Google’s native camera app now has selfie flash

Photo by Amelia Holowaty Krales / The Verge

The latest update to Google’s native camera app, which you can also download via the Play Store, now brings a minor but potentially useful update: selfie flash. Since most smartphones don’t have a flash built in to the front-facing shooter, Google Camera mitigates this by adding a manila-toned slab right as your selfie is taken, which is supposed to help produce a little extra light in dimmer settings.

Wrap yourself in a blanket of beige.

To enable the selfie flash, tap on the Flash icon when in front-facing camera mode and select automatic or on. You’ll know it’s enabled when you see the lower third of the screen covered by a block of beige. The goal is to brighten your selfie with a warm color rather than cold flash of bright white, though it doesn’t seem to have automatic white-balancing like the iPhone’s camera. After you snap a photo, the entire screen is enveloped in the beige lighting. (It takes an extra second until your selfie is delivered, so keep your head and hand steady.)

The version 4.4 update also brings a few more shortcut gestures, such as double tap to zoom, and swipe to toggle between shooting video and still photos. As noted by Google, the latest version is designed to work on recent Nexus and Pixel devices running Android 7.1.1 and above.


How does the beige screen flash render against non-beige skin tones?

The flash isn’t beige because skin tones, it’s a warm light source (like an incandescent bulb) because it’s less likely to look like a harsh light than a bright (cool) white phone display.

Sure, sort of. It’s a warm light source because that will look more flattering on (certain) skin tones. A pro photographer would use different gels depending on the model. But Google had to make a choice about what color temperature to use for the flash (and another choice not to include a user variable setting for it). It’s certainly possible they did some research and found the color that would be ideal for the widest gamut of skin tones (or inadvertently landed on it anyway), but there’s a long history in photography of film and digital sensors being tuned specifically for white skin.

I suppose what would be really cool would be for the phone to dynamically alter the color of the flash based on the subject – something that could be done during focus for instance.

What color would it flash for people of African descent?

It’s actually been there for a few weeks now, since the previous update.

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