How to pull an iPhone photo into Looking Glass Portrait

How to pull an iPhone photo into Looking Glass Portrait

This tutorial will go over how you can capture a 3D image with your iPhone and quickly and easily view it as a hologram with HoloPlay Studio. You can do this with an iPhone 7+, 8+, X, 11, and 12 - or basically any iPhone or iPad that allows for Portrait Mode capture.

iPhone Portrait Mode capture is just one of the many ways that you can bring real world captures into your Looking Glass Display as holograms. More tutorials are on the way and will go over exciting topics such as bringing in supported Android photos, taking incredible light field captures, and even converting your precious childhood photos into holographic memories.


For now, let's focus on iPhone holograms:

To follow this Tutorial .... you will need β†’


  • Looking Glass Portrait
  • iPhone 7+, 8+, X, 11, or 12
  • Your computer

Before you continue, install HoloPlay Studio onto the computer you've connected to your Looking Glass display in Desktop Mode. Please also make sure you have already downloaded HoloPlay Service, which you will need to run any and all Looking Glass applications and plugins.

Desktop Mode

To run HoloPlay Studio, your Looking Glass Portrait should be in Desktop Mode, meaning that your display is connected to your computer. Once it's connected, the LED indicator will pulse blue (meaning its ready to plug into the matrix!)

Switch the Portrait into Desktop Mode by pressing the ON/OFF button. Review the Looking Glass Portrait Getting Started Guide for a more detailed refresher.


How it Works


Learn Alert

Portrait Mode capture on the iPhone actually takes two images - one is the normal RGB (Red Green Blue) image that you're used to and the other is an embedded (hidden) depth image or depth map.

This is my cat Artemis.                                                      This is a depth map of my cat Artemis.
This is my cat Artemis. This is a depth map of my cat Artemis.

Paired with every Portrait Mode photo is a grayscale image that looks like a ghostly silhouette of its RGB image (as seen above with Artemis' depth map).

A depth map is an image that contains information about the distance of objects from a specific perspective (like a camera lens). The blackest point of the image generally represents the furthest most point from the camera lens and whitest point represents the closest point. Sometimes depth maps are hue-encoded, and not grayscale, but because iPhone embedded depth maps are always grayscale we will stick to these types of depth maps in this tutorial.

Depth maps are useful in iPhone editing software, for the subject of the image to remain in focus while adjusting the depth of field values. They're also how Facebook3D photos become 3D.

And now, with HoloPlay Studio in your Looking Glass Portrait, you have a way to use that depth map to make a holographic image to view in true 3D.

Let's Begin

iPhone editing
iPhone editing
Facebook3D photos
Facebook3D photos


Set your camera mode to Portrait and snap a photo. Make sure that the "Portrait" text is highlighted in yellow when you capture your shot β€” if it isn't highlighted, that means that a depth map won't be captured with the image. The example to the right is set Natural Light but you can choose any of the Portrait Lighting options to make a hologram.

Capturing photos for a good holographic image/good depth map takes a bit of practice. I'll be writing a tutorial on best capture practices for iPhone photography with great depth maps in the near future, but I'll share some quick tips to get you started until then!


Back-facing camera vs Front-facing camera

Generally speaking, the back-facing camera of the iPhone is better at taking photos of objects and reading depth at further distances away, while the front-facing camera creates a smoother, seamless depth map for selfie style portraits.

For the iPhone 12, however, I find that the back-facing camera creates the best depth maps all around. Take a few pictures using both the front-facing and the back-facing to see for yourself πŸ™‚


Capture Tip β€” Depth maps make the best holograms when there are not a lot of gaps of space in between the subjects of the scene. Try close up shots, or shots with a nice line of information from the front to the back of the scene.


Quick tip β€” make sure you edit your photos only in the Photos app. Stay away from third party image editing apps so you don't accidentally strip the depth data from your Portrait Mode images.


Note about iPhone image files: HoloPlay Studio currently only accepts iPhone Portrait Mode photos that are in .jpg format. iPhone photos will save as .heic files if you do not adjust the settings. To make sure that your photos capture as jpgs (and not .*heic*) on your iPhone: β†’ go to Settings > Camera > Formats > β†’ and select "Most Compatible" to ensure that your captured photos are in the proper format. For photos you have already captured, using the Apple Mail application to mail your photo to yourself will automatically convert the photo into a .jpg (if it was in .heic format). Make sure you mail your images as Actual Size, when prompted. You can also follow this tutorial that goes over how to use the Files app on your iPhone or iPad to convert photos from .heic to .jpg! We will support .heic format in the near future, so thank you for your patience!!

(Safely) Transfer your Photos with Depth Data to your Computer

After you've finished taking photos, you'll want to send them to your computer without stripping the photos of their embedded depth data.


Pay close attention to these following steps β€” without the embedded depth map there is no hologram.

depth data being safely delivered to your computer.
depth data being safely delivered to your computer.

Here are a few of ways to do this:

  • using Apple's Mail app to send the photos to yourself via email
  • AirDropping the photos to yourself
  • syncing your iCloud photo album
  • using a Google Drive folder with the Google Drive app, to upload the photos
  • Using the Dropbox app on your iPhone

Do not use a third party app (like iPhone's Gmail App) to send photos to yourself β€”you will lose the depth data.

Choose the way that works best for you personally. Emailing photos becomes cumbersome when you want to send a dozen to pull into your Looking Glass Portrait. If you're pulling your photos onto a PC, AirDropping is off the table.

The most important takeaway from this step is that you must make sure that you choose an avenue that retains the embedded depth map.


Quick tipβ€” you can search through your iPhone Photos for all Portrait Mode photos you've taken in the past quickly!


Just type "Portrait" the app's search bar.


You can also navigate to your Albums, scroll down to Media Type, and select "Portrait".

This saves me the trouble of trying to scroll through my entire Photos Library to find Portrait Mode images I want to pull into HoloPlay Studio!


Create a Hologram from your iPhone Capture

After you have downloaded the Portrait Mode images onto your desktop, or whatever folder you choose, open HoloPlay Studio.

Add Hologram


To bring in your new capture, select Add Hologram > iPhone Portrait Photo>Import File and navigate to the downloaded iPhone Portrait Mode photos you just sent to yourself.

You can only import one file at a time (for now!)

The photo you've imported will add to your playlist (on the left) while live previewing the new hologram in your Looking Glass Portrait display. Wasn't that ridiculously easy?

Edit Playlist

Your playlist is your collection of holograms you've brought into HoloPlay Studio. Let's briefly go over the options in the Playlist panel.



Right click the photo you just imported into your Playlist, to

  • Duplicate,
  • Edit Length,
  • Delete, or
  • Rename your hologram.
  • You can also find these options by going to Edit in the HoloPlay Studio's window bar.

Most of these options are self explanatory, but I want to take the time to go over Edit Length. Edit Length allows you to edit the time that a hologram plays in your playlist, both in Desktop Mode and Standalone Mode. If the hologram is a video, however, you won't be able adjust its length of play.


Hologram Exercise (Part 1): Rename your hologram using the above functions. Then Duplicate it. Rename the duplicated hologram and add "closeup" to its name. We'll create two different edits of this hologram when we go over Properties below.

Reorder Playlist


If I have a specific order I want my holograms to play in, how do I do that? I'm glad you asked.

When you hover over your playlist selection, you'll see a small grid appear to the left of the hologram's title.

By dragging that, you can reorder your playlist any way you'd like.


Like any playlist, it plays. But this playlist is the only one in the world (right now) that plays holograms. You can play and pause your hologram, skip forward or backward in your playlist, and loop a single hologram on repeat.


Hologram Properties

Now, select your newly imported iPhone hologram in your playlist and take a look at the right Properties panel that has opened up for you.


Selecting an iPhone hologram from your playlist not only automatically displays it in the Looking Glass Portrait, but it also allows you to make live changes to the following properties:

  • Depthinessβ€” adjusting this value will shift how 3D the photo is
  • Focusβ€” adjusting this value shifts where the photo sits in the focal plane in the display


You can also frame and crop your hologram with the following controls:

  • Mouse wheel / two finger scrollβ€” zoom in and out
  • Mouse click + dragβ€” pan around image

Once you're done making your properties and framing adjustments, those changes will stay until you decide to edit it again.


Hologram Exercise (Part 2): Select the duplicated hologram we renamed with "closeup". With mouse wheel, zoom in close to the photo and frame the image how you'd like. Hit play, and check it out! One hologram, two perspectives, 3D.


Sync Playlist

Now that you've created a playlist with your iPhone photos, click on the Sync Playlist button. You're able to save the holograms to your device for Standalone Mode, to bring around and show off to your friends and family. You can only sync one Playlist at a time (for now!)


Standalone Mode

To view your holographic playlist you created in HoloPlay Studio, switch your Looking Glass Portrait to Standalone Mode. You can have the Looking Glass Portrait connected to either your wall adapter or to your PC/Mac.

Switch the Portrait into Standalone Mode by pressing the ON/OFF button. Review the Looking Glass Portrait Getting Started Guide for a more detailed refresher.



For more detailed definitions on HoloPlay Studio's functionality, including more information on iPhone Portrait Mode photos, please visit our docs site.

Artemis enshrined in 3D
Artemis enshrined in 3D

So, how was importing your first iPhone Portrait hologram into your Looking Glass Portrait? Once you understand the holographic power of depth images (at your fingertips), you can never see or take iPhone Portrait photos the same way again.

Try experimenting with different subjects β€” family members, pets, still life, natural landscapes. Bring them all in and see which, in your opinion, make the best 3D holograms in the Looking Glass!

You're breaking ground here and we're chomping at the bit to see the photos that you take and bring into the Looking Glass display.

πŸ€— Please feel welcome to:

  • Share your work and capture tips with us in our community's Discord.
  • Shoot us an email at with any questions or feedback
  • tweet at us (@lkgglass) or tag us on instagram (@lookingglassfactory) 😎