How To Blur The Background In Your iPhone Photos

Are you struggling to create blurred backgrounds in your iPhone photos? Creating a shallow depth of field is easy on a DSLR camera. But did you know you can achieve the same impressive results with your iPhone? In this tutorial, you’ll learn how to blur background on iPhone camera for stunning professional results. Read on to discover three easy shooting and editing techniques for creating beautiful blurry backgrounds in your iPhone photos.

How To Blur Background On iPhone Portrait Mode

Table Of Contents: How To Blur Background On iPhone

Click any title link below to go straight to that section of the tutorial:

What Is Shallow Depth Of Field?

When To Blur The Background In Your iPhone Photos

How To Blur Background In Your iPhone Photos

1. Use Portrait Mode To Create Beautiful Blurred Backgrounds
1.1 What Is Portrait Mode?
1.2 Do You Have Portrait Mode On Your iPhone?
1.3 How To Blur Background In Photos Using Portrait Mode
1.4 How To Remove Or Apply Depth Effect In Editing
1.5 Tips For Better Photos With Portrait Mode
1.6 When To Use Portrait Mode

2. Get Closer To Your Subject To Create Shallow Depth Of Field
2.1 Move Closer To Your Subject
2.2 Change Your Distance To Control Depth Of Field
2.3 Set The Focus Point Manually
2.4 Getting Closer vs. Portrait Mode

3. Use AfterFocus App To Blur Background In Editing
3.1 Open The Photo You Want To Blur
3.2 Choose A Selection Mode
3.3 Use Smart Selection Mode To Specify Background & Foreground
3.4 Check The Edges Of Your Selection
3.5 Use Manual Mode To Make Precise Selections
3.6 Customize The Blur Effect
3.7 Save Your Edited Image

What Is Shallow Depth Of Field?

Depth of field refers to how much of your image is in sharp focus from front to back.

If everything is in focus, from foreground to background, the image has a large depth of field.

Shallow depth of field means only a small part of the image is in focus, while the rest appears blurred. So you can make your subject in the foreground appear sharp, while the background is out of focus.

How To Blur Background On iPhone Camera

When To Blur The Background In Your iPhone Photos

You won’t always want to take photos with a blurry background. In landscape photography, you’ll want everything in focus, from near to distant objects.

But there are many situations where a shallow depth of field will improve your image.

If the background of your scene is messy or distracting, it takes attention away from the main subject. Blurring the background eliminates distractions and makes the subject stand out.

How To Blur Background On iPhone Portrait Mode

Even if the background isn’t ugly, a soft blurred background adds a professional touch to your photos.

Portrait photographers generally use a shallow depth of field. The subject’s face will be in sharp focus, with a beautiful blurred background behind them.

How To Blur Background On iPhone Camera Portrait Mode

As a general rule, blur the background in your photos whenever you want to create a cleaner image with a stronger subject.

You can also use shallow depth of field for creative effect. For example, you could focus on raindrops on a window while the background appears blurred.

How To Blur Background On iPhone Camera

How To Blur Background In Your iPhone Photos

Shallow depth of field is typically associated with professional DSLR cameras. On these cameras, you can adjust the lens aperture to control depth of field and blur the background.

On the iPhone, you can’t adjust the lens aperture. So how do you create beautiful blurred backgrounds in your iPhone photos?

How To Blur Background On iPhone Portrait Mode

There are actually three easy ways to create a shallow depth of field on the iPhone. Read on to discover how to blur background in photos with your iPhone.

1. Use Portrait Mode To Create Beautiful Blurred Backgrounds

1.1. What Is Portrait Mode?

Portrait mode is a shooting mode in the native camera app on certain iPhone models. It uses depth effect software to digitally simulate a shallow depth of field.

How To Blur Background On iPhone Portrait Mode

This depth effect feature lets you shoot photos with soft, blurry backgrounds while keeping your subject in sharp focus.

1.2 Do You Have Portrait Mode On Your iPhone?

If you want to know how to blur background on iPhone 7 Plus, iPhone 8 Plus and iPhone X, this section of the article is for you.

These three iPhone models have the dual camera lens required to create the depth effect in Portrait mode.

Unfortunately, Portrait mode isn’t available on the iPhone 8, iPhone 7, or older iPhone models. But the other techniques covered in this article show you how to create blurred backgrounds with any iPhone.

To find out how to blur background on iPhone 8, iPhone 7 and older, jump to section 2 below.

1.3 How To Blur Background In Photos Using Portrait Mode

With Portrait mode, it’s easy to create images with beautiful blurred backgrounds.

Open the native camera app on your iPhone. Select Portrait in the list of shooting modes at the bottom of the screen. These modes appear on the right side of the screen when holding the phone horizontally.

How To Blur Background On iPhone Portrait Mode

When you switch to Portrait mode, you’ll notice the camera zooms in on your subject. This is because Portrait mode uses the iPhone’s 2x telephoto lens.

A telephoto lens is more flattering for portrait photos. It doesn’t distort facial features like a wide-angle lens can.

As you’re framing your shot, you might see some on-screen prompts. If the subject is too far away, the camera tells you to move closer. If the camera is too close to the subject, a prompt appears telling you to move further away.

How To Blur Background On iPhone Portrait Mode

Portrait mode only works when you’re within a certain distance from the subject. As a rough guide, the optimal distance between camera and subject is between two and eight feet.

Portrait mode doesn’t always work well in low light conditions. If your scene is too dark, the camera tells you more light is required.

How To Blur Background On iPhone Portrait Mode

You could use the flash, but sometimes flash light can ruin your photo. The best option is to shoot outdoors when there’s plenty of natural light.

When you’ve composed your shot, you’ll need to set focus and exposure. Tap the camera screen to set focus and exposure on your subject. Or lock focus and exposure by tapping and holding for a couple of seconds.

How To Blur Background On iPhone Portrait Mode

When you see AE/AF Lock on the screen, the focus and exposure settings are locked. You can then swipe up or down to adjust exposure (brightness) if necessary.

Locking focus and exposure allows you to take multiple shots of your subject without having to set focus and exposure each time. It also prevents the camera from refocusing if there’s any movement in the scene.

If you’re using an iPhone 7 Plus, the words Depth Effect will appear in yellow when you’re at the right distance for the depth effect to work.

On the iPhone 8 Plus and iPhone X it’s slightly different. The current Portrait Lighting setting, e.g. Natural Light, will appear yellow when the depth effect is ready.

How To Blur Background On iPhone Portrait Mode

Portrait Lighting is a feature on the iPhone 8 Plus and X that lets you apply different studio lighting effects to your photos. Click here to learn how to use the Portrait Lighting feature.

How To Blur Background On iPhone Portrait Mode

Before you press the shutter button to take your photo, check the viewfinder to ensure the depth effect feature is producing good results. Your subject should appear sharp, and the background should be blurred.

How To Blur Background On iPhone Portrait Mode

Remember, Portrait mode uses software to simulate a shallow depth of field effect. It doesn’t always produce perfect results. Sometimes part of your subject’s hair might be blurred along with the background. Or some of the background elements close to the subject might not get blurred.

In the next section, you’ll learn how to remove or apply the depth effect after you’ve taken the photo.

1.4. How To Remove Or Apply Depth Effect In Editing

The depth effect feature in Portrait mode is non-destructive. This means you can remove the effect and revert to the regular version of the image at any time.

To remove the depth effect from an image, open it in the Photos app, then tap Edit. Tap Portrait at the top of the screen so it’s no longer highlighted yellow. Depth effect is now switched off, and the photo appears without the blur effect applied. Tap Done to save the changes.

How To Blur Background On iPhone Portrait Mode

To switch the depth effect back on, open the Edit option again. Tap Portrait at the top of the screen so it’s highlighted yellow. The background will appear blurred again. Tap Done to save.

1.5 Tips For Taking Better Photos With Portrait Mode

There are a few things you can do to ensure you get great results when shooting in Portrait mode.

Make sure the subject isn’t too close to the background. If there’s not enough distance between the subject and the background, the camera may not be able to distinguish between the two areas.

How To Blur Background On iPhone Portrait Mode

This might result in a background that doesn’t appear blurred, or is only slightly blurred.

The further away the background is from your subject, the blurrier it will appear.

How To Blur Background On iPhone Portrait Mode

You should also ensure the background has some detail. If the background is a plain white wall, there won’t be any detail for the camera to blur.

How To Blur Background On iPhone Portrait Mode

When shooting portraits, check the blur effect around the subject’s hair. Sometimes the camera struggles to determine foreground and background objects. If part of the subject’s hair appears blurred, get them to pose slightly differently and take the shot again.

How To Blur Background On iPhone Portrait Mode

To ensure the depth effect in Portrait mode works properly, check the on-screen prompts. They’ll tell you if you’re too close or too far away.

You also need to make sure there’s enough light in the scene. The camera will tell you if more light is required.

1.6 When To Use Portrait Mode

Portrait mode is perfect for shooting professional-looking portraits of people and pets. You’ll get a lovely blurred background behind a sharply focused subject.

How To Blur Background On iPhone Portrait Mode

But you can use Portrait mode for many other kinds of subjects. As long as your subject is within a few feet of the camera, you should get the same impressive results.

How To Blur Background On iPhone Portrait Mode

Portrait mode is especially useful when the background is unsightly or distracting. Blurring the background creates a far more pleasing image.

Shallow depth of field is also great for emphasizing a sense of depth in your photos.

How To Blur Background On iPhone Portrait Mode

Remember, you can easily remove the depth effect in editing. So if you’re not sure whether to use Portrait mode, go ahead and use it.

You can always revert to the regular version of the image at any time. Below is the same image with the depth effect removed.

How To Blur Background On iPhone Portrait Mode

2. Get Close To Your Subject To Create Shallow Depth Of Field

2.1 Move Closer To Your Subject

If you don’t have an iPhone with Portrait mode, you can still shoot amazing images with blurred backgrounds. You do this by getting closer to your subject.

This little-known technique allows you to control the depth of field in your photos. The closer you are to your subject, the blurrier the background will be.

How To Blur Background On iPhone Camera

2.2 Change Your Distance To Control Depth Of Field

To test out this technique with your own iPhone, find a subject that you’d like to photograph.

Make sure the subject isn’t too close to the background, otherwise the background won’t appear blurred. The further the background is from the subject, the more blurred it’s likely to appear.

How To Blur Background On iPhone Camera

Start by holding your iPhone a few feet away from the subject. Now slowly move your phone closer to the subject. Notice how the background gradually appears more blurred the closer you get.

When you get too close to the subject, the camera won’t be able to focus at all. When this happens, the subject appears blurred. So always watch your distance, and ensure the subject looks crisp, sharp, and fully focused.

How To Blur Background On iPhone Camera

Take several photos of the same subject from different distances. Then compare the results. The closer you are to the subject, the shallower the depth of field will be. In other words, you’ll get the blurriest backgrounds when you’re very close to the subject.

Remember, if your subject is too close to the background, the background might not appear blurred.

You also need to ensure the background has some detail that can be blurred. If you’re shooting against a plain white wall, there won’t be any detail for the camera to blur.

How To Blur Background On iPhone Camera

2.3 Set The Focus Point Manually

When shooting close-up photos, the depth of field will be shallow. This means only a small part of the image from front to back will be in sharp focus. The rest of the scene will appear blurred.

How To Blur Background On iPhone Camera

So it’s essential you tell the camera which part of the scene to focus on. If you don’t, the camera might focus on the wrong part of the scene. This will leave your subject blurred.

In most cases, you want your main subject to be in sharp focus. To set the focus point on your subject, tap that area of the screen. A yellow box indicates the focal point.

How To Blur Background On iPhone Camera

Alternatively, you can lock focus. This allows you to take multiple shots of the subject without having to reset the focus point each time. To lock focus, tap and hold for a couple of seconds until you see AE/AF Lock.

How To Blur Background On iPhone Camera

If the background doesn’t look blurred after setting focus on your subject, try moving closer. Note that you’ll need to reset focus every time you change the distance between the camera and subject.

2.4 Getting Closer Vs. Portrait Mode

Getting closer to your subject works with any camera, including all models of iPhone. This is because the shallow depth of field is created optically by the lens, rather than digitally in software.

If you have an iPhone with Portrait mode, do you need to use this method of getting closer to your subject? In certain situations, it would be better to use this technique.

The main benefit of getting closer to your subject, rather than using Portrait mode, is that you’re not relying on software to decide what should be in focus and what should be blurred. You’ll get good results every time, as long as you’re close enough to the subject, and you set focus correctly.

How To Blur Background On iPhone Camera

Another benefit of getting closer to your subject is that you can easily change which part of the scene is in focus.

So if you want the background in focus and the foreground blurred, just tap the background to set focus on that area of the scene.

Or try tapping somewhere in the middleground to set focus at that point. The foreground and background will appear blurred, while the middleground is in sharp focus.

How To Blur Background On iPhone Camera

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7 Hidden iPhone Camera Features

3. Use AfterFocus App To Blur Background In Editing

Have you ever taken a photo and wished it had a blurred background? Maybe the background is messy or ugly. Or perhaps the subject doesn’t stand out well.

In such cases, you can use a blur background app like AfterFocus to blur the background after you’ve taken the picture.

Here’s how to create a shallow depth of field effect using the AfterFocus app:

3.1 Open The Photo You Want To Blur

Open the AfterFocus app, and tap Select Photo. Open the album containing the image you want to use. Locate the photo and tap to open it.

How To Blur Background On iPhone Afterfocus App

When you first open a photo in AfterFocus, some help tips will appear. Swipe across to read each tip, then tap the X at the top right to exit.

3.2 Choose A Selection Mode

There are two modes for selecting the areas you want to blur: Smart Selection mode and Manual Selection mode.

Smart Selection mode lets you quickly select the areas you want in focus and blurred. You draw “hint lines” to specify which area is background and which is foreground. You don’t have to be too precise. The app will work its magic to blur the background while keeping the foreground sharp.

How To Blur Background On iPhone Afterfocus App

With Manual Selection mode, you need to be precise. You have to “paint” over all areas that you want in focus. If you make a mistake and select some of the background, you have to erase that part of the selection.

How To Blur Background On iPhone Afterfocus App

Often you’ll need to use a combination of both selection methods. It’s best to start with Smart Selection to roughly select the background and foreground areas. Then use Manual Selection to tidy up any edges where the selection isn’t perfect.

To switch between Smart and Manual Selection mode, tap the icon near the top right of the screen. Tap the pencil icon to switch to Manual Selection mode. Tap the wand icon to switch to Smart Selection mode.

How To Blur Background On iPhone Afterfocus App

Note that if you use Manual mode to make a selection, you’ll lose your selection if you switch back to Smart mode.

3.3 Use Smart Selection Mode To Specify Background & Foreground

Ensure you’re in Smart Selection mode. You’ll see the pencil icon at the top of the screen when you’re in Smart mode.

Tap the Focus icon at the bottom of the screen. With your finger, draw a line inside the area that you want to keep in sharp focus. This would normally be your subject in the foreground.

Now tap the Background icon at the bottom of the screen. Draw a line around the inner part of the background.

How To Blur Background On iPhone Afterfocus App

When you release your finger, the foreground area appears with a red mask. This indicates the area that won’t get blurred. The white line indicates the area you want in focus. The black line indicates the area you want to blur.

How To Blur Background On iPhone Afterfocus App

Draw more lines to define foreground and background areas if necessary.

There’s also a Mid icon at the bottom of the screen. You can use this on photos that have a clear definition between foreground, middleground and background.

The area you select as middleground will be blurred, but the blur strength won’t be as strong as the background blur. This creates a more natural gradual blur from foreground to background.

If you make a mistake when drawing the lines, you have two options: Tap Undo (curved arrow icon) at the top of the screen to get rid of the line completely. Or use the Eraser icon at the bottom of the screen to erase part of the line.

3.4 Check The Edges Of Your Selection

The Smart Selection tool is great for quickly defining foreground and background areas. But it doesn’t always get it perfect, especially around the edges of the subject.

To see the edges of your selection in more detail, you’ll need to zoom in on the image. First, tap the Pan & Zoom icon. This allows you to use your fingers to pinch and drag the image without drawing any more lines.

Pinch outwards to zoom in. Drag your finger to pan across to a different part of the image.

How To Blur Background On iPhone Afterfocus App

In the screenshot above, some of the leaves in the background have been selected as foreground. Remember, the red mask indicates the area that won’t get blurred.

To fix this problem, you could try drawing more background lines over these leaves. But if you get too close to the subject’s hair, it might select that as background too. This has happened in the screenshot below.

How To Blur Background On iPhone Afterfocus App

In cases like this, you’ll need to use Manual Selection mode to make precise selections around the edge of your subject.

3.5. Use Manual Mode To Make Precise Selections

Tap the pencil icon to switch to Manual Selection mode. Tap Pan & Zoom, then zoom in on the area you want to work on.

Tap the Brush Size icon. Select a brush size suitable for the area you need to select. If you’re selecting a small area, choose the smallest brush size.

How To Blur Background On iPhone Afterfocus App

To select an area of background that you missed, tap the Background icon. Use your finger to precisely paint over the background area that you want blurred. The red mask will disappear as you paint over it.

To select a part of your subject or foreground that you missed, tap the Focus icon. Paint over the area you want to keep in focus. The red mask will appear as you paint. Remember, the red mask indicates which parts of the final image will be in focus.

Your aim is to have the red mask only on the foreground or subject that you want to keep in focus.

How To Blur Background On iPhone Afterfocus App

If you make a mistake, tap the Undo icon. Or switch between the Focus and Background icons to paint over areas where you made a mistake.

It’s worth spending a bit of time getting your selection as precise as possible. If you don’t make a neat selection, the final result won’t look good when the background gets blurred.

Once you’re happy with the selection, tap the arrow at the top right of the screen. The area you selected as background will now appear blurred.

How To Blur Background On iPhone Afterfocus App

If you notice any mistakes with your selection at this point, tap the single left arrow at the top of the screen. You can now fine-tune your selection using the Focus and Background tools. Tap the right arrow to return to the blur effects screen.

3.6 Customize The Blur Effect

The icons at the bottom of the screen let you customize the blur effect. Tap the Blur icon. Here you can choose between Lens Blur and Motion Blur.

How To Blur Background On iPhone Afterfocus App

Lens Blur is the type of blur you get when you shoot with a shallow depth of field. Motion blur is the kind of blur you get when there’s movement in the scene, or when the camera moves as you take the shot. In most cases, you’ll want to select Lens Blur.

The slider lets you control the blur strength. Slide left for less blur, or right for more blur.

Keep the Edge Feature checkbox switched on. This ensures a smooth transition between the focused and blurred areas.

The Aperture icon lets you select different shaped apertures, which subtly change the blur effect. Switch on Bokeh if you want little hexagons of light to appear in the background of your image.

How To Blur Background On iPhone Afterfocus App

The Fading BG icon lets you create a gradual transition in blur from top to bottom.

You wouldn’t use this setting for a portrait photo. It wouldn’t look right if the top and bottom parts of the background appear blurred while the middle is in focus.

How To Blur Background On iPhone Afterfocus App

But this tool can be useful for creating a fake miniature tilt-shift effect, as shown in the example below.

How To Blur Background On iPhone Afterfocus App

If you wish, you can use the FX icons to apply filters or make adjustments to color and brightness.

How To Blur Background On iPhone Afterfocus App

3.7 Save Your Edited Image

When you’re happy with your background blur edit, save the image to your photo library. Tap the down arrow at the top of the screen. Click Yes on the message asking if you’d like to save.

How To Blur Background On iPhone Afterfocus App

The edited photo with blurred background will save into the Photos app on your iPhone.

Below is the final edited image created with the AfterFocus app. The background has a beautiful, soft blur, while the subject remains sharp. The original photo is also shown for comparison.

How To Blur Background On iPhone Afterfocus AppBackground blur created using AfterFocus App

How to blur background on iphone afterfocus app 13Original Image