Filtering Portrait Mode Smartphone Photos


Today’s Question: When I first read the question about filtering photos captured in portrait mode, I thought it was referring to iPhone photos captured with the Portrait setting, rather than being about portrait versus landscape orientation. So, is there also a way to filter photos captured in Portrait mode, because I’ve not been able to find it.

Tim’s Quick Answer: Yes, you can search for photos captured in the Portrait mode (narrow depth of field) on a smartphone using the Depth column available on the Metadata tab of the Library Filter bar in Lightroom Classic.

More Detail: Most recent iPhone models (and some Android smartphones as well) include a narrow depth of field option. On the iPhone this is referred to as Portrait mode, and it can create images that can be quite stunning. The process involves essentially capturing an in-focus and an out of focus image and blending them together so that the subject is in focus but the background is out of focus.

When you import photos captured with this Portrait mode into Lightroom Classic (or other photo-editing software) the narrow depth of field effect will not be retained. To retain the original effect you would need to use the software from the smartphone, such as the Apple Photos software in the case of iPhone captures.

However, a depth map that indicates the areas of the image that would have otherwise been in focus versus blurred is embedded within these photos, and you can actually use that depth map for applying targeted adjustments to these photos using Lightroom Classic.

Of course, first you need to be able to identify which photos were captured with this special narrow depth of field effect, which means finding photos that include an embedded depth map. Fortunately, Lightroom Classic includes exactly such an option, though it might not be all that easy to find.

Start by navigating to the folder or collection you want to browse. Note that you can also choose the All Photographs collection in the Catalog section of the left panel if you want to search across your entire library of photos. Then switch to the grid view display in the Library module by pressing the letter “G” on the keyboard. If the Library Filter bar isn’t shown at the top of the grid view, press the backslash key (\) on the keyboard or choose View > Show Filter Bar from the menu. Go to the Metadata tab, and click the heading for one of the columns to bring up a popup menu. Choose Depth from the popup for that column, which will cause that column to show options for the images in the current location based on their status.

You can then select “Has Depth” to show only images that include an embedded depth map, meaning photos that were captured with the Portrait mode on an iPhone, for example. You can also select “No Depth” if you want to filter based on images that don’t have an embedded depth map.

Once you’ve located the photos that include an embedded depth map, you can also use that depth map as the basis of a targeted adjustment in the Develop module.