The aim of any good photo is to focus on the thing you want everyone to see, while having the complementary background slightly blurred so you can see it, but know where your eye is supposed to be. That goes doubly when the photo is of your best friends looking otherworldly while surrounded the chaos of NYE.
Using portrait/live focus mode in all your photos of people on the night means that you can choose how blurred you want the background to be, or whether you want the background at all.
On all but the Pixel you have the luxury of selecting the background effect and severity of that effect both while you’re taking the photo, and later in edit mode. This is ideal for when you accidentally take a photo that makes your friend look incredible while some guy casually pees on a tree in the background.
I recommend testing the mode you think you’re going to want to end up with while taking the photo, just to make sure it looks the way you hope it will and isn’t cutting off anyone’s hair, but it’s good to remember you can change it later.
Studio Light for iPhone, Blur for Samsung Galaxy S10 and just regular portrait mode on the Google Pixel 4 are your standard “this person looks amazing against this tastefully blurred background” filters. Stage Light on iPhone, however, is your nuclear option; completely removing the background.
The S10 doesn’t have anything that completely kills the background, so just go to Spin, turn it up to max, and hope for the best. The Pixel either blurs the background, or doesn’t, so that’s another turn it up and hope situation.
However, the background isn’t always your biggest problem.
Those oh-so-shareable silhouette portraits show off a pensive, classy and dramatic person with a bright object behind them. The silhouette is the perfect photo for closer to midnight when the makeup has been sweated off, or after someone has cried after they realised many of the kids born post 9/11 can vote now, and that 1980 was 40 years ago.
On the Pixel 4 you can get that effect by focusing on the person and pulling down the brightness and contrast sliders on the right until you have the desired effect. On iPhone you adjust brightness by dragging your finger down next to the yellow focus box.
On the Samsung Galaxy S10 you can only adjust the brightness and contrast after you’ve taken the photo, which gives you the same effect without getting to see what it will look like while taking the photo.
Some models, like the Galaxy S10+, can take wide portrait selfies which fit multiple people. It’s an ideal way to include the person who’s always taking the photos, but never in them.
On the Pixel you can add portrait blur later to any photo, just in case you forget, so all is not lost.
And, remember; you can fix almost anything in editing, given enough time and blurring tools.
Happy new year! Good luck out there.
Alice is a freelance journalist, producer and presenter.