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Instagram has an unlaunched ‘Portrait’ feature hidden inside


Eager to one-up Snapchat, Instagram appears to be preparing to expand its collection of shutter modes beyond options like Boomerang and Superzoom. Buried within Instagram’s Android Application Package (APK) is an icon for a Portrait shutter for the Stories camera. This could potentially let people shoot stylized portraits with bokeh effect-blurred backgrounds or other lighting effects.

TechCrunch reader Ishan Agarwal exclusively shared the images below with TechCrunch after decompiling the APK, which is the file format equivalent of Windows’ .exe but for Android. The icon would show up overlaid on the Instagram Stories camera shutter button when you swipe to the corresponding mode.

Instagram declined to comment on the findings, though it did the same when we asked about a Giphy GIF-sharing feature we spotted in January…which then officially launched a week later. Instagram could always decide against publicly releasing these new features, though, if internal strategy or external testing turns against them.

The revelation follows our scoop from this research last week that uncovered voice and video calling features hidden within Instagram’s Direct messaging system.

Many smartphones, including newer iPhones, include a portrait option in their default native cameras. People can shoot there and upload to places like Instagram. But users are increasingly recording content with the in-app Stories cameras in Instagram and Snapchat that offer advanced editing and special effects.

Portrait mode could offer extra creative possibilities while one-upping Snapchat, which lacks any similar feature. After testing a basic version on the iPhone 7 plus, Apple gave the new iPhone 8 plus and iPhone X a range of portrait options like contour lighting or studio lighting.

It’s unclear whether Instagram’s portrait mode will just be a single setting or include more ways to stylize an image, but there’s plenty Instagram could do to make it look like you’re shooting on a fancy SLR camera. Judging by the fact that the file for “Rewind” is labeled “Reverse,” the “Portrait” mode could launch under a different name. That might also decrease confusion between it and native phone portrait options.

Instagram must constantly evolve to stay interesting. The sepia latte art and over-saturated sunsets that once dominated the feed have become passé. But the Instagram-Snapchat arms race has led to increasingly gaudy and bombastic augmented reality filters, colorful stickers and seething GIFs. Portrait mode could push Instagram back to its classier roots, and help people create images worth saving after their Stories turn to ash by the next sunrise.

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