best moments effortlessly. With features like HDR+, Portrait mode, Top Shot, and Super Res Zoom, Pixel 3 uses computational photography and machine learning to help you capture stunning, creative and even professional photos. All you need to do is press the shutter button.
Because life’s best moments aren’t always perfectly lit, we developed Night Sight, a new feature for the Pixel camera that helps you capture vibrant and detailed low-light photos without a flash or tripod. Over the next few days, Night Sight will be coming to the front and rear cameras on all three generations of Pixel phones.
iPhone XS with SmartHDR (left), and Pixel 3 with Night Sight (right).
Why photography is difficult at night
The key ingredient for a photo is light. When it’s dark, cameras compensate by spending more time capturing light and increasing their sensitivity to light, often adding unwanted motion blur and noise to your photo.
Flash helps by adding light to the scene, but it awkwardly blinds your friends and can annoy others around you. Not to mention, it usually creates unflattering photos and isn’t even allowed in many places where photography is permitted. Flash only brightens nearby subjects and isn’t useful for landscapes or faraway objects.
Tripods stabilize the camera, allowing it to capture more light, but they’re bulky and impractical for everyday use. By enabling longer captures, tripods may also introduce unwanted motion blur from moving objects.
How Night Sight works
Night Sight constantly adapts to you and the environment, whether you’re holding Pixel or propping it on a steady surface. Before you press the shutter button, Night Sight measures your natural hand shake, as well as how much motion is in the scene. If Pixel is stable and the scene is still, Night Sight will spend more time capturing light to minimize noise; if Pixel is moving or there’s significant scene motion, Night Sight will use shorter exposures, capturing less light to minimize motion blur.
Night Sight can capture more light when Pixel and the scene are still. Photo by Narayan Hegde (Pixel 3, Night Sight).
If your subject moves during the capture, Night Sight can adapt to prevent a modest amount of motion from ruining the shot. Instead of capturing one bright and blurry photo, Night Sight captures an equal amount of light over a burst of many photos that are dark but sharp. By merging this burst, Night Sight prevents motion blur and brightens the photo, giving you a bright and sharp photo.
Night Sight is robust to moderate levels of hand shake and scene motion. It merges many dark but sharp photos into one bright photo
Night Sight is designed to capture true-to-life photos, adapting to the various lighting conditions you’ll see at night. Using machine learning, Night Sight balances the colour of your photo, so that objects show their natural colour at night.
Night Sight uses a neural network to balance colours.
For more details on how Night Sight helps you capture vibrant and detailed low-light photos, head over to the Google AI blog.
How and when to use Night Sight
If you’re taking a photo in low light, Pixel will suggest using Night Sight. You can enter Night Sight by tapping this suggestion or manually navigating to the mode. After you tap the shutter button, try to hold still until Night Sight finishes capturing the photo.
Night Sight on Pixel 3 XL While Night Sight was designed to excel in dimly lit conditions, it won’t work in complete darkness. You don't need much light—but you'll still need some.
Here are some tips for taking great low-light photos:
Night Sight will be rolling out over the next few days with an update to the Google Camera app. Share your photos using #teampixel and #nightsight, and check out some Night Sight photos in this Google Photos shared album.
Posted by Alexander Schiffhauer, Product Manager, Computational Photography
- Hold the camera steady. If you can, try propping it against a stable surface.
- If you’re taking a photo of someone, ask them to hold still for a few seconds before and after you press the shutter button.
- Try tapping on a bright edge to help your camera focus when taking photos in very dark conditions.
- Make sure the camera lens is clean. It can accumulate oil from fingerprints, creating blurry and soft photos.
- Avoid pointing your camera at bright light sources, which may cause unwanted reflections in your photo.