How to Use Portrait Mode and Portrait Lighting on iPhone

how to use portrait mode on iphone

Portrait mode on iPhone lets you click pictures in which the main subject (person or object) appears sharp while the background is blurred. It looks (roughly) as if the image has been captured using a DSLR or mirrorless camera. If you are wondering how to take Portrait snaps, apply filters and effects, edit portrait photos, or more than read ahead and be the master for portrait photography with your iPhone.

iPhone Models That Support Portrait Mode

Apple debuted Portrait mode for the first time on iPhone 7 Plus. Since then, most devices support it. Here is the full list.

  • iPhone 7 Plus
  • iPhone 8 Plus
  • iPhone X
  • iPhone XR
  • iPhone Xs and Xs Max
  • iPhone 11, 11 Pro, and 11 Pro Max
  • iPhone SE 2020


  • Except for iPhone 7 Plus, all models listed above support Portrait Lighting, though the number of effects varies. For example, iPhone XR only supports Natural Light, Studio Light, and Contour Light. High-Key Light Mono is available on both cameras of iPhone Xs and later, but only on the front camera of the iPhone XR
  • On iPhone 11 Pro and Pro Max, tap the 2x button to zoom out and use the Wide camera. By default on these devices, the Portrait mode uses the Telephoto camera
  • For clicking Portrait Selfie, you need iPhone X and later
  • Want Portrait mode on devices not on this list?

Difference Between Portrait Mode and Portrait Lighting

These two terms may seem similar. However, there is a difference.

  • Portrait mode blurs the background and keeps the main subject sharp. In short, it tries to mimic (using multiple cameras and/or software) the bokeh-style effect of DSLR cameras
  • Portrait Lighting (on all models listed above except iPhone 7 Plus) are studio-quality lighting effects (Studio Light, Contour Light, Stage Light, Stage Light Mono, High-Key Mono) that you can apply to Portrait mode photos while shooting or while editing in Photos app

How to Take Portrait Mode Photos on iPhone

  1. Press on the Camera app icon and select Take Portrait. Or, open the Camera app and swipe to PORTRAIT mode
  2. Make sure you are within 2-8 feet of the photo’s subject. Follow the on-screen instructions (like, move further away), if any
  3. When everything is set, the name of the effect like DEPTH EFFECT on iPhone 7 Plus or NATURAL LIGHT on other iPhones will turn yellow. You will also see the background blur in real-time
  4. Tap the shutter button or volume up or volume down button to take the picture.take portrait mode photos on iphone

Note: Suppose you do not follow the on-screen instruction and the effect name does not turn yellow, but you still click the picture. In this case, it will be a regular photo without any background blur effects.

How to Use Portrait Lighting Effects on iPhone

You can click a photo in Portrait mode and apply the Portrait Lighting effect while editing. You may also click with these effects. The steps and instructions are almost the same as above.

  1. Open the Camera app and swipe to PORTRAIT camera app and select portrait mode on iphone
  2. Touch the NATURAL LIGHT button in the viewfinder and swipe it to select a Portrait Lighting effect.Natural Light: As far as functionality is concerned, it’s quite similar to the iPhone 7 Plus Portrait mode. It simply works by keeping the subject’s face in focus by blurring the photo with natural light effect on iphoneStudio Light: It allows you to brighten up the subject in the picture by blurring the background for contrast. As a result, it offers a clean look, and you will be able to see more details of the photo with studio light effect on iphoneContour Light: In terms of functionality, it’s very similar to studio light. However, it darkens the light around the edges of the subject. This lighting mode displays the vivid difference between highlights and lowlights by casting shadows on your subject’s photo with contour light effect on iphoneStage Light: It entirely focuses on the subject’s face. While the background is completely black, the subject looks pretty bright and clear. Hence, you get a high-contrast photo with stage light effect on iphoneStage Light Mono: This lighting mode functions very similar to Stage Light by turning the background completely black and brightening up the subject. It uses a monochrome filter to show the subject only in black and photo with stage light mono effect on iphoneHigh-Key Light Mono: This is the latest Portrait Lighting effect. It is available on both front and back cameras on iPhone XS and later. On iPhone XR, it is available only on the front camera. With this effect, you can have a picture with a grayscale subject on a white photo with high key light mono effect on iphone
  3. Follow the on-screen instructions. Make sure the Portrait Lighting effect name turns yellow.
  4. Tap the shutter button or any volume lighting effect and tap on shutter to take portrait mode photos on iphone

How to Take a Portrait Mode Selfie

On iPhone X and later, you can use the front camera to click Portrait Selfies. The process is the same as Portrait mode shots.

  1. Touch the Camera app icon and select Take Portrait Selfie.
    Or, open the Camera app, swipe to PORTRAIT mode, and then switch to the front camera
  2. Follow the instructions shown on the screen. Ensure the effect name turns yellow.
  3. Tap the shutter button. You may also press the volume button on the iPhone itself or the EarPods if it is connected to the device.take portrait mode selfie on iphone

How to Change Portrait Lighting Effects Afterwards

Suppose you click an image with the effect CONTOUR LIGHT, but now you wish to change it. You can do it effortlessly after the image is saved to the gallery.

  1. Open the Photos app and tap on Albums.
  2. Scroll down and from under Media Types, tap on Portrait, and tap on photos app select portrait from media types and tap on photo
  3. Now, tap on Edit.
  4. Touch the PORTRAIT button and swipe it to change the effect. See which looks best
  5. Finally, tap on Done.change portrait lighting effects on iphone

Note: After switching to a different effect, want to go back to the original? Follow up to step 3. Then tap on Revert and confirm by tapping Revert to Original.

revert portrait lighting effects from photo on iphone

How to Use Depth Control on iPhone

Depth Control lets you change the level of a background blur of a Portrait mode image after you have clicked it. You can increase the blur or decrease it accordingly. You can use it on iPhone Xs, XR, and later. Here is how.

  1. Open the Photos app and tap on Albums.
  2. Under Media Types, tap on Portrait.
  3. Tap to select a photo.launch photos app tap on portrait mode and tap on photo
  4. Now, tap on Edit and then tap on the Depth Control button. (f inside a circle)
  5. Move the slider to the left or right to adjust the depth
  6. Finally, tap on Done.use depth control in portrait mode photo

Note: You can adjust Portrait Lighting effect too following the above steps. Make sure in step 4, you tap on the Portrait Lighting button (dot and a circle inside hexagon).

How to Remove Portrait Mode Effect from Photos

It is possible to convert Portrait mode photos to standard photos without any background blur. To do this:

  1. Open the Photos app and tap on Albums from the bottom
  2. Tap on Portraits under Media Types and open an image
  3. then Tap on Edit.launch photos app tap on portrait mode and tap on photo
  4. Tap on the yellow word PORTRAIT.
  5. Immediately, all blur will be removed. Tap on Done to save the image.remove portrait mode effect from photos on iphone

Note: Changed your mind yet again and want to get back the blur effect? From Recent or All Photos, open the photo. (This time it would not be under Portraits). Tap on Edit. And then tap on the white word PORTRAIT. Tap Done.

You may also like: Remove Filters and Effects from Photos on iPhone

Signing off…

This is how to click and edit Portrait mode pictures on the iPhone. I hope this guide was helpful. If you need some more assistance, please feel free to reach us using the comment sections.

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