Samsung’s Galaxy Note 8 is a giant phone with a ton of features, but one of its most prominent ones is its new dual-camera setup. This system, which includes two 12-megapixel cameras with different focal length lenses, lets you take either wide-angle or zoomed-in pictures.
TheNote 8’s camera also lets you mimic the blurred background that you can get with a larger, DSLR camera. This can be cool for portraits, close-ups, or anything else where you want your subject to stand out from the background as much as possible.
The Note 8’s camera is straight-forward to use, but getting the most out of it takes some practice. Here are some tips on how to do just that.
Quickly open the camera
Like prior Samsung phones, the Note 8’s camera app opens quickly if you tap the icon on the home screen. But you can launch it even faster with a shortcut: double-tap the power button in rapid succession. This will directly open the camera no matter what you’re doing, even if the phone is locked.
This feature should be on by default, but if you’re not sure, head to the settings section of the camera app and look for Quick launch. Flip the toggle if it’s not on and you’re good to go.
Take zoomed-in photos
The Note 8 will let you digitally zoom in on your subject if you drag the shutter button left or right or pinch the screen with two fingers. But you can jump right to the telephoto camera by hitting the small “x2” button at the bottom of the viewfinder window. This will get you somewhat closer to your subject — if you need even more zoom, you can then drag the shutter button to enter the digital zoom function.
One note here: the tele camera on the Note 8 is not nearly as good as the wide angle camera in low light, and depending on where you use it, the phone might decide to just crop the wide-angle camera instead of switching to the tele to give the same effect. The end result shouldn’t be obvious to you, but it basically means that this feature isn’t going to work all that well indoors and is best used outside.
Capture Live Focus images
Live Focus is what Samsung calls the Note 8’s ability to blur the background of your image. To access it, tap the Live Focus button right above the shutter. The camera will zoom in, just like if you were using the tele camera, and then prompt you to be at least four feet away from your subject.
One of the unique tricks the Note 8 offers is the ability to adjust how much blur is applied to the background, which you can control with a slider just above the shutter button. It’s also possible to adjust the blur after a picture is taken, using Samsung’s Gallery app.
Much like the telephoto lens, the Live Focus images don’t look great in low light and can look fake even in good light if you have a busy background. But Samsung does offer a safety net: the third button from the left at the top of the camera app when in Live Focus mode turns on Dual Capture, which actually saves both the Live Focus image and the standard wide angle image. You can then choose between the Live Focus image or the wide angle shot in Samsung’s Gallery app. One note here: Dual Capture will take up about three times as much memory as standard photos, so you might want to invest in a microSD card before you fill up your phone’s internal storage.
Use Pro Mode
If you want to take more control over your images, the Note 8 offers manual exposure controls in a Pro Mode. Swipe left to right from the main camera screen and tap Pro to access it. Here you’ll be able to control shutter speed, white balance, focus, ISO, and exposure compensation. However, you won’t be able to use the tele camera or Live Focus features in this mode.
Filters, stickers, panoramas, and more
The Note 8’s camera app includes tons of other features, many of them buried behind swipe gestures. Swipe left to right from the main camera screen and you can access panorama mode, slow motion video, hyperlapse, and more. You can even download more camera modes, such as a GIF maker, from this screen.
Swipe the other direction and you can enable Instagram-like filters or Snapchat-like stickers if you’re in the selfie camera. The selfie camera (launched by swiping up or down on the viewfinder) also includes beautification tools, which can really transform how your face looks.
There are even more options if you dive into the camera’s settings menu, such as Motion Photo (Samsung’s riff on Apple’s Live Photos), HDR, voice controls, tracking autofocus, and more. But you probably don’t need to mess with most of these features if you want to take good photos with the Note 8; just open the camera app and start shooting.