June 18, 2024

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How to take better photos with your iPhone camera

The iPhone’s default camera app is a relatively simple affair. For most people that has long been a positive thing, but there’s still plenty of hidden features and photography tricks to get the most from your iPhone photos, whether you have an older model or the more advanced on board cameras of the iPhone 11 series.

All of these photography tips and tricks can be used with the iPhone’s native camera app, so there’s no need to install anything new, shell out for any expensive apps, or have the faff of learning a new interface. Bonus. If we can teach you one thing, though: settings is your friend.

Preserve your settings

In itself, this won’t make for better photographs, but by ‘preserving your settings’, you might be better equipped to catch spur-of-the-moment snapshots. This is an option which is hidden in the main settings app, rather than the camera app itself. Go to Settings > Camera > Preserve Settings. You can preserve both the Camera Mode, and the Creative Controls.

This means that every time you open the app, it’ll stay on the last settings you used, rather than reverting back to the standard Photo mode – handy if you’re often shooting with specific settings applied and don’t want to reapply them every time.

Long Exposure in Live Photos can produce impressive results with water or traffic trails

Amy Davies

Try out Live Photos

Live Photos has been a feature of the iPhone camera for several generations, but many people don’t realise there’s more you can do with them just view a short video clip. Once you’ve taken a Live Photo (make sure the option is switched on from the camera app screen), head into playback and swipe up on the screen. You’ll now see a number of options you can apply to your photo.

Loop and Bounce are quite cute, but it’s ‘Long Exposure’ that you can really have fun with. Try taking a photo of moving water, or some traffic after dark then applying the effect and you’ll see something quite impressive – milky smooth water or traffic trails. This is a trick you can try on older iPhone models too, not just the iPhone 11 series.

Capture photos outside the frame

One of the cleverest features of the iPhone 11 and iPhone 11 Pro is being able to use the three different lenses in helpful ways. One example is capturing data from outside the frame you’re shooting, which you can later use for a number of purposes. You’ll need to enable this setting once again from the main settings app, though.

Go to Settings > Camera > Composition. Now every time you snap a shot using either the standard lens or the telephoto lens (iPhone 11 Pro only), data from outside the frame will also be saved. In playback, you can use this data to make useful edits, such as rotating, cropping and altering perspective. You can even do it with video as well, which may be helpful for vloggers and video creators. If you’re worried about all that extra data taking up space on your iPhone don’t worry – it’s automatically deleted if it’s not used after 30 days.

Anticipate the best shot

Another benefit of three different lenses is being able to see what’s going on outside the frame – even if you choose to switch off the recording of that data. You may notice that in the native camera app, the top and bottom of the app (or left and right if holding the phone horizontally) displays stuff that’s going on outside of the frame. Use this information to your advantage – spot when somebody’s about to enter the frame – or when somebody’s about to leave it – and take your photo at the best possible time.

Tap the “2x” icon in Portrait mode for a more pleasing environmental shot of your pet

Amy Davies

Work with Portrait mode

The iPhone’s Portrait mode is not a new function, but Apple says it updated its algorithms to work better with non-human subjects when it introduced the iPhone 11 series. The main non-human subject we’re interested in is pets, and the iPhone 11 is perfectly primed to capture your canine or feline friend.

If you have an iPhone 11 Pro, it’s worth tapping the “2x” icon to the bottom left of the screen when in Portrait mode. This will put the camera in “1x” mode and help you to create a better environmental shot of your pet… or go on, your human friends too, if you must.

Take control of Night Mode

A specific mode for shooting in low light conditions was introduced for the iPhone 11 series. It’s pretty good when left to its own devices, but if you want to add a bit of your own control then it’s worth doing so.

Night mode will switch itself on by default when the iPhone detects that there’s not much ambient light in the scene. It works by shooting a series of short exposures and merging them together as you’d shot a long exposure.

If you’re shooting anything with people in though, who are prone to move, that can leave you with slightly odd results. To turn it off, swipe up from the main app screen and tap the icon which looks like a moon – now you can swipe all the way to the left to set it to off.

There will also be times when you want to set the exposure to be a bit longer – for example if you’ve got a stable surface (or a tripod) for your iPhone. Using the same method, swipe to the left to select an even longer exposure time – up to 30 seconds – to get the best possible detail in dark conditions.

You can shoot with filters already applied or add, remove or change once you’ve taken the shot

Amy Davies

Seek out the classy filters

Most people associate digital filters with apps such as Instagram. But you don’t need to go anywhere near third-party apps to find some classy filters to apply to your shots. We particularly like the various monochrome options, which will give your images a timeless feel. You can choose to shoot with the filter already applied, or you can add (or remove/change) filters after you’ve taken the shot.

To shoot with a filter already applied, swipe up inside the native camera app and tap the icon which looks like three circles overlapping each other. From here, you can experiment with the various filters the app has to offer. This is a feature which you can use with older iPhone models, too.

Discover new ratios

By default, the iPhone camera app will shoot in 4:3 ratio, but you can also shoot in other ratios for a different effect too. You could always shoot in square (1:1), the original Instagram-friendly ratio, but for the iPhone 11 series, a new 16:9 ratio was also added. This will give your shots a cinematic feel, and as an added bonus will look ever so lovely on the widescreen of the iPhone 11/iPhone 11 Pro. You can also use it to get more of the scene in than you would ordinarily, making it great for landscape shots.

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