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How to use Action Pan and Long Exposure modes on the Google Pixel

Trick shots are no longer just the domain of professionals.
By

Published onMarch 20, 2024

Motion blur and fast-paced photography used to be the domain of professionals, but the Google Pixel‘s Action Pan and Long Exposure modes promise to change that. You may have even seen these modes in your camera app and wondered what they’re for. Here’s your guide on how to use the Google Pixel’s Long Exposure and Action Pan camera modes from the Pixel Camera app.

QUICK ANSWER

To find Action Pan and Long Exposure modes on your Google Pixel device, open the camera app and swipe left or right to access your desired mode.


JUMP TO KEY SECTIONS

What is Action Pan, and how does it work?

A photo taken of a subway train using a Google Pixel 6's Action Pan feature. The subway car is clear and sharp while the tunell has a motion blur-like effect added.
Zak Khan / Android Authority

Action Pan is Google’s name for a particular type of motion blur. In this case, the photo’s subject, like a car, is sharp and clear, while the background is blurry. This creates a sense of moving with the car or a photo taken in the heat of action. The mode essentially creates two photos when you use Action Pan mode. One is a standard photo with no added motion blur, and the second has motion blur, as you can see in the shot above (note that I’ve blurred out the riders’ faces in this photo).

How to use Action Pan on the Google Pixel

Now that you know what Action Pan is, you’ll need to know how to find it on your Pixel device. Here’s how to access Action Pan on Pixel devices:

pixel 8 action pan
Rita El Khoury / Android Authority
  1. Open your phone’s camera app.
  2. Swipe left or right until you land on Action Pan. Note that you must have the camera tab (below the current mode) selected to access the camera modes.
  3. Hold your phone still and point the camera at the subject. Alternatively, you can follow the subject.
  4. Press the shutter button.
  5. Your phone will automatically create an Action Pan shot and show it to you after a short time.

It will likely take some practice and experimentation to get satisfactory results when using Action Pan. Try taking a few shots at various angles to understand how the feature adapts to different environments and lighting conditions. In my experience, the feature works best with one clear subject and a clearly defined background.

What is Long Exposure mode, and how does it work?

A Long Exposure shot taken with a Google Pixel 6 of a subway car. The subway car itself is blurry and conveys a sense of motion while the tunnel and station platform are clear.
Zak Khan / Android Authority

Long Exposure is another form of motion blur. Technically, long exposure means leaving a camera’s shutter open longer than usual. This allows you to take photos in dark conditions because it lets in more light and causes moving objects to blur in a certain way. But in the case of Pixels, Long Exposure is not just for dark conditions. You can also use it to create motion blur for all sorts of moving objects.

Long Exposure causes the moving object to appear blurry while its surroundings remain clear. As you can see in the photo above, this creates an effect that is essentially the opposite of Action Pan. As with Action Pan, your phone will create a non-blurred picture along with the Long Exposure shot.

Like Action Pan, Long Exposure is limited to Google’s best Android phones, while its more affordable phones miss out on this feature.

How to use Long Exposure on the Google Pixel

Using Long Exposure requires a bit more input from you, but it’s still pretty simple:

pixel 8 long exposure
Rita El Khoury / Android Authority
  1. Open your phone’s camera app.
  2. Swipe left or right until you land on Long Exposure. Note that you must have the camera tab (below the current mode) selected to access the camera modes.
  3. Hold your phone still and point the camera at the subject. Alternatively, you can follow the subject.
  4. Press the shutter button.
  5. Your phone will automatically create an Action Pan shot and show it to you after a short time.

Getting a good result can take practice, so you should experiment with different scenarios and subjects. In my experience, Long Exposure works well with one moving object and stationary surroundings. For example, the effect could be quite attractive at night with a Long Exposure of car headlights taken from an overpass.

Notably, your experience may vary across Google’s devices, too.

Which Google Pixel devices support Action Pan and Long Exposure?

Google Pixel 8 back in hand
Robert Triggs / Android Authority

Not every Google Pixel phone supports Action Pan and Long Exposure modes. If you want either of these camera options, consult the table below to see which model supports the features.

Action Pan supportLong Exposure support
Pixel 8 Pro
Action Pan support
Yes
Long Exposure support
Yes
Pixel 8
Action Pan support
Yes
Long Exposure support
Yes
Pixel 7 Pro
Action Pan support
Yes
Long Exposure support
Yes
Pixel 7
Action Pan support
Yes
Long Exposure support
Yes
Pixel 6 Pro
Action Pan support
Yes
Long Exposure support
Yes
Pixel 6
Action Pan support
Yes
Long Exposure support
Yes
Pixel Fold
Action Pan support
No
Long Exposure support
Yes
Pixel 7a
Action Pan support
No
Long Exposure support
No
Pixel 6a
Action Pan support
No
Long Exposure support
No
Pixel 5a
Action Pan support
No
Long Exposure support
No
Older Pixel models
Action Pan support
No
Long Exposure support
No

FAQs

No, this feature is not available on the Google Pixel 5a or older, nor is it available on newer Pixel A-series phones.

No, the Pixel 6a doesn’t have Action Pan and Long Exposure.

No, Night Sight is specifically for low-light photography and video, not motion blur effects.

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