The iPhone 7 Plus has an amazing camera, arguably the best available in a smartphone. Part of the massive appeal is the new Portrait Mode, which attempts to mimic DSLR quality photos thanks to some hardware and software trickery. This mode adds a depth of field effect that blurs the background while keeping the subject in focus, much like you often see with pictures taken on a DSLR camera.
While Portrait Mode works delightfully well most of the time, it’s far from flawless. In fact, Apple has called it a beta and will likely be providing continual updates throughout 2017. So in order to minimize the chance of winding up disappointed with your photo, here are some tips for using your iPhone 7 Plus in Portrait Mode:
KEEP LIGHTING CONDITIONS AS BRIGHT AS POSSIBLE
The iPhone 7 Plus is a fantastic camera in low light — that is, until you try it in Portrait Mode. The camera, as you know, is actually two separate lenses: one wide-angle lens and one telephoto lens. The wide-angle has a generous f/1.8 aperture which is good for letting in a lot of light. The telephoto lens, meanwhile has an f/2.8 aperture which doesn’t perform as well in the dark. Because Portrait Mode requires using BOTH of these lenses, low-light results tend to be lackluster and filled with noise.
When in these low light situations, the software has a harder time figuring out what should be in focus and what shouldn’t. This ends up producing too much or too little blur. The Camera app will warn you ahead of time if you need more light to take a solid picture with depth effect, but sometimes you’ll have to use your own discretion as to how much is just right.
PHOTOGRAPH ONLY LARGE OBJECTS OR PEOPLE
Because Portrait Mode is still in beta, keep your subjects as simple as you can for optimal results. Narrow it down to two categories: large objects and also people. This new Portrait Mode has a hard time properly focusing on small objects, especially those with crazy edges and details on the perimeter. Keep your subjects large and minimalist. Naturally, Portrait Mode works best on people given the feature’s name. But it occasionally has shown me issues with outlining hair, but for the most part targeting people is your best bet in this setting.
TURN ON THE CAMERA GRID
This tip could very well apply to any camera usage, not just Portrait Mode, but I think it’s more important here. Turning on the camera grid in Settings gives you more control over subject alignment and straightening. It’s especially useful for portraits because you’re more likely trying to take a really high quality photo as opposed to quickly snapping something meaningless. If you have a nice straight portrait photo with the subject centered and fully in frame, chances are you also have a photo good enough to print. To turn on the camera grid, go to the Photos & Camera settings and switch on Grid.
AVOID FROM WINDOWS AND MIRRORS
I’m not sure why this is and I’m mostly going just on personal experience for this one, but keep mirrors and windows out of your shots. For whatever reason, testing has found that Portrait Mode gets confused with the depth of field when these are in the background. The reflection from the mirror and the transparency of the window often create more or less blur than what’s necessary, messing up your end result.
So I hope that these tips help you produce some very cool shots using the new Portrait Mode… experiment, try each of the suggestions above, and of course, HAVE FUN!