I won’t be all wrong if I say that the Bokeh effect was one of “the trends” of 2017, and it has successfully carried forward to 2018. Flagship devices like the Google Pixel 2 duo, Apple iPhone X, and Galaxy S8 duo kicked the trend last year, but we have been seeing a lot of mid-range smartphones also adopting the camera effect. But in this race of using bokeh effect as a ruse, the surprise winner is Instagram.
The Facebook-owned photo-sharing platform has launched a new feature called Focus for Stories, which lets you get that bokeh effect in your pictures, even if your phone has a single camera setup. Which means, for both selfies and pictures clicked from your rear camera, when using Instagram Stories, you can have just the faces in focus, and the background gets blurred.
Although, the kind of down part of this is that this only works for faces, and not with objects. It also worked on my hand though. I tried to use it on my dog’s picture, but it keeps asking you to move the camera closer. Which means that the AI behind the feature basically only understands human faces.
Also, a little note on the limitedness of this new feature. For iOS users the Focus feature makes sense, because this feature is supported on all smartphones from iPhone 6 and above. However for Android, only Google Pixel 2, Pixel 2 XL, Samsung Galaxy S9, and Galaxy S9+ users have the support for the feature as of now. Which is not really a feature for them, because they have the bokeh effect in their native camera apps already. We updated Instagram to the latest version on the Galaxy Note 8, but the feature does not show up on it yet. Though Instagram claims that the feature should be available for all Android launched post 2015.
Now, if you have the compatible device, you must have received the feature over the air, without actually needing to update the app. To use Focus, launch the Instagram app, and head to Stories. At the bottom, next to modes like Type, Live, Normal, and Boomerang, you will find a new option called called Focus. Tap on that and selfie or rare cam, put your face in front of your phone, and take a picture. Doodle, stickers, GIF, and other add-ons to the stories function as usual.
One thing that I did notice while using the feature though is that when you are using the rear camera in the Focus mode, the feature does not detect your face too well if you are at a distance. It will keep prompting you to move closer to the subject. Which is not such a problem, but worth a mention.
The overall bokeh effect is quite bearable. You can’t tell that it is just artificially blurring the backgrounds. The blur is subtle, which is good. Having said that, I have noticed that sometimes, certain parts of your picture (in my case my hair) can be weirdly distorted along the edges. It just brushed off few of my hair strands. That said, it only happened in a single picture for me, and in most of the shots I tried, the feature was impressive. I even tried it with my colleague to see if it works when there are more than one face in the picture, and it surprisingly worked very well. In fact, I have seen iPhone X blur along the hair a lot more often than Focus.
As a verdict to the new feature, I definitely don’t need to ask you to give the feature a try, because you will anyway. But I would say that this feature is one of the superior, and pertinent ones rolled out by Instagram. I don’t see why this feature won’t be a success.