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How to Properly Use the iPhone Bokeh Effect

Reading Time: 5 minutes read

There are a number of filters and effects available for photographers who are using the camera on an iPhone to take pictures. 

Some of these produce very professional results despite the pictures being taken with an iPhone or other smartphones. With the advent of multiple cameras on modern iPhones, there are now more options available for photographers when it comes to creating complex effects.

One effect that is particularly striking that you can now create with an iPhone is the bokeh effect. While this once had to be created using photo-editing software if you wanted it in pictures taken with an iPhone, there are now options to create an iPhone bokeh effect without having to do it later on. 

What Is the Bokeh Effect?

If you’re not familiar with the term, the bokeh effect is when a person or other object in the foreground is in focus while the background is blurry. 

It’s not just a general blur, however; bokeh blur features unique soft light reflections that adds a playful flare to the quality of the picture. You’ve probably seen this effect before and at some point may even have used it yourself. If done correctly, the iPhone bokeh effect can create some stunning pictures.

Creating bokeh effects can be achieved in a few different ways depending on the tools that you’re working with. Photographers can make bokeh effects by the use of focus in-camera or by using an editing tool like Photoshop to blur the background. With advanced iPhone camera technology and software, these effects are now a lot easier to pull off on a mobile device.

iPhone photography really shines when using the bokeh effect properly.

Creating an iPhone Bokeh Effect

The iPhone bokeh effect can be captured on newer models of iPhones thanks to Apple’s new feature of Portrait mode

This mode uses advanced technology to focus on the apparent subject of your focus. The camera instinctively zooms in and frames a portrait of what you are intending to capture. For most iPhone models, you can use Portrait mode with people, pets and even inanimate objects, though some models may be functionally limited to taking photos of just people.

Once your subject is set and engaged with Portrait mode, wait for a moment while the software identifies them. You’ll see an option appear as “Natural Light” or “Depth Effect” depending on the model of your phone; this is an indication that the setting is in effect. You can select different lighting profiles, and once you have one that you fancy, simply snap a photo.

The magic of capturing the bokeh effect on your iPhone will generate after you’ve taken the picture. Open the photo and locate the option for “Depth” in your editing options. This opens up a slider that will allow you to modify the bokeh effects, making it as subtle or as defined as you’d like right. 

Play around with bokeh effects until you create the exact look you love!

Adjusting Bokeh Effect Intensity

The slider presented by the “Depth” option is used to adjust the intensity of the bokeh effect. 

The default value should be f4.5, which is an indication of the aperture or f-stop of the bokeh blur. By moving the slider you can increase or decrease the f-value of your aperture, which in turn will decrease or increase the amount of blur that’s present in your photo.

As you take the f-value lower, you’ll see more blur appear in the background of your pic. Likewise, increasing the f value over f4.5 will reduce the amount of blur and make the effect more subtle. Most iPhone models allow for f-values between f1.4 and f16, though some models may feature different amounts of depth of field manipulation. Once you select the amount of bokeh that suits your needs, click the “Done” to save the photo to reflect the adjusted bokeh blur.

The Perks of Portrait Mode

One of the most impressive aspects of Portrait mode is the ability to create an iPhone bokeh effect and adjust it even after the picture is taken, but that doesn’t mean that it’s the only use for Portrait mode. There are actually several perks to Portrait mode that can make it very appealing to photographers.

Portrait mode allows you to choose from multiple lighting profiles when taking pictures. This lets you choose the lighting profile that works best for the subject and setting. In addition to the “Natural Light” option that serves as a default for Portrait mode, you can choose other options such as “Studio Light,” “Contour Light,” “Stage Light” and “Stage Light Mono;” the software will adjust how it processes your image based on your selection to try and get the best overall picture out of the conditions you’re taking pictures under.

Perhaps even more impressive is the fact that you can change lighting profiles even after a photo has been taken. When editing a photo, you have the option of changing lighting effects by swiping left or right through the available lighting profiles. Once you find the one that you want, you simply have to tap “Done” to save the lighting profile to your image.

On newer models of iPhone, there is even more that can be done with Portrait mode. Once the camera is active and Portrait mode is engaged, you have the option of tapping a button to switch to the front-facing camera. This provides you with all of the options that are available normally for Portrait mode, including the ability to adjust bokeh effects and select different lighting profiles for pictures that are taken in selfie mode.

Portrait mode offers some really nice options and flexibility with lighting.

Removing Portrait Mode Effects

While Portrait mode offers a lot of useful features, there are times when you might change your mind and just want to go back to the original picture without any applied edits. 

Fortunately, you can revert and remove effects without any hassle by selecting “Portrait” at the top of the screen of your photo. This will remove any Portrait mode effects so you can work with the original picture.

Should you decide at a later time that you preferred the effects after all, simply return to the picture and tap “Portrait” to restore all your Portrait mode edits. 

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