HomeTechnologyNewsWhy is my iPhone's depth effect wallpaper not working?

Why is my iPhone’s depth effect wallpaper not working?

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The iPhone lock screen got a facelift with the release of iOS 16. It now has a cool depth effect that lets parts of photos overlap with the clock, but it’s a bit fiddly. We’ll help you make it work.

In theory, the depth effect is supposed to isolate the foreground subject so that it can slightly overlap the clock, as shown above. This creates a great 3D depth of field effect, but it doesn’t work perfectly in practice. There are a few things to keep in mind if you want to use this feature.

RELATED: What’s new in iOS 16 for iPhone

Widgets block the depth effect.

iOS 16 also introduced lock screen widgets, but they come with a rather large asterisk. You cannot use the depth effect of the wallpaper and lock screen widgets at the same time.

This is the most common reason why you may not see the depth effect. Apple doesn’t provide any indication that this is the case when you set up the lock screen. Unfortunately, you have to decide whether you want widgets or the depth effect; you can’t use both.

The wallpaper lacks depth

Depth comparison.

As the name implies, depth is how this feature works. iPhone analyzes your photo and tries to tell the difference between the foreground and the background. If you can’t do that, the depth effect won’t be available.

There are a couple of things you can do to help with this. First, photos taken with the iPhone’s Portrait Mode tend to perform better. Portrait Mode brings the foreground subject into focus and heavily blurs the background, making it easy to separate the two shots.

In general, wallpapers that have blurred backgrounds work best. For example, the two images above are identical except one has a blurred background. The depth effect works with the blurred background, but not with the plane.

However, a blurred background is not a requirement: the photo or image should only have a relatively clear focal point. That’s why photos of people and pets tend to work best. It is easier for the iPhone to identify the subject.

RELATED: How to use iPhone portrait mode

You’re covering too much Clock

Clock coverage with depth effect.

Even wallpaper with clearly defined foreground and background might not work. There should be adequate space for the subject to overlap the clock without covering too much.

As you can see in the first image above, the iPhone can tell I’m in the foreground and puts me in front of the clock when I zoom out. However, the wallpaper has to fill the background. When I do that, it turns off the effect so the clock doesn’t get covered up too much.

For best results, you’ll want to choose a wallpaper that has enough room for the clock. Zooming in on a subject works much better than trying to zoom out. Give yourself space to work.

Depth effect is off

The last thing you can check is to make sure “Depth Effect” is turned on. The depth effect is activated automatically if the wallpaper is compatible, but it is worth checking.

Just tap on the three-dot menu icon at the bottom right and make sure it’s turned on. You will not be able to activate it if the wallpaper does not support the function.

Alternate "depth effect".


There you go! The depth effect is amazing when it works, but you need to keep a few things in mind to get the best results. Unsurprisingly, photos taken with an iPhone tend to work best, but you’re certainly not limited to them. Just try to find images with clearly defined foregrounds and backgrounds, and give the clock some room.

RELATED: How to launch the camera by tapping the back of your iPhone

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