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Take Better Photos with Your iPhone

April 6, 2022

If you own an iPhone or an iPad, then you’re walking around with a pretty incredible piece of technology always at hand. Not only does your iOS device serve as a communication tool, but it’s also the world’s most used camera, globally.

The camera on the iPhone is remarkably capable, and as iPhones have developed, so too has the computing power contained within them.

Your iPhone is a great camera, and within the Photos/Camera app, you also have high-end editing capabilities for improving and adding to your photos.

But, in order to take advantage of this power, you need to know how to use your iPhone to get good quality shots.

Our comprehensive guide will show you how to make the most of your phone – from the tech specs of various iPhones, to basic photography tips, to the editing tools you have available right on the iPhone.

Follow along and use these tips to give yourself the ability to capture amazing photos of your kids, holidays, parties, and other memories, all without having to have a separate camera.

You’ll also learn the building blocks of how to use your iPhone as a camera to take great landscape shots, portrait pictures and a whole range of captivating photos.

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What Abilities Does My iPhone Have?

Every iPhone is capable of taking pictures, but the more recent models have become very sophisticated and now outclass many digital cameras. There’s largely no point carrying a digital camera with you as well as your phone unless you go down the route of getting a high-end SLR camera or similar.

Your iPhone really is that good as a camera!

iPhone Model Numbers and their Camera Specification

Apple keep upgrading every bit of the iPhone with the latest hardware and software to make sure it stays the market-leading phone. And that applies to all the camera components as well.

Most of the improvements are made when Apple releases new models of the iPhone. When it comes to the quality of photos, most of the quality is captured by hardware updates, not software updates.

Software updates do make a difference – editing, ease of use, and recent upgrades to how the camera perceives light and focuses on subjects have all made the iPhone a photographic powerhouse.

For the most part, iPhones are great cameras because of their high-resolution.

Camera quality is generally measured in ‘megapixels’.

Megapixels means ‘a million pixels’. The more megapixels the sensor in a camera has, the better the resolution.

The more megapixels, the closer you can zoom in without the image become pixelated. There are other benefits as well, but that is an easy way to understand megapixels.

The first iPhone camera had only 2 MP. The iPhone 4S had 8 MP. A front-facing camera was added for better selfies.

And now, the iPhone 13 has 12 megapixels and up to three rear cameras.

Huge improvements have been made in recent years.

Here’s what you can expect of some of the recent iPhone models.

iPhone 13 Pro

The iPhone 13 Pro’s rear camera system hosts larger and better sensors that in return reduce image noise, making images crisper.

This latest model has a 4K video-capable “pro 12 megapixel camera system” with its three cameras — Telephoto, Wide, and Ultra Wide.

The iPhone 13 Pro now also supplies faster shutter speeds, better detail, improved low-light photography, and for the first time (at last) macro support for super close up photos. It now also has improved shot stabilization.

In addition, these cameras provide a new “Cinematic mode” with a simulated depth effect (1080p, 30 fps) and new “ProRes” codec compatibility (1080p at 30 fps on the 128 GB configuration and 4K at 30 fps on higher capacity configurations).

The front camera is a “TrueDepth” camera that takes 12 megapixel photos and shoots 4K video.

iPhone 13

The iPhone 13  has three cameras. One on the front which as with the 13 Pro is a “TrueDepth” camera with the same specifications.

On the rear are two 12 megapixel cameras, a 4K video-capable Ultra Wide, f/2.4 aperture, with a 120-degree field of view, and a Wide, f/1.6 aperture, camera. The Ultra Wide camera’s sensor delivers more detail and less noise, and the Wide camera supports “Sensor-shift OIS” giving improved shot stabilization.

Both cameras support the new “Cinematic mode” giving a simulated depth effect (1080p, 30 fps).

iPhone 12 Pro

The iPhone 12 Pro has a total of four cameras.

The front camera is a “TrueDepth” camera that takes 12 megapixel photos, and also shoots 4K video, and the software now supports Portrait mode, Portrait lighting, and more.

On the back we have the 4K video-capable “pro 12 megapixel camera system” utilising three cameras,  the Ultra Wide (f/2.4 aperture, 120-degree field of view), a Wide f/1.6 aperture, and also Telephoto (f/2.0 aperture).

Apple states that the iPhone 12 Pro provides “computational photography” a feature that improves its low-light performance and reduces noise far better than all earlier iPhone models.

iPhone 12

On the front, the camera is identical to the Pro version. But on the rear, there’s the dual 12 megapixel, 4K video-capable Ultra Wide f/2.4 aperture, 120-degree field of view and Wide f/1.6 aperture cameras.

The Computational photography feature that improves low-light performance and reduces noise as on the Pro version is also included on the 12.

iPhone 11 Pro

Not one, not two, but three 12 megapixel cameras.

One is Ultra Wide, another is Wide, and a Telephoto camera.

The iPhone 11 can record video in 4K up to 60 frames per second.

The front camera also shoots at 12 MP, includes Portrait mode lighting, Smart HDR, 4K video recording, and slo-mo video recording.

iPhone 11

The iPhone 11 is the same as the 11 Pro, except that it only has two cameras – Wide and Ultra Wide.

iPhone X, XS, XS Max

All of these phones have two 12 MP cameras on the back, Wide and Telephoto, with Portrait mode, Auto HDR, and 4K video.

The front camera is a 7 MP TrueDepth camera with Portrait mode, Auto HDR, and 1080p HD video.

iPhone 8

Single 12 MP Camera with Auto HDR and 4K video. This phone is the only one since iPhone 7 that has just one camera on the back.

iPhone 7

Dual 12 MP cameras with Portrait mode, HDR, and 4k video. The cameras are laid out horizontally instead of vertically.

iPhone 6

8 MP camera with HDR and 1080 p HD video. Front-facing camera is just 1.2 MP.

Older iPhones

iPhones older than those listed above will have correspondingly lesser quality cameras, but they are still capable of taking some great images.

Anything beyond the iPhone 4S has a pretty good camera – the iPhone 4S introduced the 8 MP camera, which is a solid baseline camera. It also introduced face detection on the software side of things – this put iPhones in direct competition with standalone digital cameras.

iPhone 5 took things a little further, improving the ISO rating, allowing you to take better pictures in low light. Burst mode was added as well.

Now, as we’ve just covered, the iPhone 13 has the best cameras yet. 

There is a new ‘Night’ mode which helps take good quality pictures at night or in dimly lit indoor spaces. Blacks will be darker and contrast will be more accurate.

Portrait Mode is constantly being updated and improved. Portrait mode makes the subject in focus and the rest of the photo has a ‘soft focus’.

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Photography Basics

Before we get into your actual camera, let’s just start with a few general tips about using your iPhone for photos.

Avoid shake

You are always going to turn out a better photo if you hold your camera firmly and avoid any camera shake.

Your iPhone has systems in place to reduce camera shake when you take pictures, but it’s still smart to hold your device firmly and keep you elbows tucked in whenever possible.

Consider purchasing a little tripod for ultra-stable and consistent photos, especially if you take pictures in low light since the shutter will stay open for longer and shake will be more common.

Avoid using flash

Whenever possible, avoid using the flash.

Instead, we’ll show you how to control the exposure using the software built into your phone.

The flash on iPhones is built very close to the cameras themselves, and doesn’t give an accurate representation of the light in the room. Because of this, the iPhone flash tends to make unflattering photos. There’s a tendency to make harsh shadows, red-eye on people or animals and inaccurate colours.

It’s also worth noting the flash will only illuminate a few feet in front of the camera on the older phones and not to any great distance on the latest ones.

If you really need to use flash, go ahead, but where you can compensate by controlling the exposure (a ‘how to’ is coming up), then that should be your preference.

Avoid zoom - except on new iPhones

Whenever possible, you should avoid using zoom on your iPhone. Instead, walk a little closer to the subject if possible.

In older iPhones, the only zoom you have available is a digital zoom that just crops whatever image you’re taking, thus lowering the quality.

As the digital zoom goes closer this means that you’ll lose sharpness in the image as it’s literally reducing the pixels in the image. It’s like a magnifying glass.

On new iPhones with a telephoto lens, the new lens will take over when you’re trying to zoom in too far. It is an optical zoom instead of a digital zoom, so you’ll actually change cameras while zooming in.

iPhones with dual cameras from the 7 Plus (but not the 7) onwards do have optical zoom, with these being 2x zoom on the earliest and now up to 4x zoom on the iPhone 13.

If you’re shooting with one of these then using the zoom is an option, but do note that these optical zoom lenses are not of the quality of an SLR lens so it is still a bit of a compromise.

Take more Angles Instead of Using The Burst Feature

The ‘Burst’ feature takes a bunch of photos very close together when you hit the shutter.

The algorithm chooses the ‘best’ photo, and you can go in and look at the other options you've taken as well.

The idea is that you get to choose the best framed, best exposure, sharpest image.

The Burst feature works fine, but the better practice is just taking a bunch of different angles and exposures and keeping more control of all of the options of what you shoot.

The Burst feature doesn’t really offer that much variation, and runs the risk of hogging your storage.

Where it does make sense is in some kind of action shot where a burst will make it easier to capture the one frame that really counts - when you’re snapping a speeding car or someone throwing their head back laughing, then a burst of images might well give you a frame you wouldn’t otherwise have captured.

We’ll touch on how to take a Burst later on.

The Rule of Thirds

This tip is so important that it deserves its own section!

You can radically improve your photos by focusing on the Rule of Thirds.

 This rule is a building block for good quality photography that has been well-known for hundreds of years.

The idea is that any scene you wish to photograph can be broken down into a 3 x 3 grid.

The grid only shows in the viewfinder. It will not appear in your photos!

As you take your shot you can look to place the points of interest in any of the four places where the lines of the grid intersect and additionally you can use any of the lines making up the grid to position other elements such as a horizontal horizon or vertical dividing element (a wall of a building for example).

The reasoning behind the Rule of Thirds is that it seems to be human nature to look at the intersection points of the grid rather than the centre of the picture so applying the rule encourages you to work with that tendency to make a viewer view your image in a more positive light.

In essence, knowing this tip will prevent you from doing what so many of us do - putting the subject of a photo (a person or an object) bang slap in the middle of a picture.

That can work, but often it makes it too boring.

Pushing the interest off to the side where one of the four points cross immediately makes your picture less boring.

 Try it and see whether it helps you create better photos!

How to Use the Rule of Thirds on Your iPhone

Your iPhone has a Rule of Thirds grid built-in to your camera, it is just switched off by default.

To turn on the grid, follow these steps:

1. Open the Settings app and tap on Camera.

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2. Turn on Grid.

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You now have a 3×3 grid over your camera viewer– use it to take balanced photos!

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Just position items of interest (or the main item of interest) on or across one of the four points where the grids intersect.

That’s all there is to it.

iPhone Shortcuts

If you have trouble getting to your camera quickly enough, try out these shortcuts to access the camera quickly.

From the lock screen, you can swipe left to access the camera without having to unlock your phone.

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You can also access the camera quickly from the Control Centre by tapping the camera button in the bottom right hand corner.

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On new phones, you can tap the camera icon from the lock screen, and Face ID will bring you straight into the camera.

Getting To Know Your Camera Screen

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Using the numbering on the images above we will go through each function that is available to you as you take a picture.

1. Live Photos

If you have an iPhone 6S or later, you'll find an icon on your camera screen which looks like a bull’s-eye.

This activates ‘Live Photos’ which is a feature where your camera captures a second and a half of audio and video either side of the moment of your static photo as you take a standard photograph.

You can toggle this on and off by tapping that icon.

You’ll find that these ‘live photos’ play like short video clips. As with ‘Burst’ photos, you can choose a single frame as the best image and then delete the rest.

These Live Photos take up quite some memory and you almost certainly don’t want a live photo of most of the shots you want to take. It is therefore recommended not to have this switched on permanently!

2. Viewfinder

When you open the camera to take a picture you’ll see black bars either to the left and right or at the top and bottom of the screen.

This depends on whether you’re holding the iPhone in portrait or landscape orientation and will determine where the function controls are, but the rest of the screen real estate is devoted to the acting as the viewfinder for what your camera will capture.

As soon as you open the camera you may see a yellow outline square which is your camera looking for what it should focus on and where to set the exposure.

If it locates any faces using its ‘Face Detection’ feature, it will generally lock onto those and make those the centre of the focus in the viewfinder. If it finds no faces, then the yellow outline square will disappear.

You can tap on any part of the screen to bring the yellow outline square back and that will set the point you have tapped as the area for your camera to focus on and set the exposure from.

You can also zoom in by pinching the screen and then opening wider with your fingers. Since this is a digital zoom it is simply enlarging a part of the image in the viewfinder and therefore the quality of your image will be reduced.

On newer phones with both a wide and telephoto lens, the iPhone will automatically switch lenses while you are zooming, in order to use optical zoom.

3.  Different Lenses and Zoom

The iPhone 13 Pro and the iPhone 13 Pro Max have three lenses: a Wide lens, and Ultra-wide lens, and a Telephoto lens.

All other phones with more than one lens have the Wide and the Telephoto lens.

You can switch between them by tapping the .5x, 1x, and 2x button above the shutter.

When you tap on these magnification numbers you are manually choosing to use the optical zoom on your iPhone, so you will maintain better resolution when zooming in on a subject.

The Wide lens is the standard lens, which gives you a moderately wide angle.

The Ultra-Wide lens is better for landscapes, giving you a much wider field of view. It allows you to capture far more of the scene.

The Telephoto lens allows you to zoom in closer on a picture optically – by switching from digital to optical zoom, you are able to zoom without losing quality.

4. Shooting Mode

The line of words just above or to the left of the shutter button tell you which mode you are in.

We’ll look at each of the shooting modes in a little more detail in the next section but you change between them just by swiping left and right across the list of modes, and tapping the mode you want to use.

5. Switch Camera

This button allows you to switch between the front and rear cameras on your iPhone or iPad.

All current iOS devices have  front and rear cameras – the one on the back is the powerful main camera and a more basic camera on the front.

The front camera is lower quality, and is best used for ‘Face Timing’ or taking simple selfies is on the front. Switch between the two just by tapping the camera switching icon.

The rear camera will give far better results in every situation than the front camera as the sensor resolution is much higher and all the features such as the additional lenses, flash, HDR, panorama etc are only available with this high quality rear camera.

However, both cameras do feature the face detection that we mentioned above to ensure that people in the frame of your viewfinder are properly exposed and focused.

6. The Shutter Button

As you are almost certainly aware this is the button which you tap to actually take the photo or video.

If you have selected Video mode or Time-lapse mode (see below) the button will have turned from white to red so that you know whether you’re about to take video or a time-lapsed still image.

If you are in ‘Video’ mode you will also see a second white shutter button on the screen. This allows you to take photos at the same time as you shoot video – simply tap the white button.

7. Photo Library

The last image that you took will appear as the photo library icon when you are in camera mode. Tap this and you’ll instantly access your photo library (or Camera Roll) where you can review your snaps and do some editing (as we will see below).

8. Exposure Settings

When you tap on the screen in the viewfinder to bring up the focus and exposure box you will also be able to further refine the exposure.

Tap on the small yellow sun icon to the right of the square and you can then slide this up and down to manually adjust the exposure level of the shot making it brighter or darker as needed.

You may choose to do this in low light when you do not want to use the flash (as this can be a little too harsh as we said earlier) or you might have artistic reasons for wanting a shot to be lighter or darker than the auto exposure of your iPhone has chosen.

This can be a little fiddly but as long as you have tapped on the small sun icon and slide up and down instantly you will get the hang of it.

The possibility is that by tapping on the screen you will have set a new area for focus and exposure instead!

9. The Flash

The iPhone has a dedicated flash next to the rear facing camera but no flash for the forward-facing.

Any iPhone after the 6S will use the screen as a flash by turning white while the photo is being taken.

This is adequate but nowhere near as good as the flash on the main rear camera.

If you need to use flash (see why you wouldn’t above), then really you need to be using the rear camera to get decent results on any model of iPhone.

Simply tap the flash icon to set the flash to ‘Auto’, ‘On’ or ‘Off’.

In Auto-Mode your iPhone camera will use the flash when low light requires it.

However, as we’ve already said, it is often better to force your iPhone not to use the Flash even in low light to ensure you get the best quality picture.

Tap it to off.

10.  Open Additional Functions

Clicking this icon opens  a second level of functions on the right side of the screen (horizontal mode) as displayed in the image below.

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11. Filters

The three small circles icon gives you access to filters which you can apply as you take a photograph.

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Tap and the viewfinder will split into a grid of 10 possible filter options. In the centre will be the original image with no filter labelled ‘None’.

 Tap on any of the filters that you would like to use in the photograph and then press the shutter to take your picture.

 When you’ve taken the picture you will still be able to click ‘Revert’ (in Edit mode) to go back to an unfiltered original image.

12. Timer

The timer button brings up the options in the camera for the self-timer function.

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It’s a little limited as you can only choose between 3 or 10 seconds before the shutter will fire, but simply select an amount of time for the shutter to delay.

When you have positioned your iPhone somewhere stable to take a picture, click the shutter button and you’ll have the selected time to get into the shot before the picture is taken..

You need to select either the front or the rear facing camera before using the self-timer.

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Having chosen 3 seconds or 10 seconds, you press the shutter button as normal and you will see a countdown in the top right corner as the self-timer gets ready to take the picture.

By default, it will take a burst of 10 images in very quick succession for you to later choose the best image.

13. Image Format

Clicking the image format icon will offer you three formats (sizes) for the picture you wish to take.

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Square, (1:1), Standard, (4:3), and Widescreen (16:9).

When utilising widescreen note that the image expands to cover the controls. (This is the same as working in video mode).

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14. Live Photos (again)

This is just a duplicate of the Live Photo function we talked about above.

15. The Flash (again)

This is just a duplicate of the second function we talked about.

We would guess that there are plans for these additional option areas in the secondary menu that aren’t available yet!

Burst Mode

’Burst’ mode means that the camera takes many photos at very fast speed – at a rate of 10 per second, for as long as your finger remains holding the “Volume Up” button on the side of the phone.

You can activate the Bburst option from the Camera Settings.

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A little counter in the viewfinder scrolls upwards telling you how many individual images have been taken.

Once you’ve taken a Burst photo you can review each of the photos in the Bburst to choose which ones to keep and then delete the rest.

These are shown as one image on your Camera Roll but when you click on a ‘Burst’ photo, it will say ‘Burst’ in the top left.

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The image which is displayed as the photograph on your Camera Roll will be the one that your iPhone has analysed as being the best of the lot for you in any event.

Click ‘Select’ in the bottom tool bar when viewing a Burst photo on your Camera Roll and you’ll see all the individual shots – and can delete those that you don’t need to keep!

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Burst is a great way to take a series of photos at lightning speed so that you can go back later and pick the best shot to ensure you managed to get the best picture, but you’ll never need to keep every frame you took.

And,as we said above, whilst this is a good option in some scenarios (action shots or once only events), as you become more skilled at using your iPhone camera and at planning good photos, you should not rely on this Burst Mode.

Where you have time to take multiple shots of a static scene it’s better to take single shots and then move to change your angle, change the point of focus in a scene and try various exposures.

That’s the way to get a real variety of shots to choose from and that’s why you’ll see professional photographers moving around a subject and switching angles to try different things out.

And, you may have used Burst Mode on older versions of the iPhone iOS software simply by holding the shutter button down, but that no longer works.

That’s why it’s now controlled by switching on the ‘Volume Up’ setting.

Pressing and holding the shutter button in Photo mode now takes a video using a feature that is called ‘Quick Take Video’. So they had to move the Burst option to another control!

Smart HDR Mode

Smart HDR can either be set on or off.  You can find this function in the settings section under Camera.

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HDR takes three different versions of the image you’re shooting, each with a different exposure from darkest to lightest and then combines the best parts of the three overexposed, underexposed and balanced exposure shots to create a higher quality image with better shadowing and highlights.

We recommend that you have this setting on all the time. There’s no reason to disable it as it helps supply you with superb images.

Shooting Modes

With all the camera controls sorted, what are the differences between the available modes?

As we said above, you switch between the shooting modes by swiping along the list of available shooting modes when you have the camera open and are looking at the viewfinder screen.

If you have your device in the portrait position then you swipe left and right across the bottom of the screen and if you turn it to landscape the list will be on the side of the screen and you will need to swipe up and down.

a) Photo

‘Photo’ is the basic photo mode with a rectangular shape and an aspect ratio of 4:3. .

Remember to use the rule of thirds grid in the viewfinder to help composition of your photos.

b) Video

In ‘Video’ mode you can shoot video by tapping the now red shutter button to start and then tapping it again to stop (it changes from a red circle to a red square as soon as filming starts).

The iPhone shoots video in a 16:9 aspect ratio and depending on the model you have will be shooting at various different resolutions and frame rates.  

The resolution and frame rate is adjustable in the top left corner of the screen (whilst working horizontally) and is also selectable in Settings > Camera.

The length of time you are recording video is displayed at the top of the screen, which is a very useful feature in case you’re not sure if you actually not  depressed the record button properly if you’re in a rush. If the time elapsed counter is running then you know you are recording!

This is a good indicator so you can be sure.

All iPhones after the iPhone 6S can take video in 4K.

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In the bottom left corner you have the ability to have the flash light to be switched on permanently to illuminate what you’re filming if you choose.

And, as we said before, you can tap the additional white shutter button that appears whilst filming to take photos as well as video as you film.

Whichever way you look at it this is some serious video capability!

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c) Pano

Pano enables you to take a panoramic photograph.

 This only works in the portrait position and only with the rear main camera.

You take the panoramic picture with your camera vertical but will end up with a wide landscape image.

Tap the ‘Pano’ option and you will see a yellow line with an arrow in the centre of your viewfinder. 

You are instructed on screen to move your iPhone continuously when taking a panorama. Move your iPhone or iPad from left to right, always trying to keep the arrow on the yellow line as you move.

 You will find that if you move too fast your device will ask you to slow down – with that text appearing on the screen.

 As long as you’ve taken the panoramic shot carefully your device will automatically piece it together and give you a perfect shot.

If you’ve moved slightly too quickly or not kept the arrow on the line you may end up with a shot with some areas missing.

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Remember that although panoramic photographs look superb when taking large outside landscape shots they can also be very effective when taking interior shots of friends around the dining table or a similar setting. Try it!

Also, you do not have to do the full sweep as shown by the yellow line. Only covering a smaller arc will give the effect of a wide-angle lens – the picture will bulge a little in the middle. This is another very effective creative tool at your disposal.

You can also tap the arrow before you begin to choose to sweep your panoramic shot in the opposite direction.

d) Time-Lapse

There are no choice of settings for the Time-lapse mode but this smart option takes a sequence of images and pieces them together into a time-lapse video when you stop recording.

You know when you’re in Time-lapse mode because the shutter button goes red with a graduated white marking around it.

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Tap the button to begin the Time-lapse and tap it again to stop (as with video mode the shutter button will change from a circle to a square to let you know it is recording).

Time-lapse is available using either the main or front camera.

The Time-lapse function can work brilliantly if you place your iPhone on a tripod or secure surface and set it to record clouds over a landscape or passing traffic or similar.

It works superbly from a high vantage point in the city looking down on the world below.

There is another app made by Instagram called Hyperlapse which offers very similar functions and some users prefer this.

e) Square

In some situations, you may choose to shoot your original photograph in a square format and can do so by selecting this shooting mode. In particular, this format works well for Instagram.

However, it is probably better in most situations to shoot in the standard Photo mode and then crop from 4:3 to square later.

f) Slo-mo

Slo-mo is available on iPhones after and including the iPhone 5S and on most later models of the iPad, and only works with the main rear camera.

The actual filming of Slo-mo is pretty much the same as video – just tap the shutter button to start and tap again to finish.

However, once you have filmed a video you can change where you want the video to move into and out of Slo-mo and revert to normal speed in the other sections.

Tap the thumbnail and then tap ‘Edit’. Now you can drag the sliders on either side of the points where you want the Slo-mo to be in effect.

If you have an iPhone 6 or later, you are also able to select the number of frames per second that Slo-mo will shoot in Settings > Photos & Camera > ‘Record Slo-mo’ and choose between 120fps or 240fps.

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g) Portrait

Portrait mode is available on iPhones X onwards and also on the 7 Plus and 8 Plus. Earlier models will not have Portrait mode.

If you do have a new enough iPhone, then you’re in luck since Portrait mode makes close up photos of people or animals (and objects) easy to make look stunning.

It does this by blurring the background of the photo while keeping the subject in focus.

You can use this mode to create professional-looking portrait photos. It also works great if you’re taking shots of flowers or any sort of foreground object.

When you’re framing the shot, ensure the subject is between two and eight feet away. Any closer or further away and the feature will not work properly.

If you have an iPhone X or later (or an 8 Plus) you will also have Portrait Lighting, which will give you a preview in your viewfinder of studio-quality lighting effects.

Choose from Studio Light to brighten facial features,

Contour Light for more dramatic directional lighting, Stage Light to isolate your subject in the spotlight, Stage Mono for stage light in a classic black and white, or High-Key Light Mono for a greyscale subject on a white background.

You can take a Portrait mode photo with a real-time preview of the lighting effect on your screen.

With your Camera app in Portrait mode, swipe between the different lighting effects that appear.

You can always choose a different lighting effect after you have taken the shot as these Portrait Lighting effects are available when you are in edit mode (see layter)

This Portrait Mode setting is very highly recommended when taking close up shots of people. It adds a real quality with no additional effort or scene composing on your part.

People will be impressed with the results you get. (Combine a Portrait mode picture with offsetting your subject using the Rule of Thirds for way better pictures of your friends and family or pets!)

Editing Photos

One of the best parts of iPhone photography is the incredible editing suite you have at your disposal.

While there are many third-party apps with good quality editing suites on offer, the built-in iPhone editing suite can usually do the job.

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In order to edit a picture, just tap the Edit button in the top right corner above a photo.

iPhone Image Editing Functions

Following the numbering on the image below, you have access to all the editing functions. 

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1. Adjust - Auto Enhance and Advanced Editing Options

The dial button on the left of the bottom row of icons controls the ‘Adjust’ options.

This allows you to adjust all the dynamic elements of the image itself.

The first option that you may wish to try is ‘Auto Enhance’, shown by the magic wand icon on the left end of the row of icons above.

You simply tap this, and your device will attempt to improve the colour and contrast of the image automatically.

You can turn it on and off by toggling the button and you always have the option to ‘Discard Changes’.

You can also see which effects the Auto Enhance is using, and fine tune them. 

The individual enhancements are shown in the row of options going across the icons to the right, and each isd labelled so you have an idea of what it is doing to the image. 

Those being used and the amount applied is shown in yellow.

You can scroll along to any individual enhancement and use the slider to reduce or increase that setting in isolation.

editing functions scaled - Take Better Photos with Your iPhone

Anything you apply can be discarded so you can play around with these to see what results you can achieve.

Alternatively, you can ignore the ‘Auto-Enhance’ and simply apply each of the enhancements individually by scrolling across, selecting an icon and then using the sliders for more or less.

The ‘advanced’ editing options allows you to go. Here you can get in deep on the Exposure, Brilliance, Highlights, Shadows, Contrast, 

Brightness, Black Point, Saturation, Vibrancy, Warmth, Tint, Sharpness, Definition, Noise Reduction and Vignette.

Some of the most important are Exposure, Brightness, Saturation and Sharpness, but, by and large we would stick with Auto-Enhance and then tweak the settings from there.

2. Filters

The next thing in the bottom row of icons that you’ll find are the filters, shown by the three circle icon.

 There are many different filters available and Apple seems to release new ones with every update.

Simply tap the Filter icon and scroll across to the right to see the effect each has on your photo.

You can toggle the strength of the filters by dragging the ruler below the filter mini box. They are set to maximum by default so push the slider to the left to dial down the effect.

Best practice here is to note that the ‘original’ was the best your iPhone could do with its advanced cameras so subtle application of filters is likely to be better than going full on.

Too much filter is likely to look unnatural (unless that’s what you're going for!)

Filters - Take Better Photos with Your iPhone

3. Crop/Adjust

The crop tool is the third icon in the row shown by the extended box and two arrows and this has many tools wrapped up in it.

Not only can you crop the photo, you can also flip it around, inverse it, and or move it around on a plane.

To crop an image, simply pinch it. You can also drag the corners of the image in and out individually for more accuracy.

In the image below in the top row there is an icon highlighted in yellow. Selecting this will reveal a few more cropping actions you may find helpful.

There is a row of preset formats offering instant standard image sizes.

You can also inverse and flip the image by using the two icons on the left side in the top row.

Very useful!

crop scaled - Take Better Photos with Your iPhone

4. Markup/Extensions

In any edit screen, in the top row the second icon on the right, depicted by the pen tip in a circle, givescircle give you access to Markup any image in your library.

Using markup, you can draw all over your photo. Select from pens, pencils, highlighters, and erasers.

This is mostly useful for editing screenshots and highlighting a section, but the possibilities are endless.

Markup scaled - Take Better Photos with Your iPhone

Just next to the Markup icon is the ‘Red-Eye’ icon, shown by an eye with a diagonal line through it.

Click this if your subject has red eye in a photo.

Then, simply tap the area in the eye of your subject where they have red eye and the tool will fix it.

Note that this does not work on ‘Portrait’ photos

If you have downloaded apps that can be used as extensions in the Camera app, this is where you’ll find them as well by clicking on the top right icon that has the three dots.

Editing ‘Portrait’ Photos

You’ll remember that we said above that you can get some amazing results with Portrait Mode when taking pictures.

Well, that’s true, but most people leave it at that, when there’s so much more you can do with those images in the edit options and these are a little different to editing all other photos.

You still get all the ‘Adjust’ options we’ve covered but when you go to edit a Portrait photo there’s a few additional features that can give you amazing results.

If you have a new enough iPhone then you will have the additional editing tools that come with Portrait Lighting and Depth Control. 

This is available on all iPhones from the iPhone X onwards as well as the 8 Plus.

iphone edit portrait mode scaled - Take Better Photos with Your iPhone

When you go to edit a Portrait mode photo, you will see an additional line of icons above the bottom row which you can toggle to by clicking the bottom left 3D box icon.

This gives you access to the Portrait Lighting effects which has six options, from Studio Light to brighten facial features, Contour Light for more dramatic directional lighting, Stage Light to isolate your subject in the spotlight, Stage Mono for stage light in a classic black and white, or High-Key Light Mono for a greyscale subject on a white background.

As with the other adjustment options you can then use the slider below to dial the effect up or down.

These lighting options can make a huge difference to the photo and you can then still apply all the other adjustment options by tapping into the standard edit icons on the same screen.

Lastly, you can adjust the Depth Control’ on Portrait mode photos in this edit screen.

Just tap the ‘f stop’ icon on the top left of the edit screen and this will bring up a depth slider.

This has the effect of changing the depth of field of the image which makes the background more or less in focus.

Give all of these additional Portrait mode edit options to get the very most out of your already fabulous Portrait pictures.

Better Photos – Every Time!

You’ve come to the end of this guide to taking better tips on your iPhone.

The key thing to take away in order to take better photos on a regular basis is that if you get to know what your camera on your iPhone or iPad can do and practice a little with some of the editing options you will be able to take much better pictures.

However, it is perhaps even more important to understand the basic elements such as framing, the Rule of Thirds and some of the other points we covered so that you take better pictures in the first place or edit better pictures from those you have already taken.

Good luck with your new journey into iPhone photography!

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