Slapping on any old Instagram filter is easy. Adjusting contrast and saturation . . . that's a little bit more difficult. But adding that dramatic macro-effect lens blur? That's hard for any photography app to do successfully and subtly.
The newly updated Google Camera App (free) for Android phones has a new feature called "Lens Blur" that required a lot of research and engineering to get just right. The result is shallow depth of field perfection.
The Google Camera app works a bit differently than a professional-grade SLR lens, obviously. In the app, users edit the lens blur effect after the photo is taken. Change the focal point and level of blur with the postprocessing editor.
How does Google Camera create such a refined, subtle macro effect? A new post from the Google Research Blog explains the algorithms that work to simulate a larger lens, estimating the distance of every point in the scene. The team even took a page from the 3D mapping technology from Google Maps Photo Tours and Google Earth!
So go forth, and create the dreamy, ethereal selfie you've always wanted.