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How to turn regular photos into Portrait mode photos on an iPhone 15

How to turn regular photos into Portrait mode photos on an iPhone 15


You can take a standard photo now and turn it into a Portrait mode photo later.

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Illustration of a phone with a photo of a cat featured on screen.
Add background blur or change the focus point on pictures of your furry friend.
Illustration by Samar Haddad / The Verge

Anyone with an iPhone who’s taken a picture of their child or pet knows the Portrait mode dilemma. Portrait mode adds that lovely, soft bokeh effect to the background of your image and calls attention to your subject — ideal when your toddler or cat is doing something adorable. But taking the extra second to switch from the standard camera app to Portrait mode sometimes means missing the moment entirely. 

Now, there’s good news for iPhone 15 owners: all of the most recent iPhones — the iPhone 15, 15 Plus, 15 Pro, and 15 Pro Max — will allow you to apply Portrait mode after capture to pictures taken in the standard camera mode. You can even shift focus to a different subject or part of the frame if you want. Here’s how it all works. (I followed these steps on an iPhone 15 Pro running iOS 17.0.2.)

First things first: not every photo you take can be turned into a Portrait mode photo. The phone needs to record depth information to apply the portrait effect after the fact, and it doesn’t do that for every photo. The iPhone 15 will automatically save depth information when it detects a face, a cat, or a dog in the frame. It will also save the depth information whenever you tap the frame to focus on a subject. 

You’ll know it’s working when you see an f-stop icon appear in the bottom-left corner of the frame as you’re taking a photo. You can tap the icon to see the portrait effect as you take the photo, but it’s not necessary. Just take the photo as you normally would, and you’ll be able to convert it later.

Provided that the depth information was saved, here’s all you need to do:

  • Open your photo in the Photos app
  • Tap the Portrait option in the top left of the photo. You’ll see that Portrait Off is selected. 
  • Tap Portrait. A blurred background will be applied to your image. 
Screenshot of selfie showing two people and editing options.
Tap “Portrait” in the upper-left corner of the frame to add the Portrait mode depth effect.
Screenshot showing the option to tap and change focus point in a Portrait Mode photo.
In addition to adding background blur, you can switch the focus between subjects in the frame. And don’t worry — the tone mapping in this image preview isn’t what you get in the final photo.

But wait, there’s more

You have a few more options if you want to tweak the results. 

  • Tap Edit to bring up the editing window. From here, you can use the f-stop slider to adjust the strength of the background blur. 
  • You’ll also see a yellow autofocus box indicating the point of focus in your image. To shift the focus somewhere else, just tap anywhere in the frame to move the focus box. 

Once you’re happy with how it all looks, tap Done to save the image — you can always revert to the original by opening it up again in Photos and undoing your changes.

A couple more notes: you can use this feature with the phone’s main, telephoto, and selfie cameras. It will also work if you have Live Photos turned on, though depth information is only saved for the cover frame of your Live Photos burst. That means you can apply Portrait mode to a live photo, but only that key frame will have the blurred background effect. If you choose a different frame — say, one where everyone is looking at the camera — you won’t be able to apply Portrait mode. We can’t quite have it all, unfortunately.