Being able to blur the backgrounds of iPhone photos (and unblur them) is a godsend for anyone interested in portrait photography. One of the most important aspects of portraiture is obtaining a separation between the subject of your photo and their background. Blurring the background does this, isolating the subject against a distraction-free backdrop, allowing the viewer to focus solely on the person in the portrait.
That said, blur isn't the only technique used in portraiture, and you might not necessarily want it in your photos. Sometimes, for example, a photographer wants to encapsulate a subject within their surroundings, if the background is of contextual importance to the photo or to who the subject is as a person. Either way, blur or no blur, what's important when shooting portraits is having the ability to control what's going on in the background.
On a full-sized DSLR or Mirrorless camera, you'd do this by adjusting the aperture of the lens, which is measured in 'f-stops'. The wider the lens aperture (opening), the lower the 'f-stop' value and shallower the depth of field, resulting in greater background blur, and vice versa. On the best iPhones, there's a super easy but not too obvious trick to let you do the same.
In Portrait mode, there exists a depth control slider to let you tailor the background blur of your images. It's not actually controlling the physical aperture of the iPhone's lens like an aperture control ring would do on a camera lens, and is instead using software to add or remove blur to give the effect of a changing depth of field. That said, it's a nice way to give you as a photographer control over your images and make them feel more professional.
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How to blur the backgrounds of iPhone photos
- Open the Camera app
- Head to Portrait mode
- Tap the f button
- Move the depth control slider
- Take your photo
- Adjust using the Edit feature
Read on to see detailed instructions for each step.
1. Open the Camera app and choose Portrait from the camera mode bar. Position your subject (if they'll stay still).
2. Tap the f button, top right.
3. Use the depth control slider at the bottom and adjust the background blur. By default, it's set to a depth equivalent to f2.8, a commonly used f-stop in portraiture to achieve a shallow depth of field.
4. Slide the bar to the right to lower the equivalent f-stop and set a shallower depth to blur out more of the surroundings. Be wary of going too low, though — as this is in effect just a software tweak, going too far can result in too much blur and a strange looking image.
5. Slide the bar to the left to raise the equivalent f-stop for greater depth of field and less blur.
6. Slide the bar up to a high f-stop value for minimal blur. Once you're happy with how much blur you've got, press the shutter button to take the picture.
7. If you decide you aren't happy with the blur and want more or less, open the Photos app and select the image, then tap Edit.
8. Ensure you're on the first effects tab down at the bottom. Then, in the top left, tap the f button, which will be displaying the current equivalent f-stop value.
9. Slide the Depth Control bar left or right to adjust the blur in your image. When you're happy, tap Done.
And there you have it. You can now take portraits of people and dogs and control the background blur like a pro.
If you're interested in reading about more iPhone tips and tricks, make sure you read our guide on how to set custom battery alerts on iPhone, how to share a Wi-Fi password from iPhone to Android and how to use the iPhone Guided Access mode before lending anyone your phone.