14 iPhone Photography Tips to Take Better Photos

iPhone Photography Tips

How to Take Professional Photos with iPhone

Smartphones are ubiquitous in American culture, and in fact, around the world. Everyone has one, and everyone is always snapping photographs using their phones. Smartphone photographs and videos have captured rare occurrences, been used as evidence in courtroom trials, and preserved millions of special moments.

Additionally, you’re always likely to have your phone with you for those impromptu moments when you just have to get a picture or video. Smartphones are more convenient than carrying around camera equipment, and the technology and quality is improving practically every day.

The iPhone and smartphones in general have caused a massive boom in photography worldwide. With each new model, Apple raises the bar in smartphone camera features. Over the past 5 years, smartphone cameras have taken a quantum leap in terms of image quality.

The iPhone has been an industry leader in smartphone technology from the beginning. Apple has sold more than 1.5 billion iPhones since 2009, and part of the brand’s popularity is because of its camera.

We’ve all seen the commercials that proudly boast “Shot on an iPhone,” but who among us has been able to shoot images that good on their own iPhone? With these 14 iPhone photography tips and camera settings, you’ll be shooting DSLR-quality images before you know it!

1. Quick Open Camera

Anyone who uses their iPhone for photography has suffered the frustration of trying desperately to get your phone open, get to the camera app, and get that great shot. Quick access is really important because conditions change fast, people and animals move, and that perfect shot disappears quickly. If you have to fumble with your phone, it’s already too late! But, that’s not a problem anymore with the iPhone camera app. There are several ways to get the camera open quickly:

Slide Left

If your phone is locked, just slide left and the camera app will appear. You can start shooting immediately without having to enter a password.

Home Screen Docking

If you’re already using the phone, you can put the camera app icon on the dock–that’s the area at the bottom of the home screen where the 4 apps you use most frequently are stored. There, you can find it quicker to use. 

Add the camera icon to the dock by tapping and holding on the icon until it starts to jiggle. Then you can drag the icon to the dock. It only stores 4 apps so, if it’s full, you’ll have to remove one of the other icons.

Control Center

If you’re using another app and you want to use the camera, you don’t have to close out of the other app. Simply swipe down from the top right of the screen to open the control center where you can tap on the camera icon. From there, you can shoot to your heart’s desire!

iPhone outdoor photography features include the exposure slider which allows you to adjust exposure for effects like a silhouette pictured here.

2. Exposure

With iPhone’s exposure slider, you can override the camera’s automatic exposure settings to get the shot you want. You can correct the brightness for underexposure or overexposure to achieve effects like a silhouette.

You find the exposure slider by tapping on the screen to select a focusing area. When you see the white box appear, you’ll also see a sun icon appear beside it. When the square turns yellow (like the sun), you can move your finger up or down to change the exposure. You’ll see a real-time change in the scene as you do this, so you’ll know exactly how much to move it for the shot you want.

3. HDR

Sometimes neither you nor the camera can get the exposure just right. This is especially true in high-contrast lighting situations such as those that occur with sunset, sunrise, and overcast conditions. Whenever you have tricky lighting situations, HDR (high dynamic range) is one of the best iPhone camera features that help a lot.

Turning this setting on uses multiple exposures to give your camera more information on highlights and lowlights to automatically create a more dynamic photo.

This feature causes your phone to take three photographs, one with normal exposure, one darker, and one lighter. Then, it merges the three shots together to create a vivid photograph with the perfect exposure. You’ll find the settings for HDR at the top of the screen.

iPhone outdoor photography features include burst mode which allow you to capture fast moving subjects such as this hummingbird in flight

4. Burst Mode

Another challenge for photography enthusiasts is to capture action or fast-moving subjects. If you don’t click at the right second, the photo will be blurry, and by the time you realize it’s not good, the action has moved on. But, with the iPhone burst mode, that’s not a problem.

And, it’s simple to use. You just press and hold the shutter button when photo mode is on and your iPhone will shoot in Burst Mode. The camera will continue to take pictures until you release your finger, and you’ll get a clear shot of your fast-moving subject. In the Photos app, you can see the burst as a set of photos, making it easy to select your favorites and delete the rest.

5. Composition

As a professional photographer, you should always follow the rules of composition, and iPhone can help with that too! The camera has built-in gridlines to aid with composition.

The Grid places a 3×3 grid on your phone screen so you can create the ideal composition for your photos. To turn the Grid on, go to your settings, select “Photos & Camera,” look for “Grid,” and toggle it on.

There are two horizontal and two vertical grid lines that divide the screen into thirds, top to bottom and side to side. That will help you to apply the rule of thirds–that is, you can offset the main subject of the photograph and divide the scenery into thirds. The gridlines help with that since you can use them to position the main subject.

Enabling the gridlines also activates a leveling tool that helps keep the photo straight when shooting straight up or straight down. It consists of two crosshairs. When you’re shooting up or down on a subject, bring the two crosshairs into alignment and the camera will be parallel to the ground or the sky as the case may be. 

To activate the gridlines, open the settings app and select camera, then tap on the grid button so it turns green. Then just close the settings and open the camera app, and you’re set to go.

iPhone outdoor photography features include gridlines that allow you to offset the main subject such as this shoreline view with the cliff to one side.

6. Versatile Shooting Modes

The iPhone camera also has multiple shooting modes and choosing the correct mode can significantly improve your photos. To choose a shooting mode, swipe to the left or right at the bottom of the screen. You can choose from Photo, Video, Square, Pano, Portrait, Time Lapse, and Slo-Mo.

Photo

This mode lets you capture those stunning photos you will want to hang on your wall. You’re probably already used to this style as it is the most common format.

Square

This mode captures square photos instead of rectangular ones like the Photo mode. This is really an advantage in the digital age. Before that, getting square photographs meant cropping negatives in the darkroom (and losing quality) or using a 6 X 6 cm format medium camera. With digital technology, it is now possible to take square photos. They can improve composition, are perfect for Instagram, and give you more flexibility in creating the images you want!

Pano

This mode lets you take super wide panoramic shots. It’s a great tool for landscapes or cityscapes. Just tap the shutter button with the camera held vertically and then move across the scene you’re shooting in the direction of the arrow.

One of the biggest advantages to iPhone outdoor photography is that you don't have to carry a lot of equipment to events such as this concert pictured here.

Video

This lets you take videos when a single shot just won’t do, such as when you’re capturing the action at a live music concert or taking a video of a friend’s 40th birthday party!

Slo-Mo

This lets you capture video in slow motion, a great effect! And, some argue that this is one of the camera features that are even better than many DSLRs for shooting slow motion.

Time Lapse

This creates sped-up video footage if, for example, you want to capture how something changes over time, like the movement of the stars or the burning of a candle.

Portrait

For Portrait Mode, which uses the twin-lens rear cameras, you’ll need at least an iPhone 7 Plus, 8 Plus, or X. Portrait mode puts the subject in focus while giving you a blurred background (or bokeh). It also has lighting mode options to help you achieve your desired look. The portrait mode emulates bokeh, the blurred background effect achieved with shallow depth of field in DSLR cameras.

iPhone outdoor photography features include modes to shoot square photos such as this seascape

7. Filters

Your iPhone offers dozens of native app filters that you can use in live mode. That means you can apply the presets while you’re taking pictures, so you can see the effect immediately. You can also change your presets without affecting the quality of your image. Unlike the use of third-party apps, the use of the iPhone filters doesn’t simply overlay a new filter on an existing filter–it replaces the old filter. That prevents oversaturation with unnatural colors. 

You have several choices of filters with an iPhone. You can make your image more vivid and more dramatic, or you can remove the color altogether with filters such as the Mono, Silvertone, or Noir filters. You can shoot with one of these filters already applied, and then if you decide you don’t like it, you can remove it or change it. 

To find the filters, open the camera app and tap the icon with three overlapping circles at the top right-hand corner of the screen. Then, simply choose from dozens of available filters.

8. Optical Image Stabilization

Image stabilization is always a challenge when you’re shooting without a tripod, and this is particularly true for certain challenging outdoor locations. The optical image stabilization (OIS) allows the iPhone to utilize longer exposures while preventing image blurring. It is available for use with both photos and videos, and combined with a larger aperture (f/1.8) that allows in more light, the result is sharper images in low-light situations.

9. Six Element Lens

Elements refer to the individual glass elements within the lens itself. More elements can better control optical defects. Because lens surfaces are spherical, this results in image distortion. To correct this, optical systems such as cameras and microscopes utilize combinations of positive and negative lens elements that are cemented together to form compound lens groups. More elements improve the resolution of the images. Thus, the six element lens on newer iPhones will result in improved images with sharper resolution.

One of the advantages of iPhone photography is that you are less likely to forget to bring your phone with you. It’s easier to forget your camera or you might not be planning on using it, but then that special moment arrives and you’re kicking yourself because you don’t have your camera. But, nowadays, it’s almost a given that you will have your phone with you, and if that phone is an iPhone, you’ve got loads of great features to get high-quality images. 

First, iPhones are built well, with six-element lenses and optical image stabilization. Then, they have multiple filters and shooting modes to choose from, and they have features such as gridlines and the exposure slider that help you compose and light your subjects for great photographs. When neither you nor the camera can get the exposure right, there’s the HDR feature that will take the best elements from several exposures and combine them for perfection. Finally, when you have fast-moving subjects or situations–the burst mode and quick open camera features mean you won’t miss the shot.

10. Autoflash

Even though newer iPhones have a pretty solid flash, the last thing you want is to ruin a perfectly good composition with a surprise flash. Just look for the lightning bolt on the camera screen and select “off”. It’s easy to turn on the flash or turn Autoflash back on with the same settings.

shooting in raw on iphone.

11. Shoot in RAW

If you really want to shoot in RAW and you have OS 10 or later you can, but you’ll also need a third-party camera app installed to actually capture those images. iPhones do some pretty great work for quick shooting, so this is probably something worth experimenting with only if you can’t achieve what you’re looking to do with the built-in camera features.

12. Shutter Button

If snapping pics by tapping the shutter button on the screen is causing problems with your photos, including a delay (the photo is taken when the screen button is released, not when it’s tapped), try an alternative. You can hold the phone more like a traditional camera and use the volume buttons to trigger the shutter.

If you have earbuds from Apple plugged into your phone, the volume button on those will also trigger the shutter. Apple watches and other peripherals can also be used as remote shutter triggers.

iPhone Focus Settings.

13. Focus

If just tapping to focus isn’t working for you (sometimes the phone will refocus after you’ve chosen the subject), you can actually tap and hold to lock your focus and your exposure. Once the focus is locked, you can adjust the exposure with a slider.

14. Review Live Photos in the Photo App to Adjust the Default Image

Live photos make great bounce or loop videos because the phone records what happens 1.5 seconds before and after the photo. If you’re just looking for one keyframe, you can find that by editing the photo. When you edit a Live photo, you’ll see a slider at the bottom — just move it to the frame you like and tap “Make Key Photo” and you’re done!

iPhone User Guides

iPhone users have probably noticed their phones don’t come with printed user manuals or guides. Instead, User Guides for each operating system are available online directly from Apple.

Here are links to the iOS 15 User Guide and guides to the previous 5 versions on Apple’s website;

User Guide for iOS 15
User Guide for iOS 14
User Guide for iOS 13
User Guide for iOS 12
User Guide for iOS 11
User Guide for iOS 10

iPhone Instructional Videos from Apple

Most iPhone users are unaware of the free training and tutorial videos from Apple. Here are some short stunning iPhone photography instructional videos.







If you’re interested in learning more, we compiled a list of the best courses for iPhone photography.

iPhone and iPad Photography with iOS 14

iPhone Filmmaking: From Shoot Through Edit

Take Professional Photos On Your iPhone

Easy Product Photography with your iPhone or Smartphone

iPhone Camera Essentials

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