Troubleshooting the Depth Effect on Lock Screen Wallpaper for iOS 16

There's a fun new feature available for Lock Screen photo wallpaper that's been added with iOS 16: the Depth Effect! This neat feature will make the subject of the photo appear in front of the clock, and here we'll walk you through a few common problems that can temporarily disable the effect.

Related: How to Use Portrait Mode on iPhone to Take Gorgeous Headshots

How to Troubleshoot the Lock Screen Depth Effect

The Depth Effect feature is not hard to use and may trigger automatically when you set up a Photo Lock Screen, even when using suggested photos. If you customize your Lock Screen, however, you may notice that the effect has gone away and not know why, or you may want to try to trigger the effect on other photos intentionally. The Depth Effect can be a little finicky to get working properly, and iOS won't explain why it's disabling it when it does, but there are three big things that can cause it to turn off, which I'll walk through here. First things first, though, before you can use this new feature, you need to have updated your system software to iOS 16, and be sure to sign up for our free Tip of the Day newsletter.

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  1. First, you need to open the Lock Screen customization interface. Start by long pressing on an empty space on your Lock ScreenNote: If you use Face ID to unlock your phone, you can long press anywhere on your Lock Screen. If you use a passcode to open your phone, you will need to unlock your phone first, then swipe down on your Home Screen to pull up the Lock Screen. Then, you can long press to open the Lock Screen gallery.

    Lock Screen with the empty space in the center marked.
  2. This will open the screen to select a Lock Screen. Tap Customize at the bottom of the screen.

    Lock Screen selection screen with the Customize button marked.
  3. On the Lock Screen customization screen, you can troubleshoot your Depth Effect issues. One easy thing to check is widgets. The Depth Effect will not work if there are any widgets added below the clock. If you have any, tap the widget box.

  4. With the Add Widgets menu open, tap the small minus sign icon in the upper left corner of any added widgets to remove them.

  5. Once you've removed all the widgets, tap the small x icon in the upper right corner of the Add Widgets menu to close the menu. If the only issue with the Depth Effect was the widgets, the effect should enable itself again.  If it does, great, you're done. If not, or if you want to learn about more things that can get in the way of this effect, read on.

  6. Another thing that can easily prevent the Depth Effect from working is the placement and cropping of the photo you're using. This is the most finicky of the issues to get right. The exact point where it will disable itself can be hard to gauge, but roughly, you need to make sure that less than half of the bottom of the time overlaps with the top of the subject of the photo. To crop, zoom, and reposition the photo, use both fingers to pinch the empty space in the middle of the Lock Screen customization screen. As you change the zoom level or position of the photo, you should see the Depth Effect turn on and off.

  7. If you don't have any widgets below the clock, and you've tried adjusting the photo to make sure the subject would be hiding less than half of the time, and the Depth Effect still isn't kicking in, it's possible that the effect has simply been turned off. To check on this, just tap the three-dot icon in the lower right of the screen.

  8. This will open a small menu. Depending on the photo style you've picked, it may literally only have the Depth Effect option in it. Make sure it has a checkmark on the option. If it doesn't, tap it to enable the effect. If it is grayed out and you can't enable it, it means something is blocking the effect, so go back to the previous steps here to make sure you have all the widgets below the clock turned off and that the photo subject isn't overlapping with the time too much.

  9. Once Depth Effect is working correctly, it should result in an effect like the one seen below, in which the subject of the photo is superimposed over a piece of your clock display.

    Lock Screen customization screen with a mark showing where the Depth Effect is working.

If you've followed this guide and still can't get the Depth Effect to appear, it may be an issue with the specific photo you've chosen for the Lock Screen.  Make sure you're using a photo with a single distinct subject for the best results. Photos taken using the Portrait mode setting in the iPhone Camera app are likely to fit your needs, though this is not a requirement.

Hopefully, this guide has helped you with some of the little things that can block this cool little Lock Screen feature.

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Author Details

Brian Peters's picture

Author Details

Brian Peters

Brian Peters is a Feature Web Writer at iPhone Life, a creative writing hobbyist, and general technology enthusiast. He has a bachelor's degree in English, and has completed National Novel Writing Month multiple times. He lives in the Austin, Texas, area with his wife, two dogs, and two cats.