How To Use iPhone 7 Plus Portrait Mode To Create Beautiful Background Blur

The iPhone 7 Plus Portrait mode is the perfect tool for creating amazing looking portrait photos (and more!) with your iPhone. Portrait mode allows you to easily create a shallow depth of field in your photos. This results in a beautifully blurry background that can usually only be achieved with a DSLR camera. In this tutorial you’ll discover how to use the iPhone 7 Plus Portrait mode to create professional looking iPhone photos with wonderful background blur.

iPhone 7 Plus Portrait Mode Blurred Background

1. What Is Portrait Mode?

Portrait mode is a unique shooting mode available in the native camera app of the iPhone 7 Plus. It uses a special Depth Effect tool to create a shallow depth of field in your photos.

iPhone 7 Plus Portrait Mode Depth Effect

Shallow depth of field simply means that only a small part of the image is in focus while the rest is blurred. In most cases you would want your main subject to appear in sharp focus while the background appears blurred.

This soft blurry background is often called “bokeh” which comes from Japanese.

2. Why Use A Shallow Depth Of Field?

A shallow depth of field is often used by portrait photographers. Why? Because it places the emphasis on the person (or animal) and creates a soft, dreamy backdrop behind them.

iPhone 7 Plus Portrait Mode Blurred Background

Blurring the background is also really useful when shooting in locations with a busy, messy or distracting backdrop. The blurring makes the background secondary, bringing the viewer’s attention back to the main subject in the foreground.

iPhone 7 Plus Portrait Mode Blurred Background

Shallow depth of field isn’t something you’d use for every kind of photo. You typically wouldn’t want a blurry background in a landscape or architectural photo as you’d want to see everything clearly from foreground to background.

iPhone 7 Plus Portrait Mode Large Depth Of Field

However, in portrait photography, a shallow depth of field will make a huge difference to the impact of your image. By blurring the background you can really make your subject stand out.

iPhone 7 Plus Portrait Mode Blurred Background

3. Creating Background Blur On An iPhone

In the past, the iPhone camera hasn’t allowed you to have any control over the depth of field in your photos. You’ve mostly just had the option to have everything in focus – unless your main subject was very close to the lens, in which case the background would appear blurred.

But with Portrait mode on the iPhone 7 Plus, you can now choose what’s in focus and what isn’t. This gives you unprecedented control over your iPhone camera, allowing you to mimic the look of DSLR cameras that can capture a shallow depth of field.

iPhone 7 Plus Portrait Mode Blurred Background

While Portrait mode is perfect for shooting photos of people and animals, it can actually be used to blur the background behind any kind of subject.

Many things look better when there’s a soft, dreamy background behind them – especially if that background would distract the viewer from the main subject.

iPhone 7 Plus Portrait Mode Blurred Background

4. How To Use iPhone 7 Plus Portrait Mode

Creating a shallow depth of field with Portrait mode on the iPhone 7 Plus is very easy. Start by opening the native camera app, then swipe through the shooting modes (Video, Photo, etc.) until Portrait is highlighted in yellow:

iPhone 7 Plus Portrait Mode Depth Effect

The first thing you’ll notice when you switch to Portrait mode is that everything gets bigger. That’s because the camera automatically switches over to the iPhone’s 2x telephoto lens. The telephoto lens typically creates more flattering portrait photos than the wide angle lens which can distort facial features.

You’ll also notice the words Depth Effect appear at the bottom of the screen. And your phone will help you by giving on-screen instructions if you don’t have things framed up optimally for a nice portrait shot. For example, you might see Move farther away or More light required:

iPhone 7 Plus Portrait Mode Depth Effect

Once you’re the right distance from your subject, the words Depth Effect will be highlighted in yellow. You’ll also see four yellow crop marks, roughly indicating the face of your subject:

iPhone 7 Plus Portrait Mode Depth Effect

You’re now ready to shoot, so tap the shutter button to take your photo. After taking the picture, you’ll notice that two versions of the image appear in the Photos app. One image will have the Depth Effect (blurred background) and the other won’t:

iPhone 7 Plus Portrait Mode Blurred Background

iPhone 7 Plus Portrait Mode Blurred Background

Comparing these two versions of the image really shows how much nicer a portrait photo looks when it has a shallow depth of field.

If for some reason you’re not sure which of the two photos had the Depth Effect, it will be clearly labeled in your photo library as shown below:

iPhone 7 Plus Portrait Mode Depth Effect

5. Tips For Creating Great Background Blur

When shooting with the iPhone 7 Plus Portrait mode, it’s important to consider your background as well as your subject. The type of background you shoot against, and how far it is from your subject, will both have a big impact on the final image.

The Depth Effect in Portrait mode works best when your subject is far away from the background. The further away the subject is from the background, the more pleasant blur you’ll get. Note the difference in the amount of background blur between these two photos:

iPhone 7 Plus Portrait Mode Blurred Background

So if your background doesn’t look blurry enough when shooting in Portrait mode, move your subject further away from the background.

It’s also important to actually have something in the background, so that there’s some detail for the camera to blur. In the example below my subject was stood in front of a plain white wall:

iPhone 7 Plus Portrait Mode Depth Effect

Even though I used the Depth Effect in Portrait mode, the background doesn’t look blurred because there’s no detail there to blur.

In the next set of photos, there’s a small amount of detail on the wall behind my subject:

iPhone 7 Plus Portrait Mode Blurred Background

iPhone 7 Plus Portrait Mode Blurred Background

You can definitely see the difference, and the bottom image with the Depth Effect is nicer. But the photo could be a lot more dynamic if there were some more details on that wall to show the blur effect.

In the shot below, there’s a lot of detail and different colors in the background. This makes the blurring much more obvious:

iPhone 7 Plus Portrait Mode Blurred Background

Remember, if you want to achieve beautiful background blur, you need to have something in the background, and ideally it should be far away from your foreground subject.

iPhone 7 Plus Portrait Mode: Conclusion

The iPhone has always been an amazing tool for many types of photography – such as landscape, architecture and street photography. But now the iPhone 7 Plus offers the ability to shoot amazing, high-quality portrait photos.

iPhone 7 Plus Portrait Mode Blurred Background

The telephoto lens on the iPhone 7 Plus is more flattering for shooting people than the standard wide angle lens.

And the magical Depth Effect tool in the iPhone 7 Plus Portrait mode creates beautiful background blur – simulating the shallow depth of field that could previously only be achieved with a DSLR camera.

Taking photos with the iPhone 7 Plus Portrait mode is a joy. And your subjects are sure to be excited when you show them how good they look in your photos.

iPhone 7 Plus Portrait Mode Blurred Background

And don’t forget, while Portrait mode is obviously the perfect shooting mode for taking photos of people and animals, you can use it on any subject where you want to create a lovely background blur.

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As it turns out, the most important iPhone camera features are completely hidden from regular iPhone users. That's why we created this free video revealing 7 hidden iPhone camera features that every photographer should use. Click here to watch this video.

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  • Lillie Holmes Chafin

    Love my iPhone 7 + these Portrait mode tips are just what I needed

    • Glad to hear you found these tips helpful Lillie 🙂

  • David Aldrich

    That’s awesome. wish I had an iPhone 7.

  • Nancy Kenney

    This was really helpful. Thanks Emil.

  • Fred Russell

    I love my iPhone 7 plus

  • Connie Gerbig

    Your classes are why I bought the 7 plus and I’m so glad I did. I get compliments on all my portrait photos. Thank you

  • Nina Balknäs

    My portrait photos are very grainy. Am I doing something wrong (what?) or is the camera broken?

    • Grainy photos usually mean there isn’t enough light in the scene. The best way to achieve sharp, grain-free photos is to ensure you have plenty of natural daylight illuminating your subject.

  • Jo Cohn Whitesell

    I am having the most fun of all with my IPhone 7 Plus because of Portrait Mode. However, I find I have a problem with it in low light situations. Is there a way to turn on the flash?

  • Sharon Cumming

    Hi there

    Is it possible to get the blurred background effect with the entire person in shot?

  • I am learning here, what is the portrait mode and it is using another how to create background blur on an iPhone

  • Hu hu I phone photography.. The iPhone 7 Plus Portrait mode is is really prefect. Thanks for sharing the Technic,

  • That’s a good article for iPhone 7 users and also for me.
    Thank you sir for these tips.