Take Better Photos Using iPhone Camera – The Definitive Guide

Uzair Ghani
Posted Jul 30, 2015
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Here’s how you can take the best possible photos using just your iPhone camera. Our guide will ensure that you end up taking the best shot every single time.

iPhone Camera

The iPhone is a brilliant point and shoot camera, so much so that if you go through Flickr’s top most used cameras list, the iPhone 6 sits snuggly at the peak, followed by the iPhone 5s and the iPhone 5. That stat alone is enough to prove the Cupertino smartphone’s popularity among the photo enthusiasts among us. But at times, a user might fall short of taking a spectacular photo, and there are good reasons behind it, such as the lighting condition, the filter being used, how shaky your hand was etc. But we’ll walk you through the bare minimum you need to know so that you end up taking the perfect shot every single time.

Understand The Basic Controls Of The Stock iOS Camera App

The stock iOS Camera app is a powerful little piece of software in its own regard. It takes care of everything from taking photos to shooting videos and even capturing beautiful panoramas and time-lapses. But all that goes to waste if you don’t understand what the app is actually capable of doing.

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When you’re set to take a photo, you’ll notice there are a few options at the top which you can play around with. The far left button is for enabling / disabling the camera flash, the second one is for turning HDR on or off, the third is for setting a timer, while the fourth is for switching between the front or rear facing cameras.

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There are three modes when it comes to customizing the flash options – on, off and auto. Based on your lighting conditions the auto setting will trigger the flash when needed, while the other two options are self-explanatory. We recommend that rather than relying on the automatic setting, you use your gut instinct to fire up the flash to brighten up the photo. It’s best to practice on a stationary object in several lighting conditions before you take your experience to the field.

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HDR – High Dynamic Range – combines multiple shots together (over-exposed and under-exposed) for one photo that is seamless in terms of lighting. This setting is a must if the lighting source is behind your subject, or if you’re taking a photo where there are dark shadows in certain places. Again, practice on a stationary object before taking your experience to the real-world.

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The timer setting is a very handy feature in the stock Camera app. It comes with three options – off, 3 seconds and 10 seconds. With the timer option turned on, you can easily take photos absolutely hands-free. It’s perfect for situations where you want to take a photo of yourself with no human support.

Use Autofocus / Auto Exposure Lock

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A lot of users don’t know this, but the stock Camera app supports autofocus and auto exposure lock. Simply tap and hold on the viewfinder and the ‘AE / AF Lock’ feature will kick into action. Swipe up and down on the little ‘bulb’ icon to adjust your exposure. It’s pretty easy to get to grips with, and extremely handy if you’re taking low light photos.

Utilize The Volume Shutter Key

Did you know that you can use the volume up key to trigger the shutter on the iPhone in the stock Camera app? Now you do if you didn’t already. Instead of relying on the big white button for taking photos, it’s a good practice to get to grips with hardware controls too. But wait, the fun doesn’t end there; if you have a headset connected to your iPhone with dedicated volume controls, then you can use its volume up key to snap a photo as well. Now you must be thinking – why would I do that? So you get a steady shot every time.

Play With Lighting

Lighting is extremely crucial for a shot, and in most cases it determines how well a photo will come out. Therefore, we urge everyone to play with different lighting conditions and see for themselves what suits them best at any given time.

Want to take that epic beach photo? Make sure the sun is behind you and in front of the subject. Want to take a dreamy landscape on a sunset? Then point your iPhone in such a way that the sun is at the corner of the viewfinder to create a beautiful lens flare effect. The possibilities are endless and all you need is practice to end up with the right blend.

Use Filters

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The iPhone is no DSLR, therefore there is no shame in doctoring your photos a little to make them look good, or a little DSLR-like. If you’re using iOS 8, then you can add filters at stock level. Simply open up a photo, hit the ‘Edit’ button, then tap the filters button in the center. There are a range of filters to choose from, and in the end, you’ll end up with a photo that will look like as if it was taken in the 80s. Play around with filters at the dinner table, we’ll sure you’ll get the hang of it.

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You can even use third-party apps to filter up your photos. We recommend that you try our ‘Filters for iPhone,’ it costs just a dollar and it’s well worth the investment.

Use Grids For Straight Shots

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Go to Settings > Photos & Camera and turn the Grid option to ON. This will add a grid to the Camera app’s viewfinder, allowing you to better align your shots before taking them, ensuring that you get a straight photo every time. It’s extremely key that you use the grid as a reference point for alignment. Once you turn pro, you won’t even need the grid.

Straighten Photos After You’ve Taken Them

Already taken a photo and is slightly off the grid? Don’t panic, you can straighten it up in a few simple steps  using the Photos app.

Use Your Elbow For Stabilization

If you want to take a very steady shot and don’t want to rely on the iPhone’s digital or optical image stabilization (iPhone 6 Plus), then it’s a good idea to use your elbow placed on a surface to take a stiff shot. Lean against a wall if you have to; there’s no shame in utilizing your own body for stabilizing your photos.

Make Use Of A Tripod

iPhone tripod

This might sound insane, but you can actually buy a tripod for an iPhone. Using a tripod gives you a steady shot every single time, and it’s good practice to try one at least once, so that you know how much improvement you can add to your photos.

A tripod is great to use in low-light conditions since it removes the movement factor completely.

Try Third-Party Apps

The App Store is overflowing with great camera apps, with most of them offering features which the stock Camera app on iOS falls short in. For example, you can add long exposure capabilities to your set of skills and end up making beautiful light paintings and so much more.

Camera+ is a great place to start, or you can even give Obscura Camera a shot as well.

Keep Practicing

You know as they say: practice makes perfect. So pick up your iPhone, get out there, and start shooting.

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