Portrait mode feature is new to the iPhone 7 Plus phones and has been a significant reason individuals choose to upgrade their phone.
The iPhone 7 Plus has two cameras: wide angle f 1.8 aperture and a telephoto f 2.8 aperture. The iPhone 7 plus shoots at 12MP and has 2x optical zoom, 10x digital zoom. The second camera (telephoto) which shoots at f 2.8 is what portrait mode uses. For all the specs on the phone check here. Unfortunately, the second camera is only on the 7 plus and not on other models.
I have an iPhone 7 Plus and have found this phone to be comparable to a DSLR if you are able to have one with enough storage (32GB), the right apps, and a few pieces of tech. I will be coving these in future posts, so stay tuned.
What does Portrait Mode Do?
Portrait mode automatically detects a subject that is well lit and within 8 feet of the camera. Then it creates bokeh. Bokeh is photography term referring to the blur that is typically created by lens and depth of field in digital photography. Bokeh can be desirable for both the aesthetic and removing distracting backgrounds; often a needed for a good portrait. See “How to Take a Better Portrait with your Phone” for more on this.
- Creates a soft and convincing effect. The actual blur itself is exactly what you would create in a camera. It has the same consistency and does a great job, even with the sun.
- Allows for the illusion of DEPTH. This is the most challenging with phone photography. Often, creating depth has to be done with subjects and leading lines. Photos can look flat and lack dimension due to limited lens capabilities. However, with the Portrait mode you can actually have some power over this and create a dimension, even if it is “faked”.
- Auto zoom. This may sound like an odd pro. The second camera automatically has a shorter focal length, meaning it “zooms in”. So even if you are not able to have a static subject and get the bokeh blur, you have a different focal length which means more creative options.
- Two copies. The portrait mode will snap two photos all on its own. Leaving you with one that has the blur and one without in your camera roll. This has been a fantastic feature, and means that I never miss the shot.
- Requires a TON of light in order to get a good exposure. Do not plan on taking photos in Portrait mode in low light or night time unless you plan to use external light or god forbid the flash. (Later you will see a “Why Flash is Trash” post)
- Needs a subject that is static. Your subject cannot be moving or doing much of anything in order it to create a clear and concise “border” for the bokeh to appear.
- Loss of detail or overall grainy feel. Due to the cons above you can have loss of detail where small portions of the subject fall into the blur or a grain over the image due to low light. You will notice this in a few of the images I have attached- namely the whiskey glasses as they blur into the table and my sleeping pup with the grainy texture.
Will it be useful?
This is a very personal question. Do you enjoy taking portraits? Do you want the flexibility of faking bokeh? Then go for it. Regardless, the iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 plus have upgraded their cameras and Apple is now making the camera technology a priority in the design of their phones.
I have found it useful and fun to get creative with what I normally shoot, which ironically as shown in the pictures are very few portraits of people and more about my pets and nature.