How to fix the Depth Effect not working with your iPhone Lock Screen wallpaper in iOS 16

The iOS 16 Depth Effect ensures a small part of the wallpaper subject appears behind the Lock Screen clock, creating a nice visual style. If this multilayered photo effect is not working on your iPhone Lock Screen or you don’t know how to set a wallpaper with Depth Effect, this tutorial is here to help.

Fix wallpaper Depth Effect on iPhone Lock Screen

What is Lock Screen Depth Effect?

Your iPhone running iOS 16 uses Artificial Intelligence (AI) to understand the image and differentiate its main subject from the background while setting the Lock Screen wallpaper. For example, if it’s a photo of you standing in a park, your iPhone figures out that you’re the main subject, and everything else is the background.

Using this intelligence, it creates a layered sandwich effect with the image background as the first layer, the Lock Screen clock as the second layer, and the image subject as the third layer.

As a result, a small portion of the time indicator on your iPhone Lock Screen goes behind the main subject of the wallpaper, making the photo subject pop, and creating a delightful 3D layered effect. Apple calls this Depth Effect or multilayered photo effect.

iPhone Lock Screen without Depth Effect and with Depth Effect
iPhone Lock Screen wallpaper without Depth Effect and with Depth Effect.

Must read: How to remove the background and extract the main subject of a photo on iPhone

How to fix Depth Effect not working on iPhone Lock Screen

1. Make sure you have an iPhone XR or later

Depth Effect on Lock Screen wallpaper only works if you have an iPhone with an A12 Bionic chip or later. This means you can use multilayered effect on the following models:

  • iPhone SE (2nd and 3rd generation)
  • iPhone XR
  • iPhone XS and XS Max
  • iPhone 11, 11 Pro, 11 Pro Max
  • iPhone 12, 12 mini, 12 Pro, 12 Pro Max
  • iPhone 13, 13 mini, 13 Pro, 13 Pro Max
  • iPhone 14, 14 Plus, 14 Pro, 14 Pro Max

2. Update your iPhone to iOS 16

Once you’re sure your iPhone supports Depth Effect, go to Settings > General > Software Update to install iOS 16. Note that Depth Effect is a new feature and it isn’t available on iOS 15 or earlier.

3. Remove widgets from the Lock Screen

Do you have widgets on your iPhone Lock Screen? If yes, the Lock Screen wallpaper will not show the layered effect.

If the wallpaper effect is more important, remove the Lock Screen widgets, and then Depth Effect will work.

Remove widgets from iOS 16 Lock Screen for Depth Effect to work on iPhone

4. Enable Depth Effect while adding the wallpaper

Follow these steps to set a Lock Screen wallpaper with a multilayered effect:

  1. Open the Settings app and tap Wallpaper.
  2. You can choose to customize the current Lock Screen or tap Add New Wallpaper. We’re picking the latter option.
  3. From here, tap Photos to pick a wallpaper from your Photos app. Or scroll down to Collections and choose the default iOS 16 wallpaper, green pride wallpaper, or the fish wallpaper.
  4. You should automatically see portions of the clock appear behind the photo subject. If not, tap the More button from the bottom and check Depth Effect. After this, the multilayered effect should kick in.
  5. Finish by tapping Add > Set as Wallpaper Pair.
Enable Depth Effect while setting wallpaper on iPhone

If you selected a custom image in step 3 above, it must meet the requirements. And even after that, you may have to adjust the wallpaper for Depth Effect to work. We have explained all these under the next two sections.

5. Choose the right wallpaper

Multilayered photo effect on iPhone Lock Screen will only work if the wallpaper you choose has a proper subject near the time indicator. The subject must not be too low or too high. Usually, photos of a person, pet, pointed building, or hill, work the best.

Image subject should not cover the clock: The subject of the wallpaper image should not cover the entire or significant portions of the clock. If it does, the Depth Effect won’t work, and the photo subject will appear below the time indicator.

Besides the above tips, make sure you keep these points into consideration:

  • Pick a bright image to use as the Lock Screen wallpaper.
  • Make sure the image quality is high.
  • Try to use a wallpaper picture that’s clear and not blurry.
Choose right depth-effect wallpaper for iPhone Lock Screen
In the left image, the subject isn’t clear, and thus Depth Effect won’t work. In the right image, hills are one of the main subjects near the clock, and it easily adapts the multilayered effect.

6. Reposition the wallpaper

When you pick a suitable wallpaper that supports multilayered depth effect, it will automatically come into action and appear above the clock. But this isn’t true in all cases.

At times, even if your wallpaper has the potential to show multilayered photo effect, it needs to be carefully repositioned for Depth Effect to appear successfully.

You can reposition the image while adding a new wallpaper or customizing the current one. Here’s how:

  1. Open the Settings app and tap Wallpaper.
  2. Tap Customize below the current Lock Screen, or tap Add a New Wallpaper and pick the right picture.
  3. Now, focus your attention on the subject near the clock. Use two fingers to zoom in and out slowly. While doing that, see if the subject appears over the time indicator or not. You will have to retry this a few times to get it to work.
  4. Next, try dragging the image slowly using two fingers and see if the subject comes in front of the clock or not.

In most cases, Depth Effect will automatically work after repositioning.

Reposition wallpaper for multilayered effect to work on iPhone Lock Screen
In the left image, you can see that Depth Effect isn’t visible. But, after a bit of repositioning and zooming, Depth Effect works.

7. Add a new Lock Screen and retry

Even after a lot of zooming and dragging, if the subject fails to appear above the clock, you will have to pick another suitable image for your Lock Screen wallpaper.

Read: How to set different images as iPhone Lock Screen and Home Screen wallpaper in iOS 16

8. Restart your iPhone

Some functions of your iPhone may not work due to technical glitches. The easiest way to fix them is by turning off your iPhone and turning it back on.

9. Update your iPhone

If you’re on the first version of iOS 16, consider updating your iPhone to iOS 16.0.1 or later. Doing so will ensure known bugs in the first build of iOS 16 are addressed, giving you an improved experience.

10. Reset all settings

Finally, if nothing helps, consider resetting all iPhone settings. But before you do that, I recommend trying a few different images and be sure that Depth Effect fails to show on the Lock Screen due to problems on your iPhone and not due to issues with the wallpaper image.


Why is Lock Screen Depth Effect not working on my iPhone?

In most cases, Depth Effect doesn’t work on iPhone because of the widgets on the Lock Screen and multiple unclear subjects in the wallpaper that don’t appear near the clock.

Do all wallpapers support the Lock Screen Depth Effect?

All wallpapers don’t support multilayered photo effect. Only those with a clear subject near the time indicator show Depth Effect.

Can I use Depth Effect on iPhone X or iPhone 8?

Even though iPhone X, iPhone 8, and iPhone 8 Plus are compatible with iOS 16, you can’t use Depth Effect Lock Screen wallpaper on these models as they don’t have an A12 Bionic or newer processor. An older chip doesn’t offer the muscle power to swiftly understand an image and separate its subject from the background.

Does depth effect work with wallpaper filters?

Yes. While setting the Lock Screen wallpaper, you can swipe left to use filters, and Depth Effect will still work.

Depth Effect on iPhone Lock Screen works even with filters
Left screenshot: No filter. Right screenshot: With Color Wash filter. Depth Effect works on both instances.

Is only the Lock Screen clock able to use the Depth Effect?

If you have a wallpaper with the subject coming from the top of the screen, Depth Effect can cover and appear over the day, date, and month. Here’s a Lock Screen screenshot showing multilayered effect on the date indicator above the clock:

Multilayered effect over day and date on iPhone Lock Screen

Do black and white wallpapers support Lock Screen Depth Effect?

Yes. If the photo subject of a black and white image is clear, it can be used as a Lock Screen wallpaper with a multilayered photo effect.

Black and white wallpapers support Lock Screen Depth Effect

Is it mandatory to use Portrait images for Depth Effect to work?

Not at all. iPhone uses Artificial Intelligence to understand the subject of a standard image and puts it in front of the clock. This works even if your wallpaper was not shot in portrait mode.

Does my wallpaper need to be in JPEG format for Depth Effect to work?

Contrary to what you might have read elsewhere, you don’t necessarily need a JPEG/JPG wallpaper for Depth Effect to work. I tested it on my iPhone by converting a JPEG image to PNG, and it still supported Depth Effect.

Useful Lock Screen tips: