Join Seán Duggan for an in-depth discussion in this video Portrait and Portrait Lighting mode, part of iPhone and iPad Photography for iOS 11.
- [Instructor] If you have an iPhone with a dual camera system, you can take advantage of a camera mode called portrait to artificially create a shallow depth of field effect. And on the new iPhone 8 Plus and iPhone 10, there's a portrait lighting effect that works in portrait mode, both while you're shooting, and as an option later when you're editing your portrait shots. We'll take a look at that feature a little bit later in this movie. In portrait mode, the camera is shooting the image with a 56 millimeter lens, but it's using the wide angle 28 millimeter lens to differentiate between the subject and the background, and create a depth map to figure out how to blur the background, applying computational blurring in real time to the subject.
So, here in the camera app, I'm going to choose the portrait mode, and right away, it identifies my primary subject, and it's already applying that depth effect. Now, a couple things to keep in mind is that you do need to be within about eight feet of your primary subject, and if you're too far away or too close, you'll see a little message on the screen about that. So that's looking pretty good. I'm just going to maybe tap here and adjust my exposure a bit. So, you would adjust the exposure, lighten the shot, darken the shot, just as you would with any other picture.
All right, so that looks pretty good. I'll just go ahead and take the shot. Now, if I tap on the background, it's going to give me that message again about being within eight feet of the subject. So, because I've tapped on the background, it's seeing that, and of course, it's sensing that that's my primary subject and it's too far away for what it's programmed to do. So, one thing you can't do with this mode is create shots where you have items in the foreground that are out of focus, but items in the background that are in focus.
It really is designed for that sort of portrait scenario, or rather, the scenario where your main subject is relatively close to you in the foreground, and the background is blurred. On the iPhone 8 Plus and iPhone X, you can use portrait lighting in the portrait mode. Near the bottom of the image, there's a new cube symbol where you can select a portrait lighting effect. Portrait lighting takes advantage of the depth mapping capabilities offered by the dual camera system to create some interesting lighting effects. So, the choices are natural light, which is just no lighting effect at all, studio light, contour light, stage light, and here you're going to see a little circle around the subject, so you may need to position the camera to get that circle kind of centered right where you need it, 'cause it's going to blacken the background.
And then stage light mono. So, you don't see the effect live with stage light or stage light mono, you just get that preview of what it's focusing on. The best part about portrait lighting is that you don't have to use it when you're taking the photo, but you can apply it to shots taken in portrait mode in the editing part of the Photos app. So, with portrait mode, you can turn the effect on and off in the editing screen, and portrait lighting has the same flexibility, allowing you to turn it off or switch it to a different lighting effect.
So, the stage lighting effect on this subject didn't really work too well. It's a little bit too extreme with the fall-off, not too convincing. Same thing with the black and white. I've seen it work really well on some subjects, but keep in mind that this effect is still technically a public beta, and it's not going to work flawlessly all the time. But overall, it's very interesting, and it's a cool use of the dual camera depth mapping feature in the iPhone 8 Plus and iPhone X. For live, on the fly computational background blurring, the portrait mode really does a pretty good job at creating the depth effect.
Now, some subjects definitely are more challenging than others, and there's always going to be situations where it's going to have problems. So, to really get a sense of its limitations, I would recommend that you spend some time trying to find situations where you can cause it to fail, because if you know when a certain feature is going to fail, that is really going to inform how you use it, and you're going to be better prepared to know what situations might be problematic. So, let's go take a look at a few of these. And we'll just put it here in the full screen mode.
So, in this scene, it did pretty good. Really natural fall-off in the depth of field between the record boxes and the background. And this one as well, it did a good job. I always like to take shots to test this out where you see a gradual fall-off in the depth of field, like looking down a table like we have here. So this has done a good job. And this is pretty good as well, very natural blurring. Although, I am noticing that, along the edges of the steering wheel, maybe it's not so perfect.
So, those are the sorts of situations where you might notice problems. And speaking of problems, here's a classic one. Overall, it looks good, but look what's happening on the spokes of the back wheel of the bike. So, it's having a hard time differentiating between those spokes. And that really is a high bar. Those are the things that are going to confuse it: really fine, wispy details. Hair, bicycle spokes, delicate tree leaves, tree branches, things like that, especially if there's a lot of bright areas behind it and a lot of bright backlight and contrast.
Here's more of a gradual fall-off looking down the side of this wall here, and it's done a pretty good job with this, given the fact that it's just sort of on-the-fly and being done live. This one also looks pretty good, although, if we apply our discriminating standards to it, I can see that this piece of grass in the foreground is blurred, but some of the leaves in the background are blurred. So, any time you have kind of this more delicate matrix of patterns, and subject matter like grasses, leaves, that are in front of each other, behind each other, that's going to be the more challenging subjects where there's going to be problems.
Again here, not too bad, but there is some area there in the center of that picture where the background doesn't seem as blurred as the rest of the background surrounding it. Overall, this is not bad. Definitely an improvement over what this feature looked like when it first showed up with the release of iOS 10. And then here's a classic one that, no surprise that it's had problems here. Very delicate, wispy leaves, and you can see how it's kind of having trouble differentiating between the background, where the background appears behind those leaves there.
And the same thing over here. So just realize that, if you know that those are the situations where it's going to have problems, then you're probably not going to be shooting those situations. So, as you can see from the earlier examples, and then this shot here, the portrait mode is not just for portraits. You can use it for still lives, landscape or architectural details. It can work well with so many subjects. And then here's another one where it did a really good job when the wave was coming in.
Not perfect, a little bit of a corner of that door is not totally perfect. But overall not bad. Now, there's one cool feature about this that can help you salvage shots where part of the edges maybe are not perfect, and that is the fact that you can always turn this portrait mode off at any time. So, I'm going to tap on the edit button, and notice the portrait banner up at the top. If I just tap on that, it'll go to the original picture, where no blurring was applied.
So, that looks pretty good. You can actually turn that on and off and see how well it's working. Now, this feature is new to iOS 11. In iOS 10, there was a camera setting that saved a regular version, along with the depth effect version. I'm going to tap done here, and let me to go this other one and tap edit, and see what that one looks like with the blur turned off. Overall pretty good.
I can see a little bit of an issue with the top of this door here on the left side of the door, but overall pretty good. So, it's nice to have the flexibility to choose between the two versions, and compare so that you can see how successful the blurring is, or whether there are problems that would lead you to choose the regular shot. Plus, if you're familiar with compositing and other software programs, you can always save out two versions, the regular one and the one that had been blurred with the depth effect, and you can basically create a composite where you brought in the details that were lost in the depth effect version.
The portrait mode, and now in the iPhone 8 Plus and iPhone X, the portrait lighting effects, are a really interesting development in the evolution of the iPhone and iOS. In departing from traditional camera design and using two separate cameras, as well as very sophisticated software, Apple is improving on their initial advances in bringing computational photography to our iPhones.
- Shooting panorama photos
- Creating slow-motion videos
- Taking time-lapse videos
- Organizing photos
- Image editing with the Photos app
- Previewing and trimming videos
- Sharing photos
- Transferring photos to and from your device