Por­trait Mode

Use this cam­era fea­ture to cap­ture pro­fes­sional-qual­ity shots.

iPhone Life Magazine - - Contents - by Eric Mueller This ar­ti­cle was orig­i­nally pub­lished on iphonepho­tog­ra­physchool.com.

Por­trait mode on the iPhone Plus mod­els and the iPhone X is the per­fect tool for cre­at­ing amaz­ing por­traits that can usu­ally only be achieved with a DSLR cam­era. In this tu­to­rial, you'll dis­cover how to use the iPhone to cap­ture pro­fes­sional-look­ing photos with a won­der­ful back­ground blur.

What Is Por­trait Mode?

Por­trait is a unique shoot­ing mode avail­able in the na­tive Cam­era app. It uses a spe­cial soft­ware tool to cre­ate a shal­low depth of field in your photos. Shal­low depth of field sim­ply means that only a small por­tion of an im­age is in fo­cus while the rest is blurred. In most cases, you would want your main sub­ject to ap­pear in sharp fo­cus while the back­ground ap­pears blurred (fig­ure 1).

Why Use a Shal­low Depth of Field?

A shal­low depth of field is of­ten used by por­trait pho­tog­ra­phers. Why? Be­cause it places the em­pha­sis on the per­son (or an­i­mal) that is the sub­ject of the photo and cre­ates a soft, dreamy back­drop be­hind them. Blur­ring the back­ground is also re­ally use­ful when shoot­ing in lo­ca­tions with a busy, messy, or dis­tract­ing back­drop. The blur­ring makes the back­ground sec­ondary, bring­ing the viewer's at­ten­tion back to the main sub­ject in the fore­ground.

Shal­low depth of field isn't some­thing you'd use for ev­ery kind of photo. You typ­i­cally wouldn't want a blurry back­ground in a land­scape or ar­chi­tec­tural photo, as you'd want to see ev­ery­thing clearly from fore­ground to back­ground. How­ever, in por­trait pho­tog­ra­phy, a shal­low depth of field will make a huge dif­fer­ence to the im­pact of your im­age. By blur­ring the back­ground, you can re­ally make your sub­ject stand out (fig­ure 2).

Cre­at­ing Back­ground Blur with Your iPhone

In the past, the iPhone cam­era hasn't al­lowed you to have any con­trol over the depth of field in your photos. You've mostly just had the op­tion to have ev­ery­thing in fo­cus—un­less your main sub­ject was very close to the lens, in which case the back­ground would ap­pear blurred. But with Por­trait mode on the iPhone, you can choose what's in fo­cus and what isn't (fig­ure 3).

While Por­trait mode is per­fect for shoot­ing photos of peo­ple and an­i­mals, it can ac­tu­ally be used to blur the back­ground be­hind any sub­ject (fig­ure 4). Many things look bet­ter when placed in front of a soft, dreamy back­ground— es­pe­cially if that back­ground would dis­tract the viewer from the main sub­ject.

How to Use iPhone Por­trait Mode

Cre­at­ing a shal­low depth of field with Por­trait mode is easy. Start by open­ing the na­tive Cam­era app and then swip­ing through the shoot­ing modes (Video, Photo, etc.) un­til Por­trait is high­lighted in yel­low:

The first thing you'll no­tice when you switch to Por­trait mode is that ev­ery­thing gets big­ger. That's be­cause the cam­era au­to­mat­i­cally switches over to the iPhone's tele­photo lens. The tele­photo lens typ­i­cally cre­ates more flat­ter­ing por­trait photos than the wide-an­gle lens which can dis­tort fa­cial fea­tures. You'll also no­tice the words Depth Ef­fect ap­pear at the bot­tom of the screen. Your phone will help you by giv­ing on-screen in­struc­tions if you haven't framed the im­age op­ti­mally. For ex­am­ple, you might see the words “Move far­ther away” or “More light re­quired.”

Once you're the right dis­tance from your sub­ject, the words Depth Ef­fect will be high­lighted in yel­low. You'll also see four yel­low crop marks, roughly in­di­cat­ing the face of your sub­ject. You're now ready to shoot, so tap the shut­ter but­ton to take your photo. After tak­ing the pic­ture, you'll no­tice that two ver­sions of the im­age ap­pear in the Photos app. One im­age will have the Depth Ef­fect (fig­ure 6) and the other won't (fig­ure 5).

Com­par­ing these two ver­sions of the im­age re­ally shows how much nicer a por­trait photo looks when it has a shal­low depth of field. If for some rea­son you're not sure which of the two photos had the Depth Ef­fect, it will be clearly la­beled in your photo li­brary like so (fig­ure 7).

Tips for Cre­at­ing Great Back­ground Blur

When shoot­ing in Por­trait mode, it's im­por­tant to con­sider your back­ground as well as your sub­ject. The type of back­ground you shoot against and how far it is from your sub­ject will have a big im­pact on the fi­nal im­age.

The Depth Ef­fect works best when your sub­ject is far away from the back­ground. The fur­ther away the sub­ject is from the back­ground, the more pleas­ant blur you'll get. Note the dif­fer­ence in the amount of back­ground blur be­tween the two images in fig­ure 8.

If your back­ground doesn't look blurry enough when shoot­ing in Por­trait mode, move your sub­ject fur­ther away from the back­ground. It's also im­por­tant to ac­tu­ally have some­thing in the back­ground, so that there's some de­tail for the cam­era to blur. In fig­ure 9, my sub­ject was placed in front of a plain white wall.

Even though I used the Depth Ef­fect in Por­trait mode, the back­ground doesn't look blurred be­cause there's no de­tail there to blur. In fig­ure 10 and fig­ure 11, there's a small amount of de­tail on the wall be­hind my sub­ject.

You can def­i­nitely see the dif­fer­ence in fig­ure 11 with the Depth Ef­fect. But the photo could be a lot more dy­namic if there were some more details on the wall to show the blur ef­fect.

In fig­ure 12, there's a lot of de­tail and dif­fer­ent colors in the back­ground. This makes the blur­ring much more ob­vi­ous.

Re­mem­ber, if you want to achieve beau­ti­ful back­ground blur, you need to have some­thing in the back­ground, and ide­ally it should be far away from your fore­ground sub­ject.

iPhone Por­trait Mode: Con­clu­sion

The iPhone has al­ways been an amaz­ing tool for many types of pho­tog­ra­phy—such as land­scape, ar­chi­tec­ture, and street pho­tog­ra­phy. But now the iPhone of­fers the abil­ity to shoot amaz­ing, high-qual­ity por­trait photos too (fig­ure 13). The tele­photo lens on the iPhone is more flat­ter­ing for shoot­ing peo­ple than the stan­dard wide-an­gle lens. And the mag­i­cal Depth Ef­fect tool in the iPhone Por­trait mode cre­ates beau­ti­ful back­ground blur, sim­u­lat­ing the shal­low depth of field that could pre­vi­ously only be achieved with a DSLR cam­era.

Tak­ing photos with the iPhone Por­trait mode is a joy. And your sub­jects are sure to be ex­cited when you show them how good they look in your photos. And don't for­get, while Por­trait mode is per­fect for tak­ing photos of peo­ple and an­i­mals, you can use it on any sub­ject where you want to cre­ate a lovely back­ground blur.

Fig­ure 2

Fig­ure 1

Fig­ure 7

Fig­ure 3

Fig­ure 6

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Fig­ure 4

Fig­ure 9

Fig­ure 12

Fig­ure 13

Fig­ure 11

Fig­ure 10

Fig­ure 8

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