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4 Ways to Create Depth of Field Photos Without an iPhone 7 Plus

One of the key new features in the iPhone 7 (plus at least) is the dual cameras and their fake depth of field effect. This feature lets you create an effect that previously would have required a dedicated camera with expensive lens to recreate. Unfortunately, not everyone has an iPhone 7 Plus. So here are a few alternative methods for how you can create great looking depth of field and bokeh photos using whatever iOS device you currently have.

The Instagram method

For a very long time certain camera apps have had fake depth of field and blur effects. Instagram being a famous example. You can set radial and linear blur whereby the areas outside of a selected part are blurred to different degrees depending on the settings you choose. This has been around for a long time and the fact that people are excited about the iPhone 7 Plus helps to show it’s limitations.
The big issue with fake depth of field is when elements that should be part of the same depth are blurred while elements that shouldn’t be blurred are. Take a classic headshot and background. Someone’s head should be in focus and the background out of focus. Unfortunately, the radial blur will blur someone’s body just as much as their head. Furthermore, if you get things lined up ever so slightly wrong, you’ll end up either not blurring all the background, or blurring part of someone’s head as well.
Even when you use this method, you won’t get the classic bokeh balls that you can get with a lens.
Check out Camera+ for these effects (or instagram)

Stitch layers together

If you want a bokeh ball background, there are ways you can do this with just your phone but to add it to a headshot, you need to cheat and stitch two images together. First take your headshot and cut out the background using a photo editing app like Adobe Photoshop Mix or Pixelmator. Then you need a bokeh image. You can cheat and download one off the internet OR use a macro lens attachment to create a bokeh image. Then use that bokeh image as the background. Jobs done. There are even some apps which supply bokeh backround images for you to use like

Apps like Focus Twist and Bokeh lens

There are some apps like focus blur which promise to help produce fake depth of field shots via creating an depth of field map using video instead of a single image. These can work but they require you to set them up right and there is no guarantee they will achieve the result you hope for.

Pixelmator

Finally, Pixelmator has some features which can help you create fake depth of field. This time, select all the image that is behind your subject and you want blurred. Then apply the blur effect at the level you wish. The advantage of this approach is you can select various elements and blur them to different degrees to really recreate that depth of field effect. Again this won’t give Bokeh balls where the light is and it will take more time than other effects, but it is the most reliable effect.

  • Check out Pixelmator to create great portraits and more.

The hassle of post processing

The reason this new iPhone 7 plus feature is so attractive is that it works nearly instantly with just a swipe to the left. Unlike these other options which require a different camera app or a lot of post processing and give very mixed results in the best of cases. Still hopefully they will give you some other options to create great looking depth of field portraits.

About Chris Wilson

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