The iPhone 8’s new camera mode needs a lot of work

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Portrait Lighting mode on the iPhone 8 Plus.
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Hollis Johnson/Business Insider

One of the big new features on the iPhone 8 Plus is Portrait Lighting, a new camera mode that uses the phone’s dual-camera system to adjust the lighting around your subject to add different effects.

It’s an enhancement to last year’s Portrait photo mode, which was designed to bring the iPhone’s camera closer to a high-end DSLR through software enhancements. Portrait mode’s software separates the subject from their surroundings and creates a blurred effect in the background. The new Portrait Lighting mode uses a similar tactic to adjust the lighting effects around the subject.

Portrait Lighting launches in beta on the iPhone 8 Plus on Friday, but even though it’s an early version of the software that will improve over time, it’s clear that Apple has quite a bit more work to do. In my tests over the last week, I found that Portrait Lighting didn’t work well unless real-world lighting conditions were just right. Sometimes, the results were abysmal, like someone had a few too many drinks before attempting to edit a photo in Photoshop. Other times, the photos looked great.

Here are some examples of the different Portrait Lighting effects:


Here’s Manny. I took this photo using the normal Portrait Mode settings.

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Steve Kovach/Business Insider

This is Stage Lighting. The software removed the background and made it look like a spotlight is shining on Manny. But it’s still a bit rough around the edges.

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Steve Kovach/Business Insider

Stage Lighting isn’t perfect. Here’s what happened when I tried it with my cat Larry. The result was terrible.

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Steve Kovach/Business Insider

But the other Portrait Lighting modes worked just fine on Larry.

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Steve Kovach/Business Insider

Direct sunlight seems to confuse Stage Lighting and Stage Lighting Mono. Here’s Kate in Stage Lighting on a sunny day. Notice how the black bleeds into her hair in some places.

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Steve Kovach/Business Insider

Here’s Kate in Stage Lighting Mono in direct sunlight. Even more of her hair got cut off around the edges.

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Steve Kovach/Business Insider

Overall, Stage Lighting seems to need the most work. The other modes, like this Contour Lighting on Dave’s face, look nice.

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Steve Kovach/Business Insider

Keep in mind the various lighting modes are still in beta. Apple says things will improve in future iOS updates.