The fact that this complex blur and bokeh effect is editable on the iPhone is amazing. The A15 Bionic chip inside the camera is so fast that this couldn’t be easier. While you’ll typically get the focus right while shooting, you’re free to experiment or change your mind afterward.

Editor’s note: All this week, we’re taking a close look at the new iPhone 13 series of phones, focusing specifically on their photography and video capabilities. Click here to read our previous installments.

Where can I edit?

Right now you can only edit on iOS devices. However this does include many iPads and older phones. So it is possible to make the edits on other devices. At the time of this writing you can use the Photos app or iMovie app for iOS.

You can edit Cinematic mode video effects in the Photos app on any of these devices with iOS 15 or iPadOS 15:

  • iPhone XS, iPhone XR and later
  • iPad Pro 12.9-inch (3rd generation and later)
  • iPad Pro 11-inch (1st generation and later)
  • iPad Air (3rd generation and later) 
  • iPad mini (5th generation and later)

The ability to work on the desktop is expected soon. Apply promise that both iMovie for macOS and Final Cut Pro will receive updates. You will need to use macOS Monterey for this to work.

Apple doesn’t seem interested in opening this editing ability up to other software manufacturers. While time will tell, they seem to enjoy holding control over this end to end workflow.

Change the depth of field while editing

The depth of field can be adjusted for video captured on any of the four lenses. Sometimes a shallow depth of field (a smaller aperture number) is ideal to blur distracting foreground and background elements. Other times you’ll want to keep more objects in focus with a deeper depth of field (a larger aperture number).

To change this for a recorded clip is easy:

  1. Open the Photos app.
  2. Tap the thumbnail for the video that you want to adjust.
  3. Now, tap Edit.
  4. Tap the Depth Control button, then drag the slider to adjust the depth of field. Adjustments that you make to depth of field apply to the entire video.
  5. Tap Done.

Change the image while editing

The Photos app can now edit the color and tonal information of a video clip. You have all the same controls that previously existed only for photos. This makes it easy to recover exposure problems, improve contrast, and refine color. You can also add vignettes, apply filters, and even reduce noise and sharpen.

  1. Open the Photos app.
  2. Choose the video that you want to adjust.
  3. Tap Edit.
  4. Tap the Adjust button.
  5. Use the various sliders to edit the image to taste.
  6. Tap the screen once to toggle between the before and after image.
  7. When finished, click Done.

Tap to focus while editing 

Just like shooting live, you can tap the screen to modify the focus points. Each tap adds a transition point that smoothly changes. The speed is natural, but is controlled by the AI. You cannot slow or speed up the transitions, but the choices the AI makes look good most of the time.

  1. Open the Photos app.
  2. Select the video that you want to adjust.
  3. Tap Edit. Below the timeline, yellow dots indicate moments where the focus point changes from one subject to another.
  4. Drag the timeline indicator button to scrub. 
  5. Change focus:
    • Tap a white square to change the focus point to that person or object. 
    • Tap other objects in the frame to change the focus point to that object. 
    • Double tap a subject to set automatic focus tracking. 
    • Touch and hold on the screen to lock the focus at a specific distance from the camera.
  6. Tap the focus button to switch between the Camera app’s automatic focus tracking and your manually selected focus points.    
  7. Repeat for any other segments of the video where you want to change the focus point.
  8. When finished editing, tap Done.

If there is a keyframe you don’t want, you can remove it. Just touch and hold the yellow dot until the delete button appears, then tap it.

Change Lock or Tracking Lock while editing

The same great controls over focus exist when editing the clip. We explored these earlier in the article. You just need to edit the clip, and then use two simple gestures:

  • Double tap on an object to initiate the AF Tracking Lock option.
  • Press and hold on an object to Lock focus distance.

It really is that simple. Better yet, you can combine different methods together to deal with a truly tough scene.


You might notice some problems if you try to hand off you files from mobile to desktop. This part of the workflow has a few gotchas, but they are easy to solve.

Missing Cinematic mode videos?

If you hand off a video, but the Cinematic mode seems to be missing, be sure to finish processing the effect.

  1. Open the Photos app.
  2. Choose Albums at the bottom of the screen.
  3. Scroll to the Media Types albums. 
  4. Choose Cinematic.
  5. Scroll to the bottom of the collection, if you see an unprocessed video(s) warning click the Process Now button.
  6. Retransfer or sync the files to the new device.

Having handoff problems?

The easiest workflow is to let your phone sync with iCloud and place the content in your Photos library. This can then be exported from using the File > Export > Export Unmodified Original(s) command. However, waiting for this sync can be challenging. Especially if you have slow Internet or lots of clips to upload.

How to handoff photos and video with AirPlay on an iPhone 13

Airplay is a definite option, and even lets you send files to others. But there is a trick to ensure that the unprocessed photo or video file is handed off for further editing.

  1. Open the Photos app.
  2. Tap to select the photos or videos you want to share.
  3. Press the Share button.
  4. Tap Options at the top of the screen.
  5. Turn on All Photos Data, then tap Done.
  6. Tap the AirDrop button, then tap the device that you want to send to.

Final judgment

As I shared at the start of this series, I’ve owned every major iPhone model. While I tend to skip versions, with three other phone owners in our household, we’ve got a drawer filled with pretty much every major release.

I didn’t want to like these new features and improvement. My current iPhone was barely a year old. Plus I have to admit I was truly skeptical about Cinematic video. It’s clear that the team at Apple clearly evaluates each year how much innovation to let out into the wild, and how much to save for the next launch.

It’s also easy to compare the iPhone quality to other devices. There’s just no way its going to beat my full frame mirrorless camera and collection of fantastic lenses. Of course this camera costs of fraction of that kit. It also has my calendar, phone, contacts, games, music, navigation … etc. And because of its multiple roles, its pretty much on my body except when I am sleeping, showering, or exercising.

Simply put, the iPhone 13 Pro really is the best iPhone I’ve ever owned. The lenses and sensor improvements make this a great buy for all iPhone owners. The improved display and better battery life are great perks too. Plus if you even occasionally shoot video, the improved video capture and cinematic options make this a zero regret purchase.

To check out specs and extra details on pricing, click here.