How to take Portrait mode shots on almost any iPhone

Hint: You use an app that's probably already on your phone.

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
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If you don't have an iPhone X or a big, honkin' iPhone 7 Plus or 8 Plus, then your biggest gripe about your current iPhone is likely its inability to capture Portrait mode shots with the cool, artsy, blurred backgrounds. A cottage industry of apps has sprung up to approximate Portrait mode's depth-of-field effect, but you don't need to install a new app to get Portrait mode. If you are among the legions that use Instagram , then you can already take Portrait mode shots.

Instagram Focus

Instagram has a version of Portrait mode it calls Focus. It's been around for a month or so, but you might have missed it because you won't find it in the regular Photo mode that sits between Library and Video among your options for creating a post. Instead, it's hiding in Instagram's Stories format. But don't worry, you can snap a shot in Focus mode and save it to share it however you'd like.

To take a Focus mode shot, open Instagram, tap the camera button in the top left, and then swipe on the bottom until you find Focus. It sits between Boomerang and Superzoom.

Screenshot by Matt Elliott/CNET

After snapping your Focus mode shot, you'll be able to share it as an Instagram Story, send it to one of your Instagram followers, or save it to your camera roll.

Unlike Portrait mode, Instagram's Focus mode requires a face to work, so you can't create, say, an impressive shot of your breakfast with bokeh effects or your dog sitting pretty. Focus mode will instruct you to find a face before it applies the blurred-background effect. Focus mode works with either the front- or rear-facing camera, so it'll raise your selfie game at the very least.

Watch this: How to get portrait mode on any phone

I tested it on an iPhone SE and found the results to be fairly convincing, although it wasn't as smart as my iPhone X is with Portrait mode in finding the edges of a face. Sometimes, the edges of my face were a bit blurred, and it had trouble making sense of the corners of my glasses at other times.

According to Instagram, Focus is available on iPhone SE, 6S, 6S Plus, 7, 7 Plus, 8, 8 Plus and X as well as select Android devices.

Read more: How to automatically save your Instagram Stories forever