Portrait mode was first introduced in 2016 as one of the unique features of the iPhone 7 Plus. This feature makes photos look professionally done by blurring distracting elements in a photo. The portrait mode is a great feature to take advantage of when you want Instagram-worthy pictures of your kids and I’ll tell you why! In this guide, let’s get to know more about portrait mode, how to use it properly, and the 5 reasons to shoot your kids in portrait mode:   

What is Portrait Mode?

Before smartphones, portrait mode was one of the scene modes that are typically found on a traditional digital camera. Since the introduction of the iPhone 7 Plus, this feature has become a mainstay in both iPhone and Android cameras.

Portrait mode is a smartphone camera feature that captures a sharp image of the subject over a blurred background and foreground – an effect called “bokeh”. This mode utilizes the smartphone’s two lenses and sets the camera to have a narrow depth of field (large aperture) to 1) mimic a faux DSLR look to the images and 2) draw the eye to the subject by cutting the distractions in the image.

Over time, the iPhone’s portrait mode came with cool portrait lighting, a feature that uses the depth map to present different lighting options in real-time (or later in post-processing).

How to Use the Portrait Mode on Your Smartphone

Portrait mode is available on iPhone 7 Plus, iPhone 8 Plus, iPhone X, iPhone XS, iPhone XS Max, iPhone XR, iPhone 11 and iPhone 11 Pro. If you are using any of these handset models, here’s a walkthrough:

Step 1: Launch the camera app and you’ll see different modes above the shutter. Swipe and choose portrait mode then tap to enable the feature.

Step 2: When the portrait mode is ready, the lighting will turn yellow. Follow the instructions that will flash on your screen, aim at your chosen subject (the camera’s face and body detection sensors will identify your subject automatically) and you’re ready to shoot!

TIP: For iPhone 8 Plus users or later models, tap the cube icon above the shutter button for cool lighting effects!


5 Reasons to Shoot Your Kids in Portrait Mode

Focus the Attention to the Subject

The portrait mode is ideal for shooting a single subject as the main subject; it’s a great mode to use when you’re taking a portrait of your little one. You’ll get the most out of this feature by stepping in closer to your subject/s to retain the sharpness of the image and cut down the noise. You can zoom in and out but this could cause graininess or a less sharp image.

Also, never forget to tap at the subject on your camera screen to sharpen the image. If your subject is blurred, it defeats the purpose of using the portrait mode.

Take Advantage of Great Lighting

The portrait mode is perfect for taking advantage of well-lit situations, like the outdoors! The thing with the smartphone cameras is that the tiny depth sensors become unreliable in low light. This leads to edge detection errors, noise, graininess, and other detail issues. These problems become even more prevalent when enabling the portrait mode.

Shooting in well-lit environments enhances the effects of the portrait mode. The bright lighting makes the subject sharper, brighter, and crisper. There may be some shadows but the dark contours will only add a dramatic flair to the final image.

To Play with Contrasts and Textures

Just because the background is blurred does not mean you can’t play with contrasting colors and textures. Portrait mode gives you a unique opportunity to play with textures and color contrasts for a polished final image.

If you want to play with the color contrast, use a background that’s in a contrasting shade with the main subject. For example, if your little one is wearing light-colored clothing; put him or her against a dark background or vice versa. This will make the main subject pop even more.

As for textures, there are plenty of ways to experiment with these. If your little one has soft curls, for example, opt for a plain background so his hair won’t be blurred by the portrait mode. If your subject is wearing plain or monochromatic clothing, use a textured background. This will give your camera sensors an easier time to distinguish between the main subject and the background.  

TIP: You can adjust the amount of blur manually. On the camera roll, tap the edit and use Depth slider to adjust the blur effect. On Samsung S10, you can adjust the blur effect while shooting or after by selecting Change Background Blur while editing the photo in the photo gallery.

Take Better Close Up Pictures

I love the versatility of the portrait mode because with it, I can take beautiful close up images! Because the camera sensors could separate the background from the main subject, the main subject looks extra crisp and clear with the blur effect.

As far as the distance between the camera and the subject goes, the sweet spot is between 4 to 6 feet. The distance between you and the subject is important because the camera sensors could gauge the depth of the image much easier. Outside the sweet spot, the camera sensors won’t work properly.

Don’t forget to set the focal point manually.


Learn Photography Basics

Using the portrait mode is a great way to learn basic photography techniques for shooting portraits. Playing with the manual settings, observing how the camera adjusts to different settings or lighting conditions, etc., gives you an idea of how to take better pictures. Experimenting with the settings in the semi-automatic modes or manual modes gives you more control over the camera and plenty of opportunities to create unique and professional-looking portraits.

A well-composed image should have minimal distractions from the background. With the portrait mode, the background stays out of focus so it does not compete with your main subject. The end result is a beautiful image that’s worth putting on display!

And there you have it, some of the reasons why I think you should shoot your kids in portrait mode! Play with this cool feature today, I’d love to see all the amazing pictures that you’ll come up with using it. For more photography tips for moms and dads, sign up for my mailing list.

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