Rumours had been circulating for some time about a ‘portrait mode’ buried in the depths of Instagram’s code before the company officially launched public trials of the feature last month.
Now, Instagram has rolled out the tool, dubbed Focus, more widely, effectively adding a camera mode that blurs out picture backgrounds while keeping the foreground sharp. Budding Kim Kardashians everywhere, rejoice.
The feature, which is available today on iPhone 6s, 6s Plus, 7, 7 Plus, 8, and 8 Plus, is more than a tad reminiscent of Apple’s own Portrait mode, although the latter is only available on iPhones 7 Plus, 8 Plus and X, and the Android Portrait mode – again, only available on the Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL.
So how does Instagram manage the feat, given many of the phones it works on lack dual camera technology? “Focus mode leverages background segmentation and face detection technology,” an Instagram spokesperson told TechCrunch. The mode can be accessed via Instagram Stories, in between the Boomerang and Superzoom options.
The verdict? Well, it certainly focalises the person in shot, albeit with some imperfect functionality. For example, as well as blurring out the background of the image, Instagram Focus has a tendency to encroach on the face itself, making its parameters look a little blurred. This is where dual camera technology comes in handy, although the inordinate costs of the phones sporting it may be enough to deter potential buyers.
Interestingly, Instagram Focus supports video – unlike Apple’s portrait mode – meaning your mini-vlogs and PSAs can be aired with more facial clarity than ever before. If you’re the David Attenborough of nightclub videography, Instagram Focus will be a godsend; all the better for capturing ill-advised karaoke and drunk-eyes. The latest update gives Instagram a boost in its standoff with Snapchat, from which the former, erm, emulated the ‘stories’ functionality in 2016.
In the meantime, Instagram has been keeping its nose clean amidst the Facebook data scandal. Given that links and resharing are pretty peripheral features on the app, it’s less likely to fall victim to the abundance of fake news that proliferates on Zuckerberg’s original brainchild (or rather, its users are). All the more reason to abandon the political pot-stirring and indulge your inner narcissist. Who cares about the Eiffel Tower in the background when there’s good lighting to be taken advantage of, anyway?