You’ll need iPhone 8 or X to get those incredible Portrait Lighting effects Tim Cook demoed at Apple’s recent event, but iOS 11 still offers some nifty tricks, outlined below.
If you have an iPhone 7 Plus, you already have an impressive camera—no make that two cameras that can can shoot in Portrait mode, blurring the background for artistic-looking bokeh shots. But every iPhone photo enthusiast can benefit from the techniques below and the more granular lighting and color controls in the Photos app found in iOS 11 and macOS. Get ready for some creative delights.
1Do Cool Things With Live Photos
Apple’s iOS 11 introduces a few impressive effects for photos shot with the iPhone’s Live Photos feature, which really just captures short videos. With iOS 11, the frame rate of Live Photos increases from 15fps to 30fps, and supports features like Loop (above), the Boomerang-like Bounce, and Long Exposure. To try it out, snap a photo using Live Photos. Find the photo you want to edit in your Camera Roll and swipe up to select your desired effect. All three features are also available on the desktop via macOS High Sierra.
Here’s an example of Long Exposure, applied to a Live Photo shot of a stream in Medellin, Colombia. If you’ve ever seen a vintage photo of a waterfall from the early 20th century, you know that long exposures look awesome on water shots.
And here’s Bounce, which is probably familiar to Instagram power users. It’s best with people-action shots, like diving or throwing a ball, but is also pretty nifty with fireworks.
4Play With New Filters
iOS 11 brings a new set of filters that are more subtle than the obvious ones you see on Instagram. Here, I used the Noir black-and-white filter to give the photo some drama, after cropping it to a square.
To jazz up your photo, hit Edit and the three overlapping circles at the bottom of the screen and swipe to find your desired filter. You can also select a filter before you shoot a photo; in the Camera app, select the three overlapping photos on the top right and swipe on the bottom to select one.
5Shoot in Portrait Mode
This one is just for iPhone 7 Plus, iPhone 8 Plus, and X, but new to Portrait Mode in iOS 11 is optical image stabilization, True Tone flash, and HDR. It may not be quite what you’d get with a high-end DSLR and wide-aperture lens, but Portrait Mode is a pretty great effect nevertheless.
It doesn’t actually change the depth of focus; it uses computation to approximate it. In most cases, it’s pretty convincing. In this sample shot, the glasses over the background used to confuse the algorithm, but in Portrait Mode, they’re as sharp as the rest of the face. And notice that the mode isn’t only for portraits, as the luscious tomato shot shows.
6More Memory Movies
With iOS 11, Apple promises even more Memory Movies, which are automatically curated short clips, set to music, that Apple makes from your photos. They will also now be optimized to play in portrait and landscape orientation. Once you have enough photos from a certain event or time period, you can find them in the Memories tab of your Photos app.
7The Apple Store Is Your Friend
At the Apple Store (ahem, Town Square), staff can show you which features and shooting modes work well with which kinds of shots, and share tips on iOS 11 and how to give your shots some extra pizzazz. Find your nearest store on Apple’s website, click on Today at Apple and select Photo and Video from the tag list. The stores also offer Studio Hours with coaching on editing and organizing your photos.