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How to use the iPhone lockscreen Depth Effect feature in iOS 16

iOS can be picky about image selection.

Published onApril 7, 2023

Apple finally took a step closer towards Android-level customization with iOS 16, one of the flashier additions being Depth Effect, which hides some of your lockscreen’s clock behind wallpaper objects. Here’s how to get Depth Effect to work on your iPhone — which isn’t always as simple as it should be.


When customizing your lockscreen, look for the triple-dot menu in the lower right, and select Depth Effect if it's not already enabled. You can't use any lockscreen widgets. You may also need to crop your wallpaper and/or select a different image if Depth Effect still doesn't trigger.


How to use the Depth Effect feature on iOS 16

The first thing to know is that not every iPhone supports the feature, even if it can run iOS 16. Apple maintains a separate compatibility list. The simple version is that the only iOS 16 devices that can’t handle Depth Effect are the iPhone X, 8, and 8 Plus.

Second, wallpapers must contain distinct objects near the top of the screen for Depth Effect to even be an option. Apple uses the examples like people, pets, or sky, although some other objects may work, such as mountains. You’ll have to play around, though the best odds are with photos shot using an iPhone’s Portrait mode.

With those caveats out of the way, here’s how to create a custom Depth Effect lockscreen:

  • Save an image you want to use to your iPhone’s Photo Library. If you’ve shot one with your phone, it’ll appear in the Library automatically. Make sure any image equals or surpasses the resolution of your screen.
  • Open the Settings app, scroll down, and select Wallpaper.
  • Tap Add New Wallpaper.
  • To pick your custom image, tap Photos.
  • Use search tools to find the image. If you don’t see it in the Featured, People, Nature, or Cities tabs, use keyword search or the Albums button. We recommend organizing pics into a dedicated “iPhone Wallpapers” album beforehand.
  • On the lockscreen creation screen, crop your image (if necessary) then tap the triple-dot button in the lower-right corner.
  • If your wallpaper is compatible, the Depth Effect option may already have a checkmark next to it. If you can’t turn it on, follow the troubleshooting steps in the next section.
  • Finish customizing fonts, colors, and filters, but don’t add any lockscreen widgets, since those disable Depth Effect.
  • Tap Add, and choose Set as Wallpaper Pair or Customize Home Screen. The former makes your homescreen wallpaper a blurred-out version of your lockscreen, while the second lets you pick a second (non-Depth Effect) image.

Why is Depth Effect not working on my iPhone’s lockscreen?

There are a few possible explanations:

  • Depth Effect isn’t turned on. It’s normally automatic, but it’s worth doublechecking the triple-dot menu when customizing your lockscreen.
  • You have lockscreen widgets enabled. This is shortsighted on Apple’s part, but Depth Effect is automatically disabled when widgets are on.
  • The depth object is too high or low. You may be able to get around this by experimenting with different image crops. To look good, this requires wallpaper larger than your screen resolution.
  • The depth object would cover too much of the clock. Apple assumes you want the clock to be readable. Cropping may once again be the solution, whether you zoom out or move the object slightly out of the way.
  • Apple’s algorithms can’t recognize any objects in your wallpaper. For now, the human brain is still better at pattern recognition, so Apple’s software may be tricked by factors like low contrast. If you’ve ruled everything else out, you’ll have to try another image.