Tips to use the iPhone 7 Plus portrait mode like a PRO!

Apple iPhone 7 Plus has a special feature which is making waves with almost any user who uses the phone - the portrait mode. Launched a a Beta with the iOS 10, portrait mode has two quintessential features which are Apple hallmark - easy to use, and superb results.

But is iPhone 7 Plus portrait mode actually worth the hype? If yes, are there any tips to up the game with using it optimally?

Well, as it actually turns out, the answer to both the questions is a big and resounding YES, and here's a guide on how you can also take stunning pictures with your iPhone! :)

Note: To be able to use the portrait mode, you need to activate the mode on your camera. You can do that easily but only if you have upgraded your iOS to 10.1 or later.

iphone 7 plus portrait mode photogrpay tips india
My friend Faizi posing :)

It was actually at the end of a photo-walk in Delhi with a bunch of people I had interacted a lot on Instagram, but get only that morning, that I realised how impact the iPhone 7 Plus portrait mode was. As I casually sipped tea, Anuj decided to check out the hype around the portrait-mode. Since there was no one around, he clicked me and within a second I could see how his face changed and turned into disbelief.

Just moments ago we had both clicked the same sadhu (he on his Canon 5D and I with the iPhone) on the banks of river Yamuna, and the pictures looked rather comparable. He needed a minute to calm down and then he pronounced that this little phone will bring about an end of DSLR photography. Of course, that was an exaggeration, but I understood from the intensity of his statement that, just like me and many others, he was equally shocked by the quality of pictures from a phone!

I had already started a photo-project of pictures with the iPhone, so this was even more encouraging. It's an ongoing project, but here are some of the first few portraits I took using my new device. And while I do that, let me also share some tips on how you can also use your iPhone 7 Plus and maximise it's output.

iphone 7 plus portrait mode photogrpay tips india
A man at Jama Masjid

Tips for using portrait mode in iPhone 7 Plus

So without much ado, here are my top tips:

     1. Look for good light

This is true for any picture, but even more true when you try to shoot an image using the portrait mode. If the light is too low, the phone will simply refuse to click the desired portrait, unless you move the subject to a better lit area or move around a bit till the phone gives you a go-ahead.

So good light is not just nice-to-have, but a necessity for your pictures. This does not mean you can't click portraits in low-light, but there is a threshold below which it won't work.

iphone 7 plus portrait mode photogrpay tips india

     2. Background is the king

When you are making a picture, unusually (of course, not always) your subject is in the foreground and most efforts are made to accentuate that. However, in case of the portrait-mode, the background is the king. if the background is cluttered, or there are many other faces, the camera algorithm, gets a bit confused on the right place to focus. This can result in blurring of the hair or the beard along with the background.

Again this can be avoided, you just need to move a little bit always, till you get the sweet spot where your subject is completely in focus. A case in point in the portrait below where there are two faces, but only one is in sharp focus. More the distance between the subject and the background, better is the effect!

iphone 7 plus portrait mode photogrpay tips india
Takshila posing with the Sea-link in the background

     3. Experiment when you shoot

The tool in your hand is as good as your ability to experiment, so go ahead and try out new things. For instance, don't just take static portraits, even if it's easier to get the blur effect there.

I am no expert at it, but was very happy when I could click this young man doing wazu at Jama Masjid in Old Delhi. Though the portrait mode is a bit slow compared to the regular camera mode, it's still way faster than the regular camera of any other mobile device. Take lots of pictures once your phone locks on to the face.

iphone 7 plus portrait mode photogrpay tips india
Time for wazu

The good thing about this mode is that it's really good at identifying faces, so you can even click selfies, like I did in Hong Kong :)

     4. Use editing tools effectively

Don't listen to people who tell you not to edit your pictures. A camera can never really capture the mood of the place exactly as you saw it, and it's only logical to then use editing tools to create that atmosphere. So use your favourite editing app and make your portraits even better.

iphone 7 plus portrait mode photogrpay tips india
Sadhu by the Yamuna

What do I use?
I can recommend three apps for iPhone that I love a lot - Snapseed, Afterlight and Lightroom. Out of these, Snapseed is free and probably easiest to use. Check out my tutorial on Snapseed editing to learn more.

     5. Shoot a lot

This is fairly generic tip, but I will always give it to anyone who is keen to improve their photography skills. There is no replacement to the skills that you learn by simply being out there, and making photos. There are tons of intuitive things that you can learn by doing things yourself, and these can never be learnt through a tutorial.

iphone 7 plus portrait mode photogrpay tips india
Dancers in Rajasthan

So take your iPhone 7 Plus (or buy one first, if you don't have it already) and step outside! Though it's called portrait mode, it works for host of other things.

Food Photography with portrait mode

A few years back I used my iPhone for food photography in Rwanda and was so impressed and amazed by the results. However, with the iPhone 7 Plus, you can really raise the quality of pictures when you travel. Here are some of my favourite ones from the last few months :)

food photography iphone 7 plus india
Chaat in Dehradun

food photography iphone 7 plus india
Suryagarh, Jaisalmer

food photography iphone 7 plus india
Taj Landsend, Mumbai

Portrait mode with animals

Just to give it a try, I also used the portrait mode for many other things, including animals, food and inanimate objects. Here are some of my favourite ones from the animal series :)



Friendly donkey :)

Future of portrait mode?

Of course this is not it as far as this iPhone feature is concerned. In fact this is just the Beta version, and I really looking forward to how this feature evolves in the coming months and years. In fact, we might mot have to wait much as the next iPhone release is only a few months away and it might have an even more powerful camera.

What would I like to see in the next update?
Well, I am not a demanding guy, and there are only two features that I want in the next device.
  1. Ability to take RAW images in portrait mode
  2. Ability to shoot portrait mode images from apps like ProCamera
  3. Shoot videos in portrait mode
Haha...maybe I am being too demanding, but with Apple you can be, and they still manage to surpass your expectations!

Oh by the way, if you are convinced to buy the phone already, here's a link where you can do that right away. I bought my last iPhone on Amazon and was very very impressed by the promptness of delivery.

Travel Photography beyond an iPhone

Even though I love my iPhone, I often use a DSLR for many of my travel photography needs. In fact it's often a mix of the both of these and I think it's a great way to combine the best of both the worlds.

If you are still undecided about which camera to pick for your travel needs, here's an excellent guide with pros and cons of all kinds of cameras. Read more: Best camera for travel photography.


  1. Loved the post. Great photography tips.
    Beautiful pics. Thanks a lot :)

  2. These tips will surely come handy for an amateur photographer like me. I am a huge fan of yours :)

  3. Hey, the portrait mode sounds very helpful esp since at times people aren't very comfortable with a big camera. Love the dof, and your work with the colours too. But looks like you haven't linked "here's the link". Not doing well with links these days? :)

    1. Thanks a lot guys...the portrait mode is great advantages, also for food photography :)

      The link is actually the Amazon link right below that :)

  4. I really love taking potrait shots and am a big fan of Apple products, so I'm totally convinced! I have been a big fan of your photography and as usual, these pics are fab!

    1. We are in the same boat - big fans of Apple products :)

      And thank you so much for all the nice words :)

  5. Hi Sid,

    Super shots! The peacock one is so neat, as is Faiza's image. No substitute for shooting a lot. I snap hundreds of photos when traveling. Doing so gives me practice in finding proper lighting and the right angles to capture my subjects. Thanks for sharing :)


  6. Great photos Siddharta! Especially the angles and colours are amazing. The shot of the peacock is my favourite. Although I don't have an iphone myself, I shared your tips with my bf who has one.

  7. Perfect timing since I just upgraded to a 7-plus! I particularly agree with making sure the subject is further from the background. Your Chaiwala photo is my favorite -- so joyful!

  8. I'm a Samsung guy myself but I have forwarded this to my daughter. Thank you.

  9. Amazing what you can do with phone cameras these days. I'm a DSLR girl, but my husband gets some incredible shots on his non-apple phone. Your portraits are fabulous!

  10. These are some very useful tips for iPhone users. While I have a smarphone from a different brand, I recommended this article to a very good friend and travel blogger ;)

  11. I love the shallow depth of field in these shots. I'm still limping along with an iPhone 5. I think I need to upgrade. The selfie camera on the older phones is terrible.

    Have you had any issues with not having the earbud port?

  12. This is a really helpful tutorial. I think your people portraits are great, but so interesting that portrait mode also makes the peacock more interesting, and the bread look tasty. Maybe time for an upgrade!

  13. How intriguing! I'm loving all the photos you've shared, they certainly look great. I'm not fully sure I understand key difference in portrait mode to other modes? If you take same photo in a normal mode and this portrait mode, what are the differences?

  14. Hi Siddharth, lovely post. Every tried the After Focus app. I use it with my OnePlus 3 camera. :)

    1. I meant ever and not every and meant to put a question mark and not a full stop. Autocorrect messed up!

  15. Don't listen to people who tell you not to edit your pictures. A camera can never really capture the mood of the place exactly as you saw it, and it's only logical to then use editing tools to create that atmosphere. So use your favourite editing app and make your portraits even better. ?


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