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How to use Portrait Light on Google Pixel phones

Let there be light!

Published onApril 29, 2023

Google Pixel phones are known for their excellent cameras. While hardware is an important factor, we can mostly thank software and computational photography for the stunning Pixel imagery. It’s features like Portrait Light on Google Pixel phones that make all the difference, and today we’ll show you how to use this Pixel-only feature.


Portrait Light will be automatically applied to images shot on supported Pixel phones as long as the image includes four or fewer people.

You can also apply and modify Portrait Light within Google Photos. Just launch Google Photos and open an image with four or fewer people in it. By the way, these can be older images, or even ones shot with other phones. Go to Edit > Tools > Portrait light. Move the dot around to change the light source. You can also change the intensity. When ready, hit Done.


Editor’s note: We used a Google Pixel 7 running Android 13 to formulate instructions within this guide. Some steps and options may be slightly different depending on your device and software version.

What is Portrait Light, and how does it work?

Note: Use the slider in the image above to see the difference between Portrait Light off and on.

Lighting is one of the most important factors in photography. This is especially the case when it comes to portraits. Photographers often use specialized lights to highlight certain features or create more dramatic portraits.

Smartphone shooters can’t carry expensive and cumbersome lights around, which is why Google introduced Portrait Light on Google Pixel phones. The feature creates a virtual light source and uses artificial intelligence to highlight the subject.

Portrait Light was introduced with the Pixel 5a and Pixel 5, but it has since rolled out to older devices, and newer phones also come with it. All Google Pixel phones since the Pixel 2 support Portrait Light.

Pixel phones will apply Portrait Light to any photo with four people or fewer. Additionally, you can apply and edit the feature from the Google Photos app (as long as you’re using a supported Pixel phone). The good news is that this also works on photos shot with other phones. Pictures don’t need to be captured by a supported Pixel phone.

How to use Portrait Light on Google Pixel phones

Google Pixel 7 display outdoors
Robert Triggs / Android Authority

Pixel phones will automatically apply Portrait Light on images with four or fewer people. Google’s algorithm will determine where the light source would look best and intelligently apply the enhancements. If you prefer, you can apply the changes from the Google Photos app. Let’s walk you through the process.

How to apply or edit Portrait Light on Google Pixel phones:

  1. Open the Google Photos app.
  2. Touch on the photo you want to edit.
  3. Select Edit.
  4. Hit Tools.
  5. Tap on Portrait light.
  6. Move the dot around to change your desired light source direction.
  7. Use the slider below to change the light intensity.
  8. Hit Done when ready.

Why won’t Portrait Light work on my Pixel?

The only unsupported Pixel phone is the first model. Any other Pixel phone should support Portrait Light. If it doesn’t, it’s likely an issue with person detection. A common problem arises when the subject isn’t very noticeable in an image, and the system doesn’t recognize a face. A common fix is to crop the image so that the subject takes up more space in the frame.

You might also want to update the Google Photos app to the latest version. While older app versions shouldn’t break this feature, as it has been around for a long time, there is a chance there is a bug. Updates often come with bug fixes and performance improvements.


Portrait Light is supported by Pixel phones. More specifically, it’s available on Google Pixel 2 and newer devices.

Portrait Light has a limit. You can only use it on images with four or fewer people in the frame.

Supported Pixel phones will apply Portrait Light effects automatically. There’s no option to turn it off. You could, however, edit it in the Google Photos app and reduce the intensity all the way to zero.

Adding Portrait Light effects works on all images as long as you’re doing it from a supported Pixel phone. You can apply the feature to images shot on any device.

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