9 iPhone Camera Features Every Photographer Should Use

You want to get the most out of your iPhone camera. Some iPhone features, though, are so well hidden that you may not know how to use them. In this tutorial, you’ll discover nine iPhone camera features that will radically improve your photos – and give you much more control over your iPhone camera.

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1. Swipe Up For Quick Access To Your iPhone Camera

How often have you seen a great moment unfold in front of your eyes, only to realize that it’s gone by the time you’re ready to take a picture? You can improve your chances of taking the perfect shot if you know how to access the camera quickly.

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The fastest and most convenient way to access the camera is from the lock screen.

Find the camera icon at the bottom right corner, as in in the screenshot above.

Put your fingertip on the icon and swipe up, keeping your finger on the screen. The camera will open instantly.  You don’t even need to enter your passcode if the iPhone is locked. With this trick you can literally start shooting in less than a second!

But what if you’re already using the iPhone and you need to quickly access the camera? Just swipe up from the bottom of the screen. This will open the control center as shown below.

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From here all you need to do is tap the camera icon and you’re ready to shoot!

2. Turn On The Grid

The grid – two horizontal and two vertical lines that divide the screen into nine equal parts – is one of the most useful photography tools on the iPhone. The grid serves as a reminder to always think about composition when taking a photo.

When composing a great iPhone photo, you’ll want to place your subjects at the intersection of two grid lines. This is called the rule of thirds, and it’s one of the keys to great photography.

You’ll also want to be sure that your horizon is straight in any landscape photo. The grid is a terrific tool for keeping your image level.

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To turn on the grid, go to the Settings app, scroll down to Photos & Camera, and make sure the Grid slider is turned on.

3. Shoot In Burst Mode

The burst mode is one of the most useful shooting features inside the iPhone’s camera app.The burst mode allows you to take ten photos in just one second, making it easy to capture the perfect action shot with minimal blur.

To activate burst mode simply hold down the shutter button for half a second or longer, and the iPhone will start taking photos one after another.

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It’s worthwhile using the burst mode whenever there’s any movement or unpredictability inside the scene. It’s nearly impossible to catch the perfect moment of a child playing or a bird in flight without the superfast burst option.

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You can even use burst mode to capture magical moments in street photography. Try using the feature to capture the perfect stride or pose.

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4. Set Focus and Exposure

If you don’t set focus and exposure, the iPhone will do that for you. Most of the time it does a fairly good job. After all, that’s how most iPhone users take all their photos.

There are times, though, when autofocus fails – or when you want to focus on something other than the most obvious subject. That’s when you’ll want to set focus  manually This is very easy to do – just tap the spot on the screen where you’d like to set focus and the camera handles the rest.

This is very easy to do – just tap the spot on the screen where you’d like to set focus and the camera will handle the rest.

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What difference does focus make? In the photo above, focus is set for the flower in the foreground. The subject is clear and bright, while the flower petals in the background are blurred.

In the photo below, the photographer tapped the screen to set focus on the flowers in the background. As a result, the subject of the photo is blurred.

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When you tap on the screen to set focus, you also automatically set exposure. Exposure refers to the amount of light in a photo. Underexposed photos look too dark, while overexposed photos look too bright.

Most of the time, your tap will do the trick. But you can also adjust exposure before taking the photo.

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After you’ve tapped on the screen to set focus and exposure, the exposure slider and a sun icon appear. Swipe the sun up to make the image brighter or down to make the image darker.

5. Lock Focus And Exposure

The iPhone also allows you to lock both focus and exposure. That way, if you move, you are still able to capture the perfect photo. Simply tap the screen where you want to set focus and exposure, but instead of releasing your finger, hold it down for a couple of seconds. A larger square will appear where your finger is along with a yellow AE/AF LOCK sign.

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Now no matter what happens inside the frame or how you move the iPhone, the focus and exposure will remain unchanged.

Why would you want to lock focus and exposure? Whenever there are significant changes inside the frame, the way you set focus and exposure will be lost.

That’s why it’s a great idea to lock focus and exposure when you’re expecting movement in the scene. For example, focus and exposure lock is very useful in street photography. You can set focus and exposure in advance and wait for a person to pass through the frame.

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6. Take HDR Photos

HDR, which stands for High Dynamic Range, is another great photography tool that’s built into the camera of your iPhone.

HDR photography with the iPhone combines three different exposures of the same photo to create one properly exposed image.

The photo below, which was shot with the iPro telephoto lens, doesn’t use HDR.

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Below is the HDR version of the same photo.

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As you can see, the HDR mode adds additional detail in the clouds, the brighter colors throughout the frame, and all the extra detail in the darker greenery in the foreground.

There are some downsides to HDR, particularly when it comes to photos of movement. Since HDR is essentially a blend of three sequentially captured photos, you may encounter “ghosts” if the scene is changing rapidly. HDR photos also take longer to capture, so your hand may move while the shutter is open.

It’s also important to mention that non-HDR photos will sometimes look better than HDR ones, which is why it’s important to save both versions of the photo. To make sure that both versions are saved, go to Settings > Photos & Camera, and make sure that Keep Normal Photo is turned on.

You can find the HDR setting on the left side of the camera app. Tapping on HDR gives you three options: Auto, On or Off. In general,  it’s best to use HDR for all landscape photos and when the sky takes up a large part of the image.

7. Take Photos With Volume Buttons

Have you ever missed the iPhone’s tiny on-screen shutter button? If so, switch to using the volume buttons on the side of your iPhone!

Either of these buttons can also be used for shutter release, and the tactile feedback you get from pressing a real button is definitely much more satisfying than pressing a digital button. Additionally, this allows you to hold the iPhone in two hands, exactly as you’d hold a traditional digital camera.

The one downside of this approach is that you have to press the volume button quite hard, which can result in camera shake. For this reason, you should avoid using the volume buttons on the side of your iPhone in low light situations.

8. Take Photos With Your Apple Headphones

Remember those white Apple headphones you got when you bought your iPhone? They also have volume buttons, and you can use these buttons to take pictures!

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This feature is incredibly useful when you want to take photos of people you don’t know, as you can just pretend to be listening to music or making a call while you’re actually taking photos.

You can also try using the headphones when you shoot with a tripod. Since you don’t even have to touch the iPhone, this is a great way to minimize unintentional camera movement.

9. Use Geotagging… Only If You Want To

When you enable geotagging, you’ll always know where you took a particular photo. Can’t remember where you took that incredible landscape photo years ago? Now it’s no longer a problem since the iPhone saves that information for you.

This data can be used to display your iPhone photos on a map using apps like Google Photos, which over time will turn into an exciting database of places you’ve visited over the years. And if you ever need to find all the photos that you took in New York City, it only takes seconds!

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With that said, be careful when you share your images on social media or when you share photo files with someone directly since they show the exact location where each photo was taken. If revealing your location is a concern to you, it’s best to not use geotagging.

You can turn geotagging on and off if you go to Settings > Privacy > Location Services. There you can turn all Location Services off at once or enable or disable them individually. Make sure the Camera option is set to While Using if you want to enable geotagging.

Bonus: iPhone Camera Features Video Lesson

Want to learn more about your iPhone camera’s features? We’ve created an in-depth video explaining 7 hidden iPhone camera features that every photographer should use. In this video lesson you’ll discover advanced tips and hands-on instructions for using the techniques you learned about in this article. 
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