How to master astrophotography with your Google Pixel

How smartphone astrophotography works. How to take a great picture of the night sky with a Google Pixel.

Smartphones Google Pixel have earned their reputation in photography, especially for portraits and other low-light images. In 2018, Night Vision arrived on Pixel cameras and Google has since continued to improve it, especially with the astrophotography mode. The technical explanation behind this function is as follows: The visual noise that makes the images so grainy is reduced. This noise can be minimized by increasing the light the device receives in the dark.

You can use a higher exposure to increase the amount of light, but hand movements (shaking and such) and movement of celestial bodies will create very noticeable blurs. Not to mention the trees, the clouds or the path of the moon. To combat this, Google has created a system that captures multiple images at different exposure levels, stacks them, algorithmically removes motion blur, and ultimately delivers a sharper image of the starry sky.

These features can make astrophotography seem easy. After all, you don’t have to deal with all the camera settings in manual mode. But to take the best pictures of the night sky, there are certain steps you need to follow. Here’s a brief explanation of everything that’s going on, how to prepare, and what obstacles you need to overcome to get great photos on your Pixel – don’t panic, astrophotography is also possible on the iPhone –.

In a post on the Google Research blog, the team behind the astrophotography on the device explains how it works. First, the camera takes 15 long exposure shots, with a limit of 16 seconds per shot. shots, and merges them. These images capture 250 times more optical data than a normal image. Then through a artificial intelligence Called a “convolutional neural network,” the device automatically adjusts contrast and reduces image noise to make celestial objects stand out more.

In very low light, such as the night sky, special processing is also required to get a sharp image on the screen when recording and to be able to adjust the camera’s autofocus. Google has come up with algorithms called “post-shutter viewfinder” and “post-shutter autofocus” to combat this. Both make astrophotography much easier for the user. Without them, you’d only see a gray, blurry mass when you point your camera at the night sky and end up with an out-of-focus photo.

As long as the moon shines enough, it will Google Pixel will deliver crisp, sharp images of starry skies, especially when mounted on a tripod. They also produce clear and vivid images of landscapes at dawn or dusk, if you want to change your view and perspective.

Getting a good picture of the night sky requires planning. Start by checking the weather and make sure the clouds are out. Then choose a location with as little light pollution as possible (vehicles, buildings, etc.). For this you can use an app like Light Pollution Map. You can also use an app like PhotoPills to schedule your photo shoots. Sky Safari can even tell you the visibility of stars and constellations on a given day.

When you’re ready, set the phone up on a stand and place everything on one surface solid, launch the camera app and raise the device to the sky. Google recommends users reduce screen brightness and enable dark mode to reduce light pollution. Follow these steps to take the photo:

  1. In the Pixel Camera app, scroll right on the row above the shutter button and select Night Vision. You can choose the main sensor or the ultra-wide sensor.
  2. The device automatically recognizes the night sky and starts an astrophotography mode. You will see the “A” icon appear in a bubble in the upper left corner of the screen.
  3. Press the down arrow in the bubble and set the focus to “Far”.
  4. Press the shutter button and wait for the countdown to end. Do not touch the device during the process.
  5. Enjoy your beautiful shot.

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