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Why Is My iPhone Depth Effect Wallpaper Not Working?


iPhone iOS 16 Depth Effect

The iPhone lock screen was revamped with the release of iOS 16. It now has a cool depth effect that allows parts of photos to overlap the clock, but it’s a little finnicky. We’ll help you get it working.

In theory, the depth effect is supposed to isolate the foreground subject so it can slightly overlap the clock, as shown above. This creates a cool 3D depth-of-field effect, but it doesn’t work flawlessly 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

You’re Using Widgets

Widgets block the depth effect.

iOS 16 also introduced widgets on the lock screen, but they come with a pretty big asterisk. You can’t use the wallpaper depth effect and lock screen widgets at the same time.

This is the most common reason why you might not be seeing the depth effect. Apple doesn’t provide any indication that this is the case when you’re setting up the lock screen. Sadly, you have to decide if 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. The iPhone analyzes your photo and attempts to differentiate the foreground and background. If it 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 Portrait Mode tend to work the best. Portrait Mode focuses on the subject in the foreground and heavily blurs the background, which makes it easy to separate the two planes.

In general, wallpapers that have blurred backgrounds work the 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 the flat one.

However, a blurred background isn’t a requirement—the photo or image just needs to have a relatively clear focal point. That’s why photos of people and pets tend to work the best. It’s easier for the iPhone to identify the subject.

RELATED: How to Use the iPhone’s Portrait Mode

You’re Covering Too Much Clock

Clock coverage with depth effect.

Even wallpaper with a clearly defined foreground and background might not work. There needs to be appropriate space for the subject to overlap the clock without covering too much of it.

As you can see in the first image above, the iPhone can tell that I’m in the foreground, and it 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 the effect off so the clock isn’t covered too much.

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

Depth Effect is Turned Off

The last thing you can check is to make sure “Depth Effect” is turned on. The depth effect is automatically turned on if the wallpaper is compatible, but it doesn’t hurt to check.

Simply tap the three-dot menu icon in the bottom right and make sure it’s toggled on. You won’t be able to turn it on if the wallpaper isn’t compatible with the feature.

Toggle "Depth Effect."


There you have it! The depth effect is awesome when it works, but you have to keep in mind a few things for the best results. Unsurprisingly, photos taken with an iPhone tend to work the 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 space.

RELATED: How to Launch the Camera by Tapping the Back of Your iPhone





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