Portrait Mode: The End of Compact Cameras?

It seems like having dual cameras on your phone has become almost the norm nowadays, but many people don’t even know that they are there, let alone why. However, I believe that Portrait Mode is an incredible tool for the modern photographer to promote themselves — particularly on Instagram.

Portrait Mode is what Apple calls its artificial shallow depth of field tool in the camera app, although many other phones also have a similar feature. It uses the dual lenses on the back of the phone to approximate distance information of the subjects in the frame, and calculate how much to blur the background based on that.

I use a third party app called Focos, which uses the Portrait Mode engine but gives you more control over the amount of bokeh, lets you focus after the fact and gives you a few other tools.

With the right conditions, you can create great photos with your phone and continue your photography brand’s high-quality image from your phone.

I use this all the time when I’m in an interesting place or on an interesting job — for example, a food photo shoot. I’ll take a quick photo, then edit it and put it up as an Instagram story. These posts usually grab people’s attention as most other stories are low-quality shaky videos or directionless snapshots.

The Sky Tower in Auckland, New Zealand

Here’s the sort of photo I’d use if I was on a food shoot, with a picture of my camera and a caption saying what I’m doing, encouraging engagement:

Photo taken with Focos

I’ll leave you with a challenge I did with fellow photographer Will H Cho on the set of a music video we were working on. We took the same photo with his Mamiya Medium format film camera and my iPhone. Here are the two photos, let me know if you can see the difference! (Full disclosure, I edited the iPhone photo to match color-wise.)

(Answer: The first photo was shot with the iPhone and the second was shot with the Mamiya.)

About the author: Ben Stewart is a New Zealand based photographer and videographer specialising in events, music, portraits and commercials. The opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author. You can find more of his work on his website and Instagram. This article was also published here.