Portrait Light was announced along with the Pixel 4a 5G and Pixel 5. It's one more neat Pixel camera feature that lets you manually control light in portrait pics and adjust face brightness as you see fit, either for a more dramatic and contrasting effect or to balance things out in poorly-lit photos. The feature was said to be coming to older Pixels too, and now it's there on the Pixel 2, 3, and 4.

Portrait Light is available in the new Photos interface, when you tap to edit an image, then hit Adjust > Portrait light. In our testing, it doesn't matter if an image was taken using Portrait Mode or not — pics of animals, plants, or other things shot in portrait don't trigger the option to appear.

What matters is that the photo contains an obvious face, whether it's a proper portrait or (sometimes) a full-body photo, it contains one person or two, the face is looking straight at the camera or angled away, and so on. You'll have to trust Google's AI/ML to recognize the proper circumstances, because if you don't get the option on a specific pic, there's no way to force it.

One you pick the Portrait light editing bubble, you can adjust the effect's intensity from 0 to 100 and manually move the "light source" around. An auto option leaves the choice to Google, pointing out what it deems is the best angle and opting for a moderate 50 intensity level.

Left: Portrait light in the "Adjust" editing sectionMiddle: Intensifying the light/shadow contrast on my face. Right: Balancing things out instead.

The feature is live for our tispters and me on a Pixel 2 XL, 3a, and 4 XL (none of us have a first-gen Pixel to try). All of us are running Google Photos v5.15.0.337400196 (APK Mirror), which began rolling out three days ago. We think it's triggered by a wide server-side rollout, but it doesn't hurt to download the latest version to increase your chances of getting it.

Google Photos
Google Photos
Developer: Google LLC
Price: Free
  • Thanks:
  • Eduardo Ribeiro,
  • Armando,
  • Nick Cipriani