Google’s astrophotography makes it incredibly easy to capture stunning photos of the constellations and even the Milky Way.
Google’s Pixel phones take advantage of the company’s amazing software to offer some of the most powerful and unique features in the field of smartphone cameras. The Pixel phones turned low-light photography on its head with Night Sight back in 2018, but what really impressed us was the Astrophotography mode that arrived a year later. It remains one of the most popular Pixel features, using Google’s algorithmic magic to deliver stunning results. If this is your first time using a Pixel phone, and you’re wondering how to use the astrophotography mode, then you’ve come to the right place
What is the astrophotography mode?
Google’s astrophotography mode is built into the stock camera app that ships with the Pixel phones. It’s been a part of the stock camera app since 2019 when it arrived with the Pixel 4, and it’s here on the new Pixel 7 series, too. The astrophotography mode is available on Pixel 3 and newer Pixel phones, so all modern Google phones can use the company’s computational photography features to turn your boring night sky into a magical scenery.
Enabling the astrophotography mode, however, isn’t as straightforward as you think it is. It doesn’t show up as one of the dedicated modes on the phone, which you can select and start shooting. It’s somewhat of a hidden feature, and here’s how you can enable it.
How to enable and use astrophotography mode on the Pixel 7
- Launch the camera app and go to the Night Sight mode. You can do this by swiping through various modes at the bottom of the app.
- Select the Settings button located in the top left corner of the screen, and open the Night Sight camera settings.
- On the settings overlay, ensure that the Astrophotography option is set to Auto.
The next thing you need to do is set your phone on a steady surface like a tripod or a rock. Once you do that, the shutter button will change from a moon icon to stars. This is a crucial step because the Astrophotography mode won’t kick in unless you keep your device steady. Even the smallest of movements will trigger an alert asking you to keep your phone steady.
We recommend using a tripod to ensure your Pixel 7 is ready to capture astrophotography photos. We’re leaving a link to one of our favorite tripods below, but feel free to use any tripod for this job.
Joby GripTight ONE GorillaPod Stand
The Joby GripTight ONE GorillaPod Stand is the perfect accessory to pair with your smartphone if you capture a lot of photos or record videos. You can use this mount with any smartphone as long as it fits the specifications.
Google’s computational photography is quite powerful, but you won’t walk away with good results unless you’re shooting in favorable conditions for astrophotography. The first thing you need to do is step away from the bustling city lights to keep the light pollution in check. It’s also important to ensure that there are no major light sources for at least 10 miles from your shooting spot. Having a lot of light in your shot will result in extremely bright photos due to the long exposure times, so we recommend using apps like Light Pollution Map to find dark areas around you.
Similarly, it’s important to ensure there are no clouds between you and the stars. A cloudy sky will block all the stars and make the entire process more difficult. You can check out the best weather apps on the Google Play Store to find the right time for this starry adventure.
Unlike the new Astrophoto mode in Samsung’s Expert RAW camera app, Google’s stock camera app doesn’t show you what you’re looking at in the night sky. You’ll definitely need a sky guide to identify stars and constellations. Luckily there are apps on the Google Play Store that’ll do the job for you; we recommend Stellarium Mobile for this because it’s easy to use and gives you all the data you need in real time.
With a tripod and a bit of control over some external factors, you are now ready to start capturing the night sky. Here’s how to do it:
- Place your phone on the tripod, pointing the cameras towards the sky.
- Check the viewfinder to adjust the frame to your liking.
- As soon as you set up the frame and the phone stands steadily in place, you’ll notice that the moon icon on the shutter button will change to stars. This indicates that the astrophotography mode is turned on.
- Once you are ready to shoot, simply press the shutter button and let the Pixel 7 work its magic.
It’s best to leave the phone alone while it’s capturing and processing the image. You’ll see a countdown timer on the display that tells you how long it needs to capture the image. The phone will also alert you with a chime when it’s done shooting and processing.
From here, you are ready to share the image or run it through an editing app to process it further. A bit of editing will go a long way in ensuring your astrophotography photos look perfect, but it’s entirely optional.
And that’s how you can use the astrophotography mode on the Pixel 7. The process remains largely the same for pretty much all Pixel phones that support astrophotography, but the results may vary. Astrophotography is just one of the many great features you’ll find on Google’s new Pixel phones. You can check out our review of the Pixel 7 to learn more about them in detail.
Google Pixel 7
We used the Google Pixel 7 to put together this astrophotography tutorial. It’s a refinement of the already excellent Pixel 6, making for a very polished flagship phone without exorbitant prices.
Have you tried the astrophotography mode on your Pixel phone? Let us know by dropping a line in the comments below.