Which iPhones Have Portrait Mode?

IPhone X camerasKevin Parrish

Smartphones may never replace a good DSLR or analog camera, but they are always a portable and practical substitute. They are even decent solutions for taking close-up photos and portraits. This guide explains which iPhones have portrait mode.

What is portrait mode

It is a mode used in photography to capture images of a single subject. Traditionally, this topic – whether it’s a human being, a vase of flowers, a pet, etc. – stays sharp while everything else in the foreground and in the background is not sharp.

Chewbacca FurbyKevin Parrish

On a digital or analog SLR camera, you can manually focus the lens on a subject while capturing the surrounding blurry elements. IPhones did not have this capability outside of using third-party external lenses until 2016, when Apple introduced the iPhone 7 Plus.

After that, Apple added Portrait Lighting to the iPhone 8 Plus a year later. This feature uses artificial intelligence to emulate studio lighting for a more professional look.

How does portrait mode work?

There are now two versions of portrait mode on some iPhone models: back and front.

Portrait mode for the rear camera requires two specific lenses: telephoto and wide angle. The telephoto lens captures the scene while the wide-angle lens scans the scene to create a nine-layer depth map. The image signal processor of the phone uses these layers to determine what is sharp and what should be blurred using a bokeh effect. The layers closer to the camera are obviously sharper than those far away.

Portrait mode for selfies uses Apple’s TrueDepth camera design. In this case, the infrared camera component captures and analyzes more than 30,000 points from the phone’s spotlight to create a depth map. The phone’s image signal processor combines this information with the scene captured by the front camera to determine what needs to stay sharp and what needs the bokeh effect.

Below is a diagram of the layout of the iPhone X, as it was revealed during Apple’s 2017 special event.

iPhone X TrueDepthApple

Where is portrait mode?

Open the Stock Camera app to find this option parked next to “Photo” in the list of sliding options. For people, the application automatically displays a yellow box around the faces. For other subjects, tap the object on your screen to set the focal point. The Camera app then recognizes your focal request by displaying a yellow frame around your subject.

On iPhones that support portrait lighting, you will see a circular slider with natural light, studio light, outline light, stage light, and mono stage light. Press the big white virtual shutter button to take the photo.

IPhone portrait lighting

Which iPhones Support Portrait Mode (Back)

Again, these phones must have two or more lenses to support portrait mode. Here is the list:

iPhone 11 Pro Max (2019)
iPhone 11 Pro (2019)
iPhone 11 (2019)
iPhone XR (2018)
iPhone XS Max (2018)
iPhone XS (2018)
iPhone X (2017)
iPhone 8 Plus (2017)
iPhone 7 Plus (2016)
(And future iPhones)

Note that the iPhone XR has only one lens despite the hardware requirements of two. The portrait mode of this phone only captures a quarter of the depth generally available on other dual lens phones. Due to this limitation, the Apple Camera app for this specific model only supports humans in portrait mode.

Which iPhones support portrait mode (front)

These phones must be equipped with the Apple TrueDepth camera. Here is the list:

iPhone 11 Pro Max (2019)
iPhone 11 Pro (2019)
iPhone 11 (2019)
iPhone XR (2018)
iPhone XS Max (2018)
iPhone XS (2018)
iPhone X (2017)
(And future iPhones)

Does your iPhone support portrait mode?

The easiest way to check if you have an iPhone that supports portrait mode is to look at the camera lens group on the back. If you only see one lens, it does not support portrait mode. As noted earlier, the iPhone XR is the only exception.

For portrait mode in selfies, the best way to confirm that your iPhone supports this feature is to look at the screen. If there is no physical home button and the screen stretches from edge to edge, then you have a TrueDepth component.

Another way to check is to check iPhone model number. Here is the list:

iPhone 11 Pro Max – A2160 (Canada, United States) / A2217 (Mainland China, Hong Kong, Macau) / A2215 (Other)
iPhone 11 Pro – A2161 (Canada, United States) / A2220 (Mainland China, Hong Kong, Macau) / A2218 (Other)
iPhone 11 – A2111 (Canada, United States) / A2223 (Mainland China, Hong Kong, Macao) / A2221 (Other)
iPhone XS Max – A1921 / A2101 / A2102 (Japan) / A2103 / A2104 (Mainland China)
iPhone XS – A1920 / A2097 / A2098 (Japan) / A2099 / A2100 (Mainland China)
iPhone XR – A1984 / A2105 / A2106 (Japan) / A2107 / A2108 (Mainland China)
iPhone X – A1865 / A1901 / A1902 (Japan)
iPhone 8 Plus – A1864 / A1897 / A1898 (Japan)
iPhone 7 Plus – A1661 / A1784 / A1785 (Japan3)

To find the model number on your device, tap Settings> General> About. Then press the part number shown to the right of “Model Number” to see the actual model number.

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