With the ability to change focus after the fact, the iPhone 15 series does things your “real” camera can’t, says Amy Davies.

Let’s get some things out of the way first – no, the iPhone 15 series isn’t a “game changer”, no it’s not going to suddenly cause every professional photographer to chuck their DSLRs and mirrorless cameras in the bin, and yes, Android smartphones have been doing similar things for years. It’ll still probably come somewhere near the top of our best smartphones for photographers list, when we’ve reviewed it.

I know all of that. You do too, maybe that’s why you clicked on this article to. Get ready to angrily disagree with what I’ve got to say. That’s fair enough – it’s 2023 and this is the internet after all.

But, watching the Apple keynote speech, slick as it was, I was pretty bored through most of it. A lot of it we already knew about – finally, USB-C, hooray. A longer telephoto lens for the iPhone 15 Pro Max, ok fine – although I’m a bit annoyed as I much prefer smaller phones personally. Apparently I stand reasonably alone in that so I’ll have to get over it.

One thing which stood out for me though was the upgraded Portrait mode. Like most smartphones – yes, the Android ones as well (obviously), Apple has had a portrait mode for a number of years now. It works pretty well, in fact I’d say it’s one of the best out there, generally providing pretty good outlines, natural gradations and flattering results.

But now, we’ve got a bit more to it – and some of it is pretty clever, and certainly not something I can do with my so-called “real” camera. Side note – I hate the term “proper camera” or “real camera” – it’s the photographer that counts, not the gear on which you do it, if you take all your photos on a smartphone you’re still a photographer to me.

iPhone 15 portrait mode: upgrades for all

With the upgraded mode, which I’m pleased to see is available on both the cheaper iPhone 15 models as well as the two iPhone 15 Pro models, you can change the focus point of your portrait after you’ve taken the shot. Maybe you’re back at home looking at the portrait you took and there’s something not quite right about it – or maybe the phone decided someone nearer the front should be the focus point, but it’s actually your best friend / sister / kid / whoever who should be the star of the show. No problem, a quick tap and the focus positions have been changed. Heck you can even do it with pets too – they’re better than most humans anyway.

What I also liked is that finally, the native camera app will automatically detect when you’ve pointed the camera at a person (or pet – cats and dogs) and switch to portrait mode without you having to remember to switch to portrait mode. That means I can get quicker and better snaps of my friends, family, and yes, most importantly, dog.

Sample portrait taken with Apple iPhone 15 Pro Max

The Apple iPhone 15 Pro series has seen upgrades to its portraits mode

There’s other promised improvements in the form of Smart HDR for better skin tones and deeper shadows, and Night portraits have also apparently had a bit of a boost too.

Again, yes, I know, plenty of Android smartphones have great portrait abilities – I’ve tested most of them and many of them are great. But, it’s hard to deny the slickness that Apple usually implements features others have been doing for years. I’m in no way claiming that Apple is an innovator here, but it does things rather well when it gets round to adding them to devices. Don’t hate on me, please – there’s really no need to write in.

I look forward to testing out the new iPhones when they go on general release – we don’t have to wait long, they should be with us on September 22. Look out for an in-depth iPhone 15 Pro Max camera review soon.

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