Testing the iPhone 7 Portrait Mode at the Pumpkin Patch

Making Some Photos at the Pumpkin Patch with the iPhone 7

When I heard about the cameras in the iPhone 7 I was very eager to try them out. I did not watch the keynote until the phone had already come out. I did order one that day though because I really wanted to try it out. I received the phone, but the portrait mode I really wanted to try out had not come out yet. A friend hooked me up with the Beta iOS that included the portrait mode while I was in Austin for Austin City Limits. I had a lot of fun trying it out during the festival. I sent out a tweet during the festival saying that the portrait mode would be a game changer. One thing that always sticks out with photos made with your phone is the infinite depth of field. You see everything in the frame fairly sharp. This makes your iPhone photos look a little more professional without really doing very much. You just have to position yourself in the right position to your subject to make it work. While at the pumpkin patch I decided that it was the perfect place to try some things out with it. Here are a few thoughts from my time at the pumpkin patch.

What a Difference a Little Bokeh Makes

I made the photo above to show just what a difference a little bokeh (the blurred out background) can make in a photo. I found an angle of this scarecrow that had a lot going on in the background. The phone lets you save both versions of the photo so you can see just what was done here. The top photo is what you have always seen from an iPhone. You have everything relatively in focus. The bottom photo allows the scarecrow to stand out a bit by blurring everything out in the background. The distractions do not completely go away, but they do sort of melt into the background. One thing that really amazed me was not that the stuff on the right side of the photo went into bokeh. It was that the flowers and pumpkins that you can see in between the stalks of corn went into bokeh as well. The 3D mapping really seems to be on point even in the Beta stage.

The Limitations of the Portrait Mode

One big limitation that the portrait mode has is the fact that your subject must be within a certain range for the effect to work. The corn above was not in that range, and it did not work for me. I really wanted to see if I could create a more interesting photo by just having a little bit of the scene in focus here. Of course that didn’t work. Your subject has to stay relatively still as well. While trying it out on the kids I found that when I could get them to stay very still it was amazing. A little movement though confuses the algorithm a bit. The portrait mode also does not work in darker situations. You really need some good light for it to work. The average light in a house is on the borderline of being acceptable. The good thing is that you can see what is happening live. It will tell you that you need more light, or that you need to move back or forward. Beyond that you can see how the effect is working in real time. Once again though this is an amazing breakthrough that is still in its infancy. I can only imagine that it will continue to get better before it is released to the public.

Will Portrait Mode End the dSLR?

Do I think that this portrait mode is great? Heck yes I do. I really love having iPhone shots that look a little cooler than they used to. Will I sell my stable of Canon cameras? The answer to that is no. What I think this will do though is make it easy for anyone out there to get the look that they see in professional images. Maybe it will make someone who never thought about owning a dSLR decide to pick one up. What will be the downfall of the phone vs. the dSLR will be low light situations. Portrait mode does not work as I said above, and the overall quality fades very quickly.

A Few More Photos in Portrait Mode

After we left the pumpkin patch we went out to see the scarecrows at the Prophetstown State Park. I tried to get a couple of new situations for the phone to try out. Here are a couple of those photos. You can see that it seems to work better in some situations rather than others.

One Reply to “Testing the iPhone 7 Portrait Mode at the Pumpkin Patch”

  1. Of course what’s always available to Smartphone images, is the usual post editing commonly used in DSLR imagery. These are an excellent highly sophisticated portable alternative for casual photography, leaving the more bulky cameras for more demanding applications. M ☺

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