How to turn your iPhone photos into holograms


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.

Required software

Required hardware

  • Looking Glass Portrait
  • iPhone with Portrait Mode capability
  • PC/Mac


1. Capture your iPhone Photo

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 — 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 🙂

Capture Tip

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.

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: → go to Settings > Camera > Formats > → 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!!

2. 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 — without the embedded depth map there is no hologram.

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

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

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 tip— 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.

3. Import photo into HoloPlay Studio

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.

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.

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:

  • Depthiness— adjusting this value will shift how 3D the photo is

  • Focus— 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 scroll— zoom in and out

  • Mouse click + drag— pan around image

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