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What is the Pixel camera Top Shot feature and how do you use it?

If you're looking to always get the best shots with your Pixel phone's camera, you might want to consider using Top Shot.
Written by Jack Wallen, Contributing Writer
A Pixel 8 Pro taking a photo of an aquarium.

Taking a photo of me taking a photo.

Jack Wallen/ZDNET

Hello, Android fans. Today we're talking about Top Shop, a feature that sounds like the title of a Tom Cruise action film. If you're unfamiliar with the feature, let me explain how it works. 

When Top Shot is enabled, your Pixel camera takes a short video to capture several frames of the subject. Artificial intelligence (AI) in the device automatically selects the best frame to save. But don't think you're limited to the shot the AI selects, as you can go through the short video, frame-by-frame, and choose the image you want to save.

Also: Use these 5 camera settings on your Android phone for better photos

Top Shot is a great feature that ensures you never miss the perfect shot. This feature should be considered a must-use when you try to capture images that cannot be recreated. Top Shot has, on several occasions, saved me from missing out on the perfect picture because a subject moved or the moment passed.

Let me show you how to use Top Shot.

Enabling Top Shot

What you'll need: To use Top Shot, you must have a Pixel 3 or later phone, as the feature is unavailable on other Android devices.

1. Open the Pixel camera app settings

Open the camera app on your Pixel phone and tap the gear icon in the bottom left corner of the window. A new popup will appear with five options and a More Settings button. 

Also: 5 easy ways to take better videos on Android

Top Shot is the second from option the top and should be set to auto. If Top Shot is turned off, tap either the middle button (for Auto) or the far right button (for On).

The Pixel camera app settings pop-up.

You can set Top Shot to Off, Auto, or Always On.

Screenshot by Jack Wallen/ZDNET

2. Using Top Shot

To use Top Shot, focus on your subject and then tap and hold the shutter button for the camera. A timer will appear above the shutter button to inform you how long of a clip you've recorded. You can swipe to the left to go hands-free or swipe up to see a preview. 

Also: The 4 best free video editing apps: Free but powerful software

When you go hands-free, the clip will continue recording and stop when you tap the stop button. The clip recording will stop when you swipe up to view the preview.

Taking a photo of a spinning record with Top Shot.

Snapping a photo of a spinning record isn't always easy.

Screenshot by Jack Wallen/ZDNET

3. Selecting your best shot

Once you've taken your shot and are in the preview mode, tap the Edit button and wait for the clip to appear. You can then drag your finger through the clip until you find the exact frame you want to save. Tap Export Frame and the chosen frame will be saved. You can then open the frame and go through the usual edits, such as adjusting blur, cropping, adding filters, and more.

Also: How to download YouTube videos for free, plus two other methods

Remember, you can always allow Android's AI to select the best frame for you.

The Top Shot edit window.

Swiping through the clip, frame by frame, to select the best shot.

Screenshot by Jack Wallen/ZDNET

An important tip

When using Top Shot, it's good to think of the process like taking a video with your phone. You need to keep the device as still as possible, otherwise you might have trouble finding a good frame to save. Because of this issue, I tend to use the hands-free mode because it means I can then hold the phone with both hands without having to keep a finger pressed on the shutter button. Using two hands means my phone is far steadier than with one. 

The steadier you keep your phone, the better your chances of getting the perfect frame with Top Shot.

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