Portrait Lighting: Use Portrait Mode’s Latest Feature To Get Studio Lighting Effects

The iPhone 8 Plus and iPhone X have an exciting new “Portrait Lighting” feature. It was created to provide professional lighting options that make your Portrait mode shots look even better. Read on to discover how to create great portraits with Portrait mode and Portrait Lighting.

Portrait lighting

How To Use Portrait Mode

The new Portrait Lighting feature requires you to use Portrait mode in the iPhone camera app. So, before we launch into Portrait Lighting, we’ll look at Portrait mode. If you’re already familiar with Portrait mode, you can skip this section. Otherwise, read on to learn about Portrait mode.

Keep Your Distance

Portrait mode needs you not to be too close your subject. When you fire up your camera and swipe to Portrait mode, an on-screen prompt tells you whether you’re at an acceptable distance or not. If you’re too close, too far away, or your surroundings are too dark, the camera lets you know.

Portrait lighting

The available Portrait Lighting options will automatically appear for you to scroll through. If you’re the proper distance from your subject, you’ll see that particular box turn yellow and the background should become blurry. If the box is not yellow, you need to move a bit closer or farther away until it is.

Keep it Simple

For the best portrait results, focus on a subject that is simple. If your subject has strands of hair sticking out in all directions or a hat with a feather in it, you may notice that some parts of that hair or feather are blurred. The same is even more likely if you’re using Portrait mode to take a picture of something other than a person’s face.

Portrait lighting

Whatever your subject is, pay particular attention to the edges of what you want to be in focus. If you don’t like what you see, move around a bit (closer or farther away) until you get the look you want. If your subject is too complicated, you might not be able to get everything in focus. Your results will vary, but generally speaking — the more complex your subject, the more difficult Portrait mode will be, so remember to keep it simple.

Portrait Mode Isn’t Only for People Portraits

Sure, Portrait mode is used primarily for portraits of people, of course. But you can also use this mode to take pictures of anything, like your pet or even inanimate objects. In fact, if you want to practice your Portrait mode skills prior to working with friends or family, this is a pretty practical idea.

Portrait lighting

Find something around the house, like a light bulb, vase, glass, or cup and snap some pictures of it. If you want to take it a step further, go into your favorite store and take pictures of some of their products. This will give you a little experience with Portrait mode so you have a feel for what works and what doesn’t work.

Stay Still

Try to remain as still as possible when you’re taking a portrait. This goes for you and your subject. The less motion you have on either side of the camera, the better your results will be. You don’t have to use a tripod, just try to eliminate a lot of excess movement.

Portrait lighting

If you have an iPhone X, you have OIS (Optical Image Stabilization) working in your favor, but you’ll still get better results when there’s not a lot of motion.

Portrait Lighting

In order to realize the full potential of Portrait mode, you need plenty of light. That’s why Apple created Portrait Lighting. This allows you to select a lighting effect in your photo, especially when there isn’t enough natural light in your environment. Portrait Lighting produces the effects of real studio lighting based on fundamental photographic principles using depth‑sensing cameras and facial mapping.

When you select Portrait mode, the default option is Natural Light. Always remember, where there is good light, there are good pictures. So look for a well-lit area to get the best results. When you don’t have good natural light, Portrait Lighting allows you to do something about it.

Please note that at this time Apple says the Portrait Lighting feature is in “beta mode”. This means they’ve not finished developing – so you should expect it to have some quirks and bugs at this time. Indeed, some of the lighting effects are quite crude, as you’ll see. Hopefully Apple will keep improving this feature with each new iOS update.

Let’s take a look at each of the five available options.

Natural Light

As we just discussed, this is the best-case scenario for your perfect portrait. Find a well-lit area and you’re well on your way to getting great results. Try to stay away from harsh light, however, or parts of your image might get overexposed.

Portrait lighting

Studio Light

When you find that you need just a bit more light on your subject’s face, Studio Light provides a subtle solution with some added brightness. This is a great alternative to using the built-in flash to provide more light. iPhone 8 Plus and X utilize Slow Sync Flash, which is a drastic improvement over previous flash efforts, but it should serve as a last resort. Slow Sync Flash applies a small amount of flash to freeze the subject whilst leaving the shutter open long enough to capture some of the natural ambient light for more attractive backgrounds.

Portrait lighting

Contour Light

With Contour Light, you can add some dramatic shadows with highlights and lowlights. It’s most effective if you start with a lot of natural light, otherwise your image will appear a bit dark. But it’s a pretty cool effect nonetheless.

Portrait lighting

Stage Light & Stage Light Mono

Stage Light highlights your subject’s face against a deep-black background. It’s a very heavy-handed effect, however. Any success you find with this particular option will depend upon how light or dark your background is and how much contrast there is with your subject. The best results occur when you have a dark background to begin with, but your results will vary.

Portrait lighting

Sometimes, the effect will be so bizarre, you might laugh at the end result and wonder why Apple included it in the first place. Give it a try, however, and see if you get the results you’re looking for.

Portrait lighting

Stage Light Mono is the exact same process only in black and white.

Editing Your Portraits

As long as you shoot your original image in Portrait mode, you can apply any of the Portrait Lighting effects afterward in the Photos app. This is a nice option to have in case you aren’t happy with the lighting in your original image. You can try all the options — Natural Light, Studio Light, Contour Light, Stage Light, and Stage Light Mono — and see which works best.

Portrait lighting

Remember, you aren’t limited to the Portrait mode adjustments. Apple’s built-in editing app — or any editing app for that matter — has plenty of other options to improve the lighting on your subject.

Portrait Mode Selfies

If you have an iPhone X, you can take selfies in Portrait mode using the front-facing “TrueDepth” camera. When you use the front-facing camera, you’ll get something close to the same effect you get with the dual cameras on the flip side. Keep in mind that the front-facing camera only has seven megapixels instead of twelve.

The front-facing camera does a pretty decent job of providing what Apple describes as  “sharp foregrounds and artfully blurred backgrounds.”

Portrait Lighting: Conclusion

If you want to take great portraits with your iPhone 8 Plus or iPhone X, Portrait mode together with Portrait Lighting will help you get there. They’re not a perfect match in every situation, but by following a few tips, you can take some truly outstanding pictures.

Portrait lighting

Remember to watch the space between you and your subject. When you’re at an acceptable distance, a yellow on-screen prompt will let you know. Keep your subject as simple as possible. Try to avoid a lot of movement on either side of the camera when you’re taking pictures.

Ideally, you’ll want to find a well-lit area with plenty of natural light. When that isn’t an option, use Studio Light to strategically throw some brightness on your subject’s face. You can also experiment with Contour Light and two different versions of Stage Light.

When you want to take a picture of yourself, you no longer have to settle for less-than-ideal results. Portrait mode selfies are a thing now, so you can really step up your selfie game.

Whether you choose an iPhone 8 Plus or iPhone X, you have the technology to take a great portrait in almost any situation.