Lens blur, that is. Bokeh has become the accepted term for artfully-applied blurry backgrounds. While much sought-after in some circles, it requires skillful manipulation of shallow depth of field to achieve the effect in-camera, or plenty of time to simulate the look in post-capture image editing with Photoshop or a similar tool.
Now Google is offering a free computational photography process for quickly and easily getting the same appearance — albeit only in the latest version of the camera app for its Android smartphones.
The Lens Blur tool in the new Google Camera app “lets you change the point or level of focus after the photo is taken,” Google says. “You can choose to make any object come into focus simply by tapping on it in the image. By changing the depth-of-field slider, you can simulate different aperture sizes, to achieve bokeh effects ranging from subtle to surreal (such as tilt-shift). The new image is rendered instantly, allowing you to see your changes in real time.”
The Lens Blur effect “replaces the need for a large optical system with algorithms that simulate a larger lens and aperture,” Google adds. “Instead of capturing a single photo, you move the camera in an upward sweep to capture a whole series of frames. From these photos, Lens Blur uses computer vision algorithms to create a 3D model of the world, estimating the depth (distance) to every point in the scene.”