iPhone camera tips & tricks
Ever since the addition of the front-facing camera, auto-focus and the LED flash, iPhones have been steadily replacing our dedicated digital cameras. New camera features seem to be added with each new iOS update – and photos taken with iPhones have graced magazine covers and billboards everywhere.
With this in mind, we've taken a look through all the various modes and settings to help you get the best from your iPhone camera.
These tips and tricks app apply to any iPhone running iOS 10, from the iPhone 5 upwards – but be aware, older devices may not have all the latest features!
When you first open the Camera app, you're presented with a fairly minimalist interface. But there are still quite a few on-screen controls it's worth learning – so let's look at these first.
- Gallery: will show you any snaps you've saved to your camera roll.
- Shutter button: use this to take the shot or start recording.
- Camera switch: you can use this to swap between the rear and front-facing cameras.
- Mode selection: use to swap between the main camera modes (available modes differ depending on iPhone model).
- Viewfinder: shows you what will be captured when you take the picture.
- Flash switch: use to set the flash between 'Off', 'On' or 'Auto'.
- HDR switch: use to enable the iPhone's 'high dynamic range' capabilities (more on this later).
- Self timer: sets a timer so you can get into frame before the picture is taken.
- Filters: you can use this to add some live filters to the pictures you're taking.
HDR stands for 'high dynamic range', and is a feature that's designed to help you take more attractive photos.
It works by taking one photo at a lower exposure, another one at a higher exposure, then combining the two to produce a photo that's bright and colourful – but doesn't lose detail from overexposure.
When in 'Auto' mode, the iPhone will analyse the amount of light hitting the sensor and decide whether HDR will improve the picture or not. However, if you want to make sure it's always on, you can manually enable it by tapping the HDR button.
The use of HDR is a process that alters your photos, so if you're looking for a more natural look you may want to consider turning HDR off. HDR photography can be great, and in most cases it does work well – but it's not always necessary, so it's sometimes worth taking photos with and without HDR to get a feel for when it can improve your images.
The flash on the iPhone is an LED one, so it's never going to be too bright – but it will provide some useful assistance for lower-light situations.
Like HDR, the flash on the iPhone can be set to 'auto' mode, so the iPhone can decide when it needs to be used, or you can manually set it 'Off' or 'On' when necessary.
Filters can be applied to any of your photos, and you have a few different ones to choose from in order to add various effects to your pictures. These include everything from giving a 'black & white' or 'vintage' look, to more grainy softer looks.
Because they are applied 'live', you'll see the filter over the picture you are taking before you take it, so you can have a play with different ones to see which works best.
There are multiple modes to choose from on an iPhone. You can switch between them by swiping either left or right across the screen – for example, you would swipe left-to-right to switch from photo mode to video mode. The modes are fairly self-explanatory, but here's a bit more info on each one:
This is the main mode for taking normal pictures: all you need to do is push the shutter button to snap whatever is on the iPhone screen. You can use the iPhone in landscape or portrait mode and the controls will rotate accordingly. HDR and flash are both available in this mode, and the phone will autofocus on whatever is in frame.
The autofocus works very quickly, and will get your subject in focus easily. If you prefer to focus on another part of the picture, you can simply tap the screen and the phone will focus on the area you tapped on. The focus is not fixed (unless you lock it – see further down) so when you move the camera or if another person steps into the frame, the iPhone will re-focus to get the sharpest-looking shot.
So for the best photos, point the iPhone at your subject, give it a second or two to focus (you will see a yellow rectangle on screen while it's focusing) and then take the photo.
This mode is ideal for taking pictures that you want to share online – as rather than the standard rectangular size they'll be a perfect square, which is easier to view on websites and social networks.
This style was made highly popular by apps like Instagram, and this mode enables you to take photos in that style without needing a third party app. This mode also works well with the filters – and really does mean you can snap some unique-looking photos very easily.
Panorama lets you take a sweeping shot of everything in front of you, allowing you to capture things from both the extreme right and left.
Taking a panorama is straightforward with the iPhone: first decide whether you want to start on the left or right-hand side by tapping the arrow on the screen.
Once you've decided, simply tap the shutter button to start your panorama. You'll then need to rotate on the spot in the direction of the arrow, and the iPhone will begin to capture and stitch all the pictures together.
As you're turning, the arrow will move along the centre of the screen. Keep the arrow aligned with the centre line to ensure the panorama doesn't miss any shots!
Once this is done, the iPhone will begin to stitch the images together into one big, wide image. The Pano feature is fantastic for when you find an amazing landscape – or a fascinating Geek Squad poster – as it means you can capture everything in one go.
Like the Photo mode, this one is quite simple: tap the shutter button to begin recording.
You don't have access to filters or HDR while recording: the only option you have is whether to have the flash on or off. This keeps things simple, and means it 's literally a one-button operation.
Again, you can use either Portrait or Landscape mode and the iPhone will adjust the controls and video automatically, and audio is always captured.
This feature was introduced with the iPhone 5s, and lets you take some pretty awesome clips of action in slow motion.
It works by recording the scene at 120 frames per second, which is roughly 4x faster than most standard videos. Then, once you've finished recording, it can play back that footage at a normal speed, making everything appear slower.
The great thing about the way the iPhone does this is that you can choose to have only a certain part of the footage play back in slo-mo – and once you have, it's not set in stone, so you can always go back and adjust it again later.
So now you know about the features of the iPhone camera and the various modes you can use, but what about some of the hidden extras? Well, here are a few of our best tips for the iPhone camera!
Use the volume buttons as shutter button
This one is particularly useful for taking photos in landscape mode, as it makes using it more like an actual digital camera, as the shutter button will be under your right index finger.
You can use either of the volume up or down buttons to take the snap – and this can also be used with the 'Burst shot' feature (see below).
This can be particularly useful for image stabilisation, as holding your phone like a normal camera gives you a bit of extra grip and stability.
Burst shot is a feature that lets you take multiple, rapid shots by holding down the shutter button.
When you do, the iPhone will take ten shots per second until you release the button. You can then look through your gallery and decide which photo you would like to keep and which you'd rather discard.
This is ideal if your subject is a blinker – and can mean you avoid having to retake the photo if something goes awry!
Use the grid
Placing a grid over the viewfinder can help immensely with the composition of your photos, as it helps you align your subjects and balance out your finished image.
The grid on the iPhone uses the standard 'rule of thirds' 'technique, which divides the screen into a 3x3 grid – and the idea is to try and line up the picture with these intersecting lines.
Follow these steps to add the camera grid:
- Find and tap on the Settings icon from your iPhone home screen.
- Scroll down the Settings menu and tap on Photos & Camera.
- Scroll down and you'll find the grid section. Tap the switch to the right to turn this on.
- In the Camera app, you will now see a 3x3 grid when using the Photo and Square modes.
There are two shortcuts on the iPhone that will take you directly to the camera.
One can be found on the lock screen of your phone: simply swipe your finger from right to left across the screen to quickly access the camera. You don't need to enter your PIN to use the camera – but you won't be able to view the gallery or move from the camera into another app on your iPhone.
The second shortcut can be found in the iOS Control Centre, which you can access by swiping up from the bottom of the phone when on any screen or in any app. When Control Centre opens, you will find the Camera shortcut in the bottom-right corner, and tapping it will take you straight to the app.
As mentioned above, your iPhone will try and autofocus on the subject of your photo, and it will also try and auto-adjust the exposure to get the best light levels.
However, there may be times when you find that it's not getting this right, or you want to manually focus on a particular part of the photo. While tapping once on screen will focus on the area you've tapped, if you press and hold down, the yellow box will flash after a few seconds and the phone should say AE/AF LOCK.
This confirms that the phone has now locked the focus and exposure to the area of the photo you've tapped. You may find this useful if there are large, bright light sources interfering with your pictures, as you can basically tell the phone to ignore these and instead focus on a different area of the scene.
The iPhone camera is easy to use, and its impressive hardware give you high quality and good looking photos. It might not seem to have as many features as other camera apps, but when you go into it there are plenty of extra features to help you get the best photo.
Hopefully, you'll use these tips & tricks to take some great pictures – and if you have any other tips, post them in the comments below!