With a starting price of $399, the second-generation iPhone SE brings a lot to the table, not to mention unprecedented value for its cost. Here, though, we’ll focus our attention on the camera and how to get the most out of that single lens on the back.
We’re giving you a step-by-step guide on how to use the Apple-coined Portrait Mode. It’s essentially a type of photo that puts the subject in focus while blurring the background to a degree. It’s an automated way to achieve the popular bokeh effect with ease.
Portrait Mode with the iPhone SE
On the iPhone XR, which featured just a single lens (like the 2020 iPhone SE), it only supported Portrait Mode for people. It won’t recognize puppers, sadly. The effect is created using just a single lens and depth-sensing AI. And that same mix of software and hardware is found on the iPhone SE. Unfortunately, still no dogs.
On the bright side, it’s available by default right out of the box; no special apps or extra purchases are required. And it all starts with the Camera app, which can be opened two ways: From the lock screen, you can swipe left from the right edge of your display, or simply open the Camera app if you’ve already unlocked your phone.
The app will open to “Photo” as the default shooting method. Swipe left to switch to “Portrait.”
Swipe left to switch to “Portrait.”
What’s really cool is that the effect can engage right away, rendering in real time. Just remember, the SE needs to detect a person for this to happen. A box will pop up to guide you if it doesn’t see one, suggesting you point the camera at someone.
You might notice little geometric shapes in a row just above the shooting options and shutter buttons. These are the Portrait Lighting options, of which there are six: Natural Light, Studio Light, Contour Light, Stage Light, Stage Light Mono and High-Key Mono. All of these provide a different stylized effect to your photo in real time. Our favorite is High-Key Mono, which makes the background completely white, but depicts the subject with a black and white effect.
Along the top, you’ll see an “f” in a circle, which is where you can adjust the depth of the photo, or the intensity of the background blur. It ranges from 1.4 to 16. This adjustment can also be seen in real time.
Portrait Mode on the iPhone SE
After you’ve taken your photo, you can adjust the photo depth in editing, as well as swap or disable Portrait Lighting modes. This is super handy if you’re not happy with your initial shot.
Ready for some even better news? All of these instructions also work for the front-facing camera. Just tap the circle that looks like circulating arrows in the bottom right corner and the camera will flip to the front. All six Portrait Lighting modes work with the front camera and you can adjust these just as you would the other camera.
You’re off to the races now, ready to use one of our favorite features on the iPhone SE. And if you want to take your iPhone photography to the next level, we recommend this Joby phone tripod for steady shots.
Note: The prices above reflect the retailer’s listed price at the time of publication.