But we are getting sidetracked here. So, while having 2x optical zoom and the new Portrait Mode on your phone is certainly cool, we wouldn’t say that post people out there would find the telephoto lens to be enough of a reason to buy an iPhone 7 Plus. That said, it’s understandable if you sometimes feel a bit jealous of the bokeh goodness the phone can provide and would like to do it with your handset. Well, naturally, app developers are already working on that!
The app stores are full of apps that promise the perfect blur, bokeh, “aperture effects”, or however else they word it, but only a few of them are at least close to being good. We spent hours looking for the right ones and fished out 4 apps that are actually usable and do what is required of them. Yup, we couldn’t even get to 5.
Note: just a quick tip for taking portrait shots. Since most smartphones use a wide angle camera, it’s better to use the phone’s digital zoom in order to crop out the distorted edges of the photo and bring your subject closer. We like to go up to 2x, but you can experiment with it. Yes, you will lose some quality, but the resulting scene will look much better. And yes, this is the only case we would ever recommend the use of digital zoom.
Apps that give you Portrait Mode on any phone
Download: iOS | Android
This one is the only app on our list that’s available on Android, but the good news is that it’s also our favorite. AfterFocus does have a way of automatically detecting your subject, but it’s not amazingly good at it. It also lets you manually “paint” the focus points on a picture before processing it, and that manual editor works great. It has a “smart selection” tool, which only needs you to draw a single line over the object that should be in focus, then a line over objects that need to be “slightly” blurred, and another one over the ones that are supposed to be extra smudged up. Sure, doing it manually is a bit of an annoyance, but the editor in this app is well-made and fun to use, and we had no trouble with the lack of automatic subject detection.
Unlike the previous app, this one tries to detect your subject and separate it from the background automatically. In all honesty, it’s rarely accurate in this task, but thankfully, we are given a manual editor, which helps us tune up the final result. That said, the editor also needs some work. We hope the developers of this app continue to work on its features, as it’s certainly among the few “Portrait Mode” apps out there that actually tries to do a good job.
3. Portrait Blur
This app also has auto detection for the subjects in your photo that should remain in focus. And again, it’s not accurate… at all. But it also has an editor with smart select features. So, it’s like a mix between FabFocus and AfterFocus. It takes some time to get a photo looking perfect, but we found ourselves having fun while editing our photos with it.
4. Big Lens
This app has no automatic detection — you need to manually mark the objects of interest in your photo. The good news is that it has an “auto” adjust tool, which allows you to be sloppy with the marking — just highlight generously around your subject, then tap Auto and watch your markings get cropped neatly around the subject’s border. The bokeh and blur options afterwards are also fun to play with.