Since late 2016, a certain type of photo has become increasingly popular on Instagram feeds: A shot with an artfully blurred background and single foreground subject in focus. It was once the kind of photo reserved for professional photographers, but Apple's launch of portrait mode on the iPhone 7 Plus (and, in 2017, the iPhone 8 Plus and iPhone X) brought the DSLR-style shot mainstream. Google followed suit on the Pixel 2 as did Samsung with the Galaxy Note 8.
The only downside to Portrait Mode is that it has, until now, been limited to the latest premium (read: pricey) smartphones. Now, it looks like Instagram could be the great equalizer.
The app is testing a new camera mode within Stories called "Focus", which digitally imitates the effects of Portrait Mode. TechCrunch was the first to report on the feature, and an Instagram spokesperson confirmed that the app is "testing a camera format that lets you easily capture artistic quality photos and videos, as another way to make it easier to share everyday moments with the people who matter to you."
The test, which has been rolled out to a small number of users in Stories, has been shared by some of those with access on Twitter. Taking a photo in "Focus" mode looks similar to taking one in Portrait mode: Users are asked to start by centering the camera on the subject (Instagram specifically requests a face). Then, the background will blur and you can capture the image.
As with every Instagram test, there's the chance that this one won't be rolled out to the wider public. However, if it is, it would make it far easier for anyone to take impressive-looking photos without having to shell out for a more expensive phone. While this wouldn't do anything to restore the oft-requested chronological timeline, it's still an update we could get on board with.