How to Adjust Portrait Mode Lighting on the iPhone

Perfect your Portrait Mode shots by easily adjusting every setting for your highest quality photos.

* This post is part of iPhone Life's Tip of the Day newsletter. . *

This article will tell you how to adjust the lighting in Portrait mode shots. Portrait mode has been making folks look great since the iPhone 7 Plus and 8 Plus—taking great portraits has never been so easy as picking a Portrait Lighting mode and letting the iPhone work its magic. With iOS 13, Apple added even more flexibility: you could adjust the intensity of the lighting effect applied in Portrait mode. iOS 14 has made the process even smoother, which we'll look at below. To avoid your photo looking like a bad Photoshop job, just tap the lighting intensity icon at the top of the screen and swipe on the slider left or right to tune the effect up or down. A little goes a long way! Let's get started.

Related: Express Your Selfie: Your Guide to Selfie Basics

How to Adjust Portrait Mode Lighting on the iPhone

Note that this feature is only available on the iPhone XR, XS, 11, or 11 Pro, and all of the iPhone 12 models. 

  1. Open the Camera app.
  2. Tap Portrait or slide left or right until you select it.

    portrait mode iphone 8
  3. A menu of lighting options will appear. Slide to select your mode. I’ll demonstrate with the Studio Light effect.
  4. Tap the light intensity icon at the top of the screen, which looks like a dot and circle inside a six sided polygon (a regular hexagram if you’re feeling precise).

  5. Once you've selected this, the viewfinder will slide up, and the camera mode selection slider will be replaced by a light intensity slider. Touch it and slide left or right to adjust your lighting effect.
  6. You can also tap the f-stop icon at the top right of the screen—a cursive f and a number—to adjust how blurry the background is, using the same slider.

  7. When you’re done, you can snap your picture with confidence: the Portrait Lighting effect can be tweaked or removed later in the Photos app.

Now you know how to adjust the lighting mode in your iPhone’s Portrait mode!

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Author Details

Cullen Thomas's picture

Author Details

Cullen Thomas

Cullen Thomas is a senior instructor at iPhone Life, creating tips and guides to help users unlock the full potential of their iOS and iPhone. In addition to writing countless tip-of-the-day articles and many detailed guides, Cullen has spent ten years as an instructor in media and communications at Maharishi University, lecturing on technical and artistic subjects ranging from camera and audio hardware to story-plotting to how to manage a film crew. Cullen answers questions daily about iPhones and iOS as part of the Ask an Editor insider service, and designs curricula for iPhone Life’s online classes. As a frequent contributor to iPhone Life magazine and occasional guest on the iPhone Life podcast, Cullen likes to talk about security and privacy news, tech, gadgets, and apps, even if nobody asked.

Cullen holds a master’s degree in Cinematic Arts from the David Lynch School of Cinematic Arts. Cullen also holds two Bachelor’s degrees from Maharishi University, one in literature with an emphasis in writing and the other in Communications and Media. Cullen’s short fiction has been featured in anthologies from Amphibian Press and TANSTAAFL, and Cullen co-owns a game design company, Thoughtspike games, which builds thought-provoking puzzle games. Cullen is a sci-fi author, a coffee connoisseur, and an iPhone expert.