Hands on with Instagram’s New Focus Portrait Mode

Even if your smartphone’s cameras don’t have a bokeh-style Portrait mode, Instagram can give it to you. Its new Focus camera adds the background blurring photo style to your selfies and photos and is rolling out to users now.

The one catch, though, is that it’s not available on all devices yet. Currently, Instagram Focus is limited to the iPhone SE, 6S, 6S Plus and later, (up to the iPhone X) as well as select Android devices.


In my time testing the app, I found mixed results, thanks to the fact that I wear glasses with clear white frames, which can prove difficult to detect for Portrait mode cameras. As you’ll see below, the Focus camera didn’t detect the left corner of the frames when I was indoors in our office but nailed it when I was outside.

Overall, this new feature is a major upgrade for those of us (myself included) who were envious of the front-facing Portrait mode in the iPhone X, Google Pixel 2 and 2 XL and other devices.

Instagram announced the feature today, and you can find it in the Stories camera, by swiping right from the main screen. To find Focus, swipe the carousel of camera names under the shutter until you see Focus (it should be next to Superzoom).


If Instagram doesn’t detect a subject in the frame, it will display a message that says don’t have a subject in the frame, Once Focus identifies someone, it will blur the background softly as if it’s bringing your subject into greater focus. Then, as always, you can tap the shutter to take a photo or hold to record a video.

One cool feature about Instagram Focus is that it supports group portraits, and isn’t limited to solo selfies.

Instagram also rolled out a new @mention sticker for its iOS users, so you can tag your friends in Stories. This way others can know who you’re taking a photo of, or you can call your friends’ attention to your content.

Sample Shots:

Instagram Focus Mode