Apple Watch's Portrait watch face might just bring a tear to your eye. Here's how to add it ASAP

Looking at photos of your loved ones on an Apple Watch will soon have a new magical feel to it. No, really.

Jason Cipriani Contributing Writer, ZDNet
Jason Cipriani is based out of beautiful Colorado and has been covering mobile technology news and reviewing the latest gadgets for the last six years. His work can also be found on sister site CNET in the How To section, as well as across several more online publications.
Jason Cipriani
4 min read

Your Apple Watch is getting a new watch face later this year. Here's what you need to know.

Angela Lang/CNET

When I first saw the new Portraits watch face for the Apple Watch during Apple's WWDC event in early June, I didn't pay much attention to it. I've never set personal photos as my watch face background, even though Apple states it's the most popular watch face, opting instead for a Modular face full of information. However, now that Apple has added the Portraits face to the latest WatchOS 8 beta, I have to say -- I'm sold. 

What's so special? Well, Apple is taking advantage of any Portrait Mode photos you already have on your iPhone and the associated depth information each one stores. It's that data that your iPhone uses to add a blurry background to your photos. The Portraits face uses that same information to add a 3D-like look to your watch face. You can even place the clock in front or behind the person, and when you turn the Digital Crown on your watch, the picture looks like it comes to life by zooming in and out.

In order to get the new face, you'll either have to wait for Apple to release iOS 15 and WatchOS 8 this fall, or you can sign up for the public beta program to get an early preview. Keep in mind, however, if you install WatchOS 8, there's no way to go back to stable software. Here's what you need to know about creating one of the coolest faces the Apple Watch has to offer. 

Watch this: First look at WatchOS 8 public beta

Portrait photos start with your iPhone's camera

To set up a new Portraits watch face begins with a photo that you captured in Portrait Mode using your iPhone camera. You can look through all of the Portrait Mode photos you've taken by opening the Photos app on your iPhone and selecting the Albums tab. 

Scroll down until you see Media Types, then select Portrait. Most of the pictures you have saved in that album can be used with the watch face. I'm not sure exactly what the Watch app on your iPhone is looking for in a Portrait photo in order to make it available for use with the new watch face, but looking through my Portrait mode photos and what the Watch app is letting me select, it isn't 100% of my pictures.  

If you don't have any Portrait photos, it's time to start taking some. Not only can you create a totally personalized watch face, but you'll take some awesome pics in the process. Open the Camera app on your iPhone, slide over to the Portrait setting and follow the onscreen prompts. If you want to master the process, read this

Portraits watch face Apple Watch

Even if you've never used the photo watch face on your Apple Watch, you have to try the new Portraits face.  

Screenshots by Jason Cipriani/CNET

Creating your Portrait watch face is easy

Almost all of the watch face creation process is done on your iPhone in the Watch app. Well, technically you can create a watch face on the Apple Watch directly, but it can be hard to get it just right on that small screen. And right now, Apple is requiring you to use your iPhone to add the Portraits face to your watch. 

Open the Watch app on your iPhone, then tap the Face Gallery tab at the bottom of the screen. The very first option should be Portraits; tap it. You'll need to add some photos to the face, select the font you want the digital clock to use, and you can even add a complication or two -- the small pieces of information an app puts on your watch face -- while creating your Portraits face. 

To add photos, select Choose Photos to view the Portrait photos you can use with the new face. You can add up to 24 pictures, which your watch will rotate through every time you raise your wrist causing your watch to wake up. 

Edit your Portraits face on Apple Watch
Screenshots by Jason Cipriani/CNET

After adding your photos, you're not done. When viewing the photos you've added, tap on one to edit where the clock shows up, including putting it behind the subject and aligning the shot just right -- in case it's not centered. You'll need to repeat the edit process for each photo you've added. 

Once you've carefully crafted and staged all of your photos, tap Add to add it as a face and view it on your watch. The last step is to lift your wrist and view your creation, including turning the Digital Crown on your watch to get the full effect. Cool, right? 

The Apple Watch isn't the only Apple device getting new software. The iPhone is getting iOS 15, while Apple's tablet lineup is getting iPadOS 15. For its part, the Mac is getting MacOS Monterey. Each of which has plenty of fun, new features you'll want to check out.