How to use the iPhone’s amazing Portrait Mode

An Example Portrait

If you have managed to get hold of an iPhone 7 Plus then you probably know about the upcoming Portrait Mode feature that’s going to transform your smartphone into a fantastic tool for taking great pictures of people. Perhaps you don’t know what this is all about and want to find out more. Either way, here’s a quick and easy guide to Portrait Mode on iPhone 7 Plus.

What is Portrait Mode?

Available exclusively on the iPhone 7 Plus, Portrait mode exploits the dual lens system of the device to create the equivalent of a 56mm telephoto lens. While this only works in good light, this lets you focus on the subject of a photograph and kind of blurs the background leaving the subject sharp and easy to see.

The technology is pretty clever. What your camera is doing is measuring the distance between itself and the subject of your photo and then creating a nine-point depth map. The camera uses that map to create an artificial depth of field, and that’s the technology which blurs the background in order to capture such nice shots. That’s called “bokeh”, apparently, and it makes the subject of your photo much easier to see.

How to use it

Unless you are on the iOS 10 public beta program you will be unable to access Portrait Mode on your iPhone, even if it is a 7 Plus (the only model that will support this feature) The mode is available in the current 10.1 public beta and will be made available when the full update ships, so the first thing you’ll want to do if you want to use Portrait Mode is to install the update.

Once the update is installed follow these instructions:

  • Open the Camera app
  • Slide through the modes (Slo-Mo, Video, Photo, Portrait, Square, Pano, etc) until you have Portrait selected. You’ll find Portrait between Photo and Square.
  • Stand up to 3 meters away from your subject to take the picture.
  • Portrait Mode’s face and body detection should identify the person you are trying to photograph
  • You may see a series of prompts, these may ask you to get closer to the subject or cast more light on them,
  • When the camera is ready to take the image you’ll see the words “Depth Effect” appear on the display. Now take the photograph.

NB: There is no zoom in Portrait mode. Flash, Live Photos, HDR, and filters are also not supported, though you do get to use the timer.

Jonny Evans

Watching Apple since 1999. I don't say what they should do. I say what they might do. They sometimes do.

1 Response

  1. October 24, 2016

    […] remind you of the guide to the feature I wrote last month, which I called (wittily, I thought): ‘How to use the iPhone 7 Plus Portrait Mode’. It’s all there in a short and easy to digest […]

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