The new Google Pixel and Pixel XL are doing something that most cameras in the future will do. They are correcting your photos before you take them. This is why anyone that owns these phones takes amazing photos - it’s not just the lighting.
Google has started using something called ‘computational photography.’ In other words, they are using algorithms and machine learning to make your photos look better - so you don’t have to.
How It Works
Computation photography can retouch your images in real-time before you even snap one photo. Google researchers taught machines how to retouch photos with data from MIT and Adobe in order to come up with the computation photography tool that the company now uses.
Researchers showed machines images that were taken by various photographers and retouched up to five times each. The machines then learned what steps each photographer took when retouching images. The result are phones that can retouch photos like a professional photographer would.
Why Use It
There are two schools of thought here. The first one being that having your photos pre-edited makes every image look amazing. No blemishes, everyone looks ten years younger, and it’s the kind of phone that you don’t mind taking a few selfies with. On the flip side, an image that you snap is no longer that image - well, not how you see it in reality anyway.
The fun of editing a photo to look exactly how you want it to look is also thrown out the window with computational photography. You can still tweak the image any way that you want to (these phones also have pre-built filters making Instagram-type filters kind of useless), but it’s not the same as start from scratch.
A Bigger Divide
Companies like Google aren’t really concerned about professional photographers with these phones (and that’s not likely the market they are after), but you will soon be able to tell which photos were taken with a computation camera and which weren’t. Professional photographers will likely hate these cameras and the whole concept of pre-edited photos, but, again, these phones are for the selfie takers of the world.
The Future is Smarter
Companies want to create phones with cameras that people will love. Let’s face it, nobody uses their smartphone for much more than a camera anyway. After researching, companies like Google have made it clear that people really just want to look great in photos - and take great photos. While apps like Instagram let users play around with photo editing, there’s nothing like snapping an image that simply looks perfect from the start. Other phones seem to be headed in the same direction as well.
The days of phone cameras that just took stellar photos might be behind us. Now, cameras will take images that already look perfect - which may or may not be a good thing depending on how you look at it. If you like what Google is doing, you can snag the Pixel and Pixel XL from most phone stores or online through your carrier. Just be forewarned that it does take some time to get used to those perfect images.