Your iPhone produces amazing photos, but you can always enhance it. For example, you can control your exposure, spend more time writing before pressing the shutter, and make better use of the tools available to you.
In fact, you can take a crash course on iPhoneography now.
How to Launch and Use an iPhone Camera
You can use the shortcut in the lower right corner of the iOS Lock screen to launch the camera. Either press hard and release the icon (if you have an iPhone with 3D Touch) or swipe up. You can also launch the camera through the Control Center or ask Siri to launch it for you.
When the camera is open, you see all the features available at the top of the screen (as shown below).
From left to right these are:
- Flash: Choose between Automatic, On or Off.
- Live Photos: Tap the yellow icon to take Live Photos next to your photos. Live Photos captures a small amount of video and audio when you press the shutter.
- Timer: Select three or 10 seconds or Off.
- Filters: You can preview filters when shooting. You can also deactivate it in post-production if desired.
At the bottom of the screen there are various modes that you can use to take pictures. If you leave your camera settings in the default settings, reset to Photo mode every time you relaunch the Photos application.
You can swipe left or right to access the following modes:
- Photo: Photos with the Live Photos option.
- Video: Record video with the quality stated in the Camera settings.
- Time-lapse: This is an automatic time-lapse mode that captures still images at “dynamic intervals” to create time-lapse videos.
- Slo-Mo: Record slow motion video at the quality stated in the Camera settings.
- Portrait: Devices with more than one camera can use this mode to add depth and lighting effects to portraits and other objects.
Squares: Take a picture of a square format.
- Pano: Shoot panoramic images by moving your phone horizontally. Your device automatically stitches the images together.
At the bottom of the screen, you see the shutter button (white for photos, red for videos). There is also a shortcut to the last photo you took in the Camera Roll in the lower left, and a button to switch to the front facing camera in the lower right.
If you want to change the video quality settings, go to Settings> Camera. With the basics out of the way, we can now turn to some practical tips.
Control Focus and Exposure
The Camera application allows you to touch scenes to adjust focus and lighting in one fell swoop. To lock this setting, tap and hold the photo preview screen until you see “AE / AF Lock” at the top. This makes it easier to adjust composition and maintain current focus and lighting settings.
For near total control, tap and hold to lock the exposure and focus, then slide your finger up or down to adjust the exposure value. Often, the items that you want to focus on (cocktails, for example) do not have to be part of the picture you want to display (sunset, for example).
This is an important skill to master because the Apple Camera application tends to make its exposure wrong. Most of the time, the application exposes excessive images and loses detail in highlights and colors, especially in sky shots. This is especially true when you are shooting silhouette images, such as the outline of someone with the sun in the background.
Use the Telephoto Lens (or Your Feet) to Zoom
Almost every iPhone since the iPhone 6s Plus has at least two cameras. In the Camera application, this is indicated by a small “1x” label next to the shutter button. Tap “1x” to switch to another camera. On iPhone 11, you can choose “.5” for ultra-wide, or “2” for telephoto.
If you want to enlarge your subject, it is best to press “1x”. This guarantees the highest quality images because it relies only on optics rather than digital zoom, which stretches and changes the sample image. If you “pinch to zoom” beyond the “2x” point, it degrades image quality.
All iPhones tend to perform best when you use a standard wide camera, denoted by the label “1x”. This lens has wider apertures, which means better low-light performance and softer or depth-of-field “bokeh” effects. Getting closer to your subject and shooting with your strongest lens is a simple recipe for taking high-quality images.
Fortunately, breaking this rule is not a big sin that many photographers believe. Smarter software means less noise in images, and who counts pixels by 2019? It’s good to remember if you care about quality, but don’t stifle your creativity.
Compose with a Grid
Go to Settings> Camera and activate the “Grid” option to see the grid overlay when you take pictures. The overlay follows the “rule of thirds,” which divides the image into nine parts. Although it can help (especially for novice photographers), the rule of thirds is not the composition of everything, all-end.
Many images benefit from the rule of thirds approach, but many others do not. However, you can also use a grid to maintain a straight horizon, find and obey the front lines (lines that direct the audience to your subject), and align your composition with other vertical lines in a scene.
Use Burst Mode (or Live Photos) for Action Shots
Not long ago, the ability to take photos of action or fast-moving objects with smartphones was impossible. However, with a modern iPhone, you now have two options for doing this. The first is Burst mode, which captures a series of images, and the second is using videos taken as part of Live Photos.
To use Burst mode, just tap and hold the shutter button. Your device will continue to take photos until the buffer runs out (how long this depends entirely on the age of your device). Direct photos are not captured when you shoot in Burst mode. Instead, a series of high quality images are saved to the Camera Roll.
When you see a picture in the Photos application, you see “Select …” at the bottom of the screen; tap to select the photo you want to save. Tap “Done,” then select “Save Everything” or “Save Only X Favorites,” where “X” is the number of photos you selected.
Burst mode is the best way to take high-quality action pictures, but Live Photos can also be useful. This is especially true if the action is complete and you only succeed in taking a few Direct Photos.
Find the image and tap “Edit” in the upper right corner. Tap the Direct Photos icon at the bottom of the screen (some circles are surrounded by dashed lines). Swipe left and right until you find an image you like, lift your finger, then tap “Create Key Photo” to use this picture.
Because this is a still image from a Live Photo video, it will not have the same quality as a normal photo. You will notice a decrease in image quality when compared to still images taken on the same device, but better than nothing.
Use Portrait Mode
Portrait mode uses depth sensor technology to detect subject edges and blur the background to apply depth-field-simulation effects. You can also use it to apply various post lighting effects and pre-shooting lighting.
To shoot in Portrait mode, slide the viewfinder and select it as the shooting mode in the Camera application. If you have an iPhone 11, you can shoot more than portraits in this mode. IPhone 11 includes expanded support for using Portrait mode for images of pets and inanimate objects. However, the picture above was taken with the iPhone X in Portrait mode, and still detects the cat’s face.
If you have an iPhone XS or newer, you can use the Depth Control to vary the strength of the depth-field effect. Find the photo you want to change, tap “Edit” in the upper right corner, and the “Depth” slider will appear at the bottom of the screen. Drag from left to right until you are satisfied with the effect, then tap “Finish” to save your image.
If you have an iPhone 7 Plus or newer with two cameras, you can use Portrait mode. This technology has improved as iOS matures, but edge detection often makes or breaks a shot. When it works, the trick is almost undetectable. When it doesn’t, it looks like the image was badly edited in Photoshop.
Control the Camera with Your Apple Watch
Apple Watch does a lot of things – you can even use it as a viewfinder and remote shutter for your iPhone camera. Simply launch the Camera application on Apple Watch to launch the Camera application on your iPhone too. When you close the application on your watch, the application on your mobile is also closed.
When the Camera application opens on your watch, a viewfinder shows you what your watch “sees”. This is perfect when you need to take a group or selfie photo but can’t reach the shutter. You can tap anywhere on the frame to change focus and exposure (you can’t tap and hold to lock, or manually adjust the exposure by sliding,).
You also have two buttons available: shutter button and three-second timer. When you use the timer function, the LED on your iPhone blinks, so you know when to smile.
Shoot with the Volume Button
This might seem like an obvious tip because this feature has been on iOS for years, but you can also use the volume button on the side of your device to take photos. You can use it to take still photos, explode (hold enough), or to start and stop recording video.
This grip can reduce camera shake. You also tend to blur the screen that you are trying to make, or accidentally swipe to another mode, or take consecutive shots. This also makes it easier for one-handed selfies to shoot with a front-facing camera – be careful not to press the Sleep / Wake button.
Capture Long Exposures with Live Photos
I know what you think – long exposure on the iPhone? Much easier than you think. If you use Live Photos, you can turn almost any scene into a long exposure. This works best in the same conditions where you shoot old “regular” exposures with SLRs or cameras without mirrors. This also helps if you hold the camera very still (or, better yet, use a tripod).
After you have taken Live Photos, open the Photos application and tap the image you want to convert to long exposure. Swipe up to open the “Effects” panel, tap “Long Exposure,” then wait. Your device produces images based on additional data taken in Live Photos.
Traditional long exposures hold the camera shutter open for the duration of the image. This produces subtle traces of light and blurred motion. However, the iPhone brings together images from 45 frames in Live Photo. You won’t get a subtle trail of light, but you do get some interesting effects, as shown in the picture above.
Use Filters Before or After Shooting
Did you know that all Apple photo filters are undamaged? This means you can tap the Filter button at the top of the Camera application, apply any filter, and then take as many pictures as you want without doing the filter.
To delete or try another filter, open the Photos application, find the image you want, tap “Edit,” then tap the filter button at the bottom of the screen. Tap “Original” to delete the current filter or choose another.
You can also tap the ellipsis (…) in the upper right corner of the screen when selecting filters to see filters from other applications. However, please note that third-party filters do not damage and will not function the same as Apple.
Avoid Flash Whenever Possible
Most flash smartphones are bad, and iPhones are no exception. This works well in an emergency, but most of the time, it produces images that fade and are not attractive. You might also draw unwanted attention to yourself, especially if you forget to turn off the flash, and it lights up when you are on the bus or in class.
Instead of using the flash, look for other light sources. Use the skills you have learned to lock in and adjust your exposure and work with the environment. You will get more interesting photos, more natural skin tones, and have to think creatively today to find a solution. In short, you will become a better photographer.
Flash still has its uses. You can use it as a button light in backlight conditions when your subject needs more light on his face. Also, it’s best to use flash only if you need to find yours
Shoot in RAW Format
You get more out of a photo if you shoot it in RAW format, but this also produces more data. The RAW format captures all “raw” data directly from the camera sensor. When you adjust the data, you can change the image results and do things like adjusting the white balance and exposure value in post-production.
VSCO and Adobe Lightroom are two iPhone applications that you can use to take photos in RAW format. VSCO is a much better choice because it is lightweight and gives you many options for exporting your images. To use Adobe Lightroom, you must register an Adobe Creative Cloud account to export your images.
If you are ready to open your wallet, then Manual ($ 3.99) and ProCam ($ 5.99) are good options. Each offers the ability to shoot in RAW format with full manual control over camera settings, such as aperture and shutter speed. The manual has a cleaner and less intimidating interface, but ProCam also has many video features.
Focus After Shooting with Focos
Lytro is a startup that specializes in consumer light cameras. This expensive camera captures enough information about a scene to allow refocusing of the shot after it is taken. This technology did not find its niche, and the company closed in 2018.
Enter Focos: iPhone application which is basically a virtual Lytro camera. It captures as deep information as possible from the iPhone model with multiple cameras, and then allows you to refocus any image in Portrait mode.
Focos is free to try, but subscribe to Pro ($ 0.99 per month), unlocks high-resolution exports, lens filters, and 3-D lighting effects.
Step Back in Time with a Disposable Camera App
Digital photography is amazing, but it also makes us too easy to get used to our photography habits. Instead of carefully composing and photographing once, we tend to spend more time photographing the same subject several times and think less about each shutter press.
That’s where the one-time camera app comes in! They take you back to the time when you could not immediately review your results because you had to develop films. This means you have to adopt a slightly different method of taking photos.
Huji Cam, KD Pro, and Grain Cam are free, single-use camera applications. Gudak ($ 1) is technically a premium application, although it’s definitely cheaper than a roll of film.
None of these applications are perfect, but very enjoyable. They force you to be patient, creative, and a little carefree.