Google Photos update will give your old Android photos a professional makeover

Two phones containing portrait photos of people
(Image credit: Google)

Google Photos has long offered a 'Portrait blur' feature for adding bokeh to your people snaps, but now Google's Android app is bringing the effect to a lot more subjects – as long as you're a Pixel user or Google One subscriber.

The editing tool currently lets you add background blur to existing photos of people. But Google has announced that its Google Photos Android app is bringing the effect to lots of new subjects, including pets, food and plants.

The catch is that you'll need to either use a Pixel phone or subscribe to Google One to get the feature. The latter differs from free Google Drive cloud storage by being a paid subscription offering, with prices starting at $2 / £1.59 / AU$2.49 per month or $20 / £15.99 / AU$24.99 annually (for 100GB storage). If you try to use the feature without a Google One subscription, you'll be unable to save the photo.  

While it's unlikely to be a feature that you'll upgrade your cloud storage for, it is a welcome bonus to anyone who's in those Pixel or Google One camps. Photographers often use shallow depth-of-field, which this tool simulates digitally, to draw attention to a particular subject, and the ability to add it to old photos really broadens it appeal.

It's possible to do this already on other apps like Snapseed and After Focus, but there's a real convenience to having it inside Google Photos if you use the photo service regularly – and Google's subject recognition is improving quickly.

You may not have the feature on your Android phone yet, as Google says it's "coming soon", but expect to see it rolled out in the coming weeks.

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A phone screen containing a photo of a man and child

(Image credit: Google)

Google Photos' editing features were initially quite rudimentary, but they've been given a big boost in the last 18 months – and this expanded Portrait Blur tool is another example.

The Google Photos app will automatically decide the amount of blur to add to your photos, though it can sometimes go overboard. Luckily, there is also the handy option to tweak the effect – to find it, just go to 'edit photo' then 'tools', and you'll find the blur slider.

As always with Google, though, the emphasis is on machine learning and automatic adjustments. And it's here that the Google Photos Android app is, in particular, getting much stronger. It now makes editing suggestions for your snaps, like brightening or rotating a picture – or even archiving it, if it deems it unworthy of your collection.

But sometimes these automations can get a bit carried away, like accidentally reminding you of a painful memory. So last year Google added some new controls for its Memories feature (which you can find by tapping the three dots in the bottom right-hand corner of the app) to help you hide or erase unwanted memories (in the Google Photos app, at least).

Being able to add 'Portrait blur' to old photos that were taken well before 'portrait modes existed is certainly a handy new feature though, and one that we're sure will ultimately come to other Android phones and, eventually, the iOS app too.

Mark Wilson
Senior news editor

Mark is TechRadar's Senior news editor. Having worked in tech journalism for a ludicrous 17 years, Mark is now attempting to break the world record for the number of camera bags hoarded by one person. He was previously Cameras Editor at both TechRadar and Trusted Reviews, Acting editor on, as well as Features editor and Reviews editor on Stuff magazine. As a freelancer, he's contributed to titles including The Sunday Times, FourFourTwo and Arena. And in a former life, he also won The Daily Telegraph's Young Sportswriter of the Year. But that was before he discovered the strange joys of getting up at 4am for a photo shoot in London's Square Mile.