13 Tips For How To Use Portrait Mode On The iPhone 7 Plus

During its iPhone event back in September, Apple showed off one big camera feature that wasn't yet ready: Portrait mode. Designed specifically for the iPhone 7 Plus, Portrait mode adds depth of field — a slight blur effect — to photos, similar to the way a high-end DSLR camera would. Now, Portrait mode is finally available as part of an update to iOS 10.

iOS 10.1 is now available for all iPhone owners to download, but only 7 Plus owners will be able to take advantage of the new camera feature. Why? To create its blur effect, it uses both of the 7 Plus' two rear-facing cameras. iOS 10.1 also includes other bug features and updates: It should improve connectivity with third party Bluetooth devices. The Apple Watch will also be getting some fixes to address music syncing issues. And Messages is also getting a handful of bug fixes.

But really, this update is all about Portrait mode. If you're curious about what it is, and want to be an expert on how to use it, read on. We've chatted with professional photographers for their favorite Portrait mode shooting tips.

Photo: @TristanPope/Instagram.
Portrait mode makes things further from the camera appear slightly blurry. The effect is also called "bokeh." It helps make what's in focus — particularly a person in a portrait — really pop. Apps have been able to simulate this effect in the past, with varying degrees of success.
Photo: @TristanPope/Instagram.
To use Portrait mode, launch the Camera and select “Portrait." Once switched on, you are guided in real-time with a live preview of the depth effect, including how to best distance the camera from the subject.
Photo: @dancers_of/Instagram.
"I have shot in pitch-black and in the heat of the noon sun. All is doable in Portrait mode, but the most successful has been [shooting] at 12 noon sunlight. The more light the better," iPhone photographer Tristan Pope advises.
Photo: @TristanPope/Instagram.
You'll find that the further away your subject is from the background, the more pronounced Portrait mode's blur effect will be. You’ll also notice a stronger blur if you have good contrast between your subject and the background — like here, where there are contrasting colors.
Photo: @Kevintachman/Instagram.
"Ask your subject to stand still when taking the shot," says professional photographer Kevin Tachman, who often shoots for Vogue.
Photo: @Kevintachman/Instagram.
"Be sure to find a strong light source for your portrait photo," Tachman suggests — useful if you aren't shooting in that noontime sunlight.
Photo: @pketron/Instagram.
Portrait mode works best when your subject is within eight to 10 feet of your phone. But while results may not be quite as good for objects further away, you can still make it work — as you see here.
Photo: @alyssa.lenore/Instagram.
"Pay attention to the guide in portrait mode that tells you to move further away — your iPhone does the work for you so you don't have to estimate eight feet on the fly," Tachman says.
Photo: @erinrbrooks/Instagram.
"Focus on the little details in the foreground, like a cool found leaf," suggests Erin Brooks, a photographer who's been featured in Apple's Shot On iPhone campaigns before.
Photo: @erinrbrooks/Instagram.
"A sleeping baby is also a perfect portrait opp: They’re perfectly still, and completely adorable," Brooks says. Here, just the child's hand is in focus in the foreground.
Photo: @jeremycowart/Instagram.
“It’s helpful to minimize the background and cut out the distractions from your subject," photographer Jeremy Cowart says. Here, he photographed his son for career day at his preschool.
Photo: @bbinko/Instagram.
“Try to find the shade and put the sun behind your subject as a nice back light," Cowart advises.
Photo: @harpersbazaarkorea/Instagram.
"Be sure to use exposure control. I find that pulling the exposure down just a hair really makes my images look more cinematic," Cowart says.
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