Adjust the blur of portrait mode photos on any iPhone with Google Photos

You don't need a new iPhone to get depth-editing tools.

Matt Elliott Senior Editor
Matt Elliott is a senior editor at CNET with a focus on laptops and streaming services. Matt has more than 20 years of experience testing and reviewing laptops. He has worked for CNET in New York and San Francisco and now lives in New Hampshire. When he's not writing about laptops, Matt likes to play and watch sports. He loves to play tennis and hates the number of streaming services he has to subscribe to in order to watch the various sports he wants to watch.
Expertise Laptops, desktops, all-in-one PCs, streaming devices, streaming platforms
Matt Elliott
2 min read
Matt Elliott/CNET

One of the big selling points of the iPhone XS, XS Max and iPhone XR is the ability to edit the depth effect in portrait mode photos. These new iPhone models let you edit portrait mode photos to increase or decrease the background blur effect -- aka bokeh -- to your liking. It's certainly a handy feature and gives you much greater control of photos taken in portrait mode. And now you don't need to upgrade to Apple's latest crop of iPhones to get this depth editing, thanks to a recent update to Google Photos.

Google Photos for iOS has a new depth-editing tool for your portrait mode photos. You can also change the focus point and use the new Color Pop filter for portrait mode photos that keep the foreground subject in color while desaturating the background for dramatic effect. 

Depth editing with Google Photos

To adjust the background blur, open a portrait mode photo in Google Photos and tap the edit button. You'll see a belt of filters (including the new Color Pop filter, which I'll get to in a minute), but you'll need to tap the edit button again to get to the Depth slider. It sits below the usual sliders for Light and Color. Move the Depth slider to the right to increase the blur effect and to the left to decrease it.

Screenshot by Matt Elliott/CNET

Change the focus point

If you find that the edges between the foreground subject of your portrait and the blurred background aren't quite right, you can tap on the photo to adjust the focus point. A white circle appears to help you find the right spot. You can also tap the background to bring it into focus and blur out the foreground subject for some sort of crazy reverse portrait.

Color Pop filter

The new Color Pop filter isn't offered for regular photos, but it's the first filter you'll see for portrait mode photos. It puts the blurred background in black and white while keeping the foreground subject in full color. After selecting it for a handful of photos, I found I needed to tap a photo to change the focus so that the edges lined up better between the subject in color and the monochrome background. You can also adjust the monochrome effect of the filter. After selecting it, tap the Color Pop filter thumbnail again to use a slider to adjust its intensity and add back a bit of color to your background.

Screenshot by Matt Elliott/CNET
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