iPhone X: How to get the Best Shots with Portrait Mode’s Stage Light Effect

Holidays are a great time to take photos of your friends and family, and if you have an iPhone X those pics can really pop. Portrait Mode’s Stage Light effect is awesome for those memorable shots, especially if you take the time to set them up properly.

Stage Light is a Portrait Mode effect that cuts the background out a shot so only the subject is visible in the photo. When it works right you get your subject on a black background. The effect can be striking if you take a minute to plan out your shots before snapping photos.

Portrait Mode Stage Light and Stage Light Mono effect on iPhone X
Portrait Mode’s Stage Light (left) and Stage Light Mono (right)

Stage Light and Stage Light Mono (the black and white version of Stage Light) are available in the Camera app’s Portrait Mode feature on the iPhone 7 Plus, iPhone 8 Plus, and iPhone X. The iPhone X supports Portrait Mode for selfies with the front-facing camera, too.

Start with Stage Light

First, you need to know you’re going to use Stage Light before taking the photo because it’s an effect you can’t add later. After you launch the Camera app, swipe across the view finder until Portrait is selected. Next, swipe across the Portrait options at the bottom of the view finder to select Stage Light.

Portrait Mode Stage Light view in iPhone X Camera app
Portrait Mode’s Stage Light view in the Camera app

Get the Lighting Right

You’d think bright lighting would work better for the Stage Light effect, but it turns out that’s not the case. If you’re indoors, don’t stand next to the lamp, and if you’re outdoors try to avoid direct sunlight. I’ve had much better luck with Stage Light photos indoors.

Portrait Mode with Stage Light effect
When everything comes together Stage Light give you a great photo effect

One Person Per Photo

As awesome as it sounds, two people in a Stage Light shot is a bad idea. Apple’s filter is looking for a single face and will do its best to cut out the person it sees as less prominent. If you’re at a family event trying to include two people in the shot is pretty much a guarantee someone’s feelings are going to get hurt.

Pay Attention to the Background

Reflective surfaces behind your subject are a bad idea. Stage Light has a horrible time sorting out what should be in the shot and typically leaves background bits in or sometimes cuts part of the subject out. Windows proved to be particularly troublesome for me.

iPhone X Portrait Mode Stage Light doesn't work well with a window in the background
A window in the background (left) will likely make for a poor Stage Light shot (right)
Background too far away error with a window behind the subject using Stage Light effect
A window in the background confuses the Stage Light effect

Avoid Moving Shots

If your subject is moving you won’t get a good Stage Light shot. They’ll be blurry at best, and may look like a Silly Putty sculpture, too. Get your subject to sit still for the shot. I know, good luck with the little kids and drunk uncles.

iPhone X Portrait Mode showing motion in Stage Light effect
Moving subjects don’t work with Stage Light in Portrait Mode

Patience is a Virtue

It takes a couple seconds for the Stage Light effect to process, so you need to take a photo, wait, and then you can take another. Watch the on screen shutter button. If it’s spinning, don’t snap another photo. I found snapping multiple photos quickly gave me the Stage Light effect only on the last shot.

One thought on “iPhone X: How to get the Best Shots with Portrait Mode’s Stage Light Effect

  • I tried out this mode for the first time in an Apple Store and the ironic thing about Apple Stores is that the ceiling lighting is terrible for this! I got even worse results than your window shot.

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