iphone camera features 740x416 - 12 iPhone Camera Features Every iPhone Photographer Should Know

12 iPhone Camera Features Every iPhone Photographer Should Know

iPhone’s Camera app is simple to use. But do you know how to make more use out of it? In this tutorial, you will read 12 iPhone camera features that you may not know about. They will give you more control over your iPhone camera when you take photos. Even if you have used an iPhone for years, you may still want to go through the list of iPhone camera features to make sure you have ticked all the boxes.

Most of these camera features covered in this tutorial will work on iPhone 6s, 7, 8 and X running iOS 11.

1. Swipe left and up to quickly open your iPhone camera

Nothing is better an iPhone when you want to snap quick photos to capture a moment. The trick is that you need to get your camera ready. There are two shortcuts to access your iPhone Camera app.

Swipe left when the screen is locked

If you are not using your iPhone, you can press the home or power button to wake up the screen, then swipe left to open the camera. You can do this even your iPhone is locked. When you are done using the camera, you can press the home button to go back to the locked screen, or simply press the power button to lock the screen.

swipe left to open camera - 12 iPhone Camera Features Every iPhone Photographer Should Know

Swipe up when the screen is unlocked

If you are using your iPhone and want to take a shot, you can swipe up from the bottom of the screen, then select the camera icon in the Control Center. While you can customize controls in the Control Center in iOS 11, I recommend that you leave the Camera app there for quicker access.

swipe up to open camera - 12 iPhone Camera Features Every iPhone Photographer Should Know

2. Turn on the grid

The rule of thirds grid is a useful camera feature for you to compose a photograph. By placing the subject at or near the horizontal and vertical lines and the intersections, the resulting photo looks more pleasing the eye.

To turn on the camera grid on your iPhone:

  1. Go to the Settings app.
  2. Scroll down and tap Camera.
  3. Toggle on Grid.
How to enable camera grid on iPhone 1 - 12 iPhone Camera Features Every iPhone Photographer Should Know
How to enable camera grid on iPhone 2 - 12 iPhone Camera Features Every iPhone Photographer Should Know

Now that you’ve turned on the grid, you’ve also enabled the camera level. This is a hidden camera feature until you’ve changed the iPhone camera settings to display the grid.

Remember the last time you took a flat lay photo? Don’t you hate it when the subject from an overhead perspective looks skewed? Now you can align the camera perfectly parallel to the ground.

How to use camera level tool:

  1. Turn on the Grid feature (read above).
  2. Go to the Camera app.
  3. Swipe to the Photo, Portrait or Square mode. The level tool is not available for panorama and video modes.
  4. Point your iPhone towards the ground until a pair of crosshairs to appear. One of the crosshairs is fixed (white), and the other is floating (yellow).
  5. Tilt your iPhone to move the floating crosshair closer to the fixed one. When two crosshairs line up, your iPhone is perfectly leveled against the ground, and the two overlapping crosshairs merge into a single bolder one.
  6. Tap the shutter button to take a shot.
camera level 2 - 12 iPhone Camera Features Every iPhone Photographer Should Know
camera level 1 - 12 iPhone Camera Features Every iPhone Photographer Should Know

With the handy level tool, you can take flawless flat lay photos (such as document scanning, food pictures) from a bird’s eye perspective.

3. Lock the focus

The autofocus on iPhone works great, but there are times that you want to lock the focus manually. Look at this photo below:

depth of field sample photo - 12 iPhone Camera Features Every iPhone Photographer Should Know

You move closer to a subject in your frame. Because this subject is the most important element, you tap it to autofocus. However, you can’t find the perfect angle as you want, so you may slightly move your camera around. If you use autofocus, you will notice that when you move your iPhone the camera loses the focus.

To lock the focus on iPhone:

  1. Tap your finger on the subject you want the camera to focus.
  2. Hold the focus reticle until you see an “AE/AF LOCK” pop up in a yellow box.

iPhone focus lock - 12 iPhone Camera Features Every iPhone Photographer Should Know

Now you can move your camera without losing focus. You will know the lock is set as long as the “AE/AF LOCK” is on the screen.

4. Expose yourself

You don’t have to set exposure yourself. iPhone does a great job for you. Exposure is the brightness of a photo. For creative reasons, you may want to manually focus on a subject in the frame, and want the lighting to be a bit brighter or darker.

To adjust the exposure, you can:

  1. Tap to focus on the subject.
  2. Swipe the exposure slider (with a sun icon) up to brighten, or down to darken the image.

5. Snap a shot with volume buttons

You can use the volume buttons on the side of your iPhone for shutter release. Either button works. You can hold your iPhone with both hands to shoot a horizontal photo. The downside is that you have to press the volume button a bit hard. This may cause the camera to shake. So in low light situations, it’s better to use the on-screen shutter button or the timer.

6. Snap a shot with your Apple headphones

Another shutter release trick is to use your Apple headphones. The volume buttons also release the shutter. Simply plug in the headphones to your iPhone, then press either volume button to take a shot in the Camera app.

The advantage is that if you want to capture shots in a busy public area, you will get less attention from other people. If you use a tripod, you can also use the headphones as a remote shutter to avoid unwanted camera movement. Your non-Apple brand headphones that have inline volume may work as well.

7. Burst for the best

In action and portrait photography, actions and expressions change quickly. Burst mode allows you to snap 10 shots in 1 second, so you are more likely to capture at least one photo that’s sharp in focus and pleasing in expression.

To activate burst mode:

  1. Hold down the shutter button. The camera will start shooting a burst of photos. The total number of shots appears at the bottom of the frame.
  2. Release the button to stop burst mode.

To select the best photo from the sequence of shots:

  1. Go to the Photos app.
  2. Tap the burst of shots in your Camera Roll.
  3. Tap Select at the bottom.
  4. Tap the photos you want to keep, then tap Done at the top right corner. The photos that the system thinks are the best shots have a grey dot below the thumbnails in the timeline.
  5. Select Keep Everything or Keep Only X Favorites (X is the number of photos selected). If you choose the latter option, unwanted photos will be deleted.
view burst photos - 12 iPhone Camera Features Every iPhone Photographer Should Know
select burst photos to keep - 12 iPhone Camera Features Every iPhone Photographer Should Know

Burst mode is great for capturing moments. You can try it next time you shoot people, animals, and water splash. Landscape photography? It’s not really needed.

8. Turn on HDR for landscapes

HDR stands for High Dynamic Range. It is a very helpful camera feature that you can enable in your iPhone camera. The HDR mode mixes together 3 different exposures of a scene (one normal, one overexposed, and one underexposed). The resulting photo has a balanced exposure with details in both the shadows and the highlights. HDR is great for landscape photographs because these scenes usually have high contrast (such as the bright sky and the darker foreground). Turning on HDR allows you to capture more details in bright and dark areas.

Landscape without HDR - 12 iPhone Camera Features Every iPhone Photographer Should Know
Landscape without HDR. No details in the highlights.
Landscape with HDR - 12 iPhone Camera Features Every iPhone Photographer Should Know
Landscape with HDR. More details in the highlights.

HDR is not so good for shooting subjects in motion. The HDR mode is to takes 3 photos in sequence, and then blend them together. As a result of the intervals, you will see the moving subject blurry or find “ghosts” in the scene.

How to turn on HDR for iPhone 7 and older models

The HDR is set to automatic by default. If you want to enable or disable HDR, you can:

  1. Tap HDR (on the top when shooting portrait or on the side when shooting landscape).
  2. Select Auto, On or Off.

Auto HDR - 12 iPhone Camera Features Every iPhone Photographer Should Know

By default, your iPhone saves both non-HDR and HDR photos. To ensure that both versions are saved, you can:

  1. Go to the Settings app.
  2. Scroll down and tap Camera.
  3. Make sure Keep Normal Photo in the HDR section is turned on.

How to turn on HDR for iPhone 8 and 8 Plus

The HDR mode is set to automatic by default. Apple removed the HDR option from the Camera app on the iPhone 8 and 8 Plus, so it’s become a hidden camera feature. However, you can change the camera settings to disable auto HDR and enable the HDR option in the Camera app.

To turn off auto HDR:

  1. Go to the Settings app.
  2. Scroll down and tap Camera.
  3. Toggle on Auto HDR in the HDR section.
  4. Toggle on Keep Normal Photo so that both non-HDR and HDR photos will be saved.

9. Shoot live photos

Live Photos has been around since the iPhone 6s and 6s Plus. It is an exciting camera feature that allows you to create a moving image. A Live Photo records a 3-second snippet of video (1.5 seconds before and after you take a snap). Live Photos work great for photographing moving subjects.

To shoot a Live Photo (on iPhone 6s/6s Plus or later models):

  1. Go to the Camera app.
  2. Ensure your camera is in the Photo mode, and the round icon next to the HDR option is turned on (in yellow).
  3. Hold your iPhone still. This step is important because Live Photos begins 1.5 seconds before you press the shutter button.
  4. Tap the shutter button.

live photos - 12 iPhone Camera Features Every iPhone Photographer Should Know

By default, Live Photos is turned on iPhone 6s and later models. If you want to take a still image, you can turn off Live Photos.

To turn off Live Photos:

  1. Go to the Camera app.
  2. Tap the round icon next to the HDR option and it turns white.
  3. If you want Live Photos to be always on or off, you can go to Settings > Camera > Preserve Settings after you’ve turned on or off Live Photos.

Note: you can also turn off Live Photos after taking an image. Open the Live Photo in the Photos app, then tap Edit at the top right corner and tap the Live Photos icon at the top of the screen. You can change the key photo and add effects to your Live Photo.

10. Perfecting portrait lighting

If you have an iPhone with dual rear-facing cameras (iPhone 7 Plus, iPhone 8 Plus, iPhone X), you can use the Portrait mode in the Camera app. This camera feature blurs the background behind your subject in a similar way to a DSLR. The result looks professional.

In the Portrait mode, you can find a selection of different lighting effects. So you can be more creative with your shots. You can scroll the cube icon at the bottom of the Camera app to change the lighting option.

You can edit the lighting effect after you’ve taken the photo. Go to the Photos app, and tap Edit to choose from a selection of lighting options.

11. Geotag your photos

Geotagging allows your iPhone to record the location of your photos. So you always know where you took a picture.

To enable geotagging:

  1. Go to the Settings app.
  2. Scroll down and tap Privacy.
  3. Tap Location Services.
  4. Tap Camera.
  5. Select While Using the App to turn on geotagging.
How to enable geotagging 1 - 12 iPhone Camera Features Every iPhone Photographer Should Know
How to enable geotagging 2 - 12 iPhone Camera Features Every iPhone Photographer Should Know
How to enable geotagging 3 - 12 iPhone Camera Features Every iPhone Photographer Should Know
How to enable geotagging 4 - 12 iPhone Camera Features Every iPhone Photographer Should Know

Now when you take photos and view them in the Photos app, the location of the photo will show at the top of the app. If you swipe up the photo, you can find more detailed information and view nearby photos.

photo gallery by date and location - 12 iPhone Camera Features Every iPhone Photographer Should Know
photo with location information - 12 iPhone Camera Features Every iPhone Photographer Should Know
photo with detailed location information - 12 iPhone Camera Features Every iPhone Photographer Should Know

You can search for photos based on location. Tap the search icon (magnifying glass) at the top of the Photos app, and type the name of the place in the search box. A list of matching locations will appear below.

search photos by location - 12 iPhone Camera Features Every iPhone Photographer Should Know

You can also view your photos on a map. Go to the Places album in the Photos app, and you can see different sets of photos grouped by date and location. You can zoom in and out the map and tap the photo set to see photos you took at a certain location. Or, you can tap Grid at the top of the screen to view your photos in a list.

view photos by location on a map - 12 iPhone Camera Features Every iPhone Photographer Should Know

You can always switch off geotagging in the Location Services option if you don’t want the camera to record the geographic location.

12. Panorama from any direction

Panorama is another great feature in the Camera app for capturing sweeping panoramic vistas. When you go to the Camera app and swipe to the Pano mode, you can then tap the shutter button to start taking panoramic images. By default, the arrow moves from left to right. If you want to pan from the opposite direction, simply tap the directional arrow. It will move to the right side and reverse the direction to the left.

You can also set the focus when taking a panoramic photo.

There are more creative ways to use the panorama feature. Why only take your panorama horizontally? You can hold your iPhone landscape so that you can capture skyscrapers and narrow alleys. The bulbous results will be striking!

13. Accessorize your iPhone camera

You can find a world of iPhone camera accessories. These novel and portable accessories will make your photo-shooting more creative.

  • The Olloclip mobile lenses are great add-ons for your iPhone. They give you creative options such as macro, telephoto, fisheye and wide angle.
  • Moment also makes impressive mobile lenses. They have bright, clear glass, and the camera case and accompanying app are useful too.
  • The Glif tripod mount works great iPhone and other smartphones, and allows you to mount it on a standard tripod thread.

What are your iPhone photography tips? Share them in the comments below!

Happy shooting!

1 comment

  • I work with a company where pictures of our field works are recorded and picture location is quite necessary. But geotagging has been a big problem for me, I think I should go fix up my iPhone 8 plus settings.