Are you making full use of your iPhone camera when you take photos? While it’s easy to take a photo with your iPhone, the most important iPhone camera features are completely hidden from regular iPhone users. So in this tutorial you’ll discover 7 hidden iPhone camera features that every photographer should use.
My iPhone Photo Academy online course will show you how to take incredible iPhone photos that everyone adores and that you’ll be proud to look at years later.
1. Swipe Left 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.
If your iPhone is locked, simply press the round Home button to wake up your phone, then swipe left across the lock screen.
The camera will open instantly. You don’t even need to enter your passcode to unlock your iPhone. 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 to open the Control Center as shown below.
From here, just tap the camera icon at the bottom right and you’re ready to shoot!
Practice picking up your iPhone and opening the Camera app quickly. As you’re about to see in my iPhone Photo Academy online course, the best photo opportunities often only last for a split second. And once that perfect moment is gone, it’s gone forever…
2. Set Focus And Exposure
If you don’t set focus and exposure, the iPhone will do it 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.
What difference does focus make? In the photo above, focus is set for the flowers in the foreground. The subject is clear and bright, while the flower petals and leaves 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.
When you tap on the screen to set focus, the camera automatically sets the exposure. Exposure refers to the brightness of a photo.
Under-exposed photos look too dark, while over-exposed photos look too bright – so it’s important to get the exposure right when you take your picture.
When you tap to set focus, check the screen to see if the brightness of the image looks good. If it looks too bright or too dark, you can adjust exposure before taking the photo.
After you’ve tapped on the screen to set focus and exposure, the exposure slider with a sun icon appears. Swipe up to make the image brighter or down to make the image darker.
Correctly setting focus and exposure is one of the key skills that every photographer has to master. While it only takes a few taps to adjust focus and exposure, it’s essential that you do it correctly to highlight the most important aspects of that particular photo.
The problem is that every photo requires a different approach to focus and exposure. The things that work great for landscapes don’t work nearly as well for night or travel photos, so in my iPhone Photo Academy online course we talk about setting focus and exposure every time we introduce a new photography technique or genre.
3. Lock Focus And Exposure With AE/AF Lock
The iPhone also allows you to lock both the focus and exposure. So why would you want to lock these features when taking a photo?
The main reason is that if anything changes in the scene, such as a moving subject or the lighting is altered, your focus and exposure will remain unchanged.
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 frame the shot, and set the focus and exposure in advance, then simply wait for a person to pass through the frame before taking your photo.
Once you’ve locked the focus and exposure, you can take multiple shots of the same scene without having to set focus and exposure each time. To unlock focus and exposure, simply tap anywhere on the screen.
To lock focus and exposure, just tap and hold the screen for a couple of seconds at the point where you want to set the focus. A yellow box with AE/AF LOCK will appear at the top of the screen.
Note that you can still swipe up or down on the screen to adjust exposure manually.
Now no matter what happens inside the frame or how you move the iPhone, the focus and exposure will remain unchanged.
Locking focus and exposure is particularly useful for street photography and for taking action shots, both of which are covered in my iPhone Photo Academy online course.
4. 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.
It’s great for high contrast scenes with bright and dark areas as it allows you to capture more detail in both the shadows and the highlights.
The photo below doesn’t use HDR. Notice how the foreground is quite dark, while some of the bright clouds are completely over-exposed with no detail at all.
Below is the HDR version of the same photo.
As you can see, the HDR mode adds additional detail in the bright clouds and the darker foreground, as well as more vivid colors throughout the scene.
As you can see in the photo below, a few minor adjustments in an editing app such as Snapseed can really bring out the colors and detail that were captured in the HDR image, while still maintaining a good balanced exposure.
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 landscape photos and scenes where the sky takes up a large part of the image. This allows you to capture more detail in both the bright sky and the darker 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 a good idea 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 in the HDR section.
It’s also worth mentioning that the default iPhone Camera app has a rather subtle HDR effect. Advanced camera apps can create much stronger HDR effects while also giving you full control over the capture. My iPhone Photo Academy online course will show you how to use these advanced camera apps to take full control over your HDR images.
5. Shoot In Burst Mode
Burst mode is one of the most useful shooting features inside the iPhone’s camera app. It 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.
After you’ve shot a burst of images, you can then choose the best photos from the sequence and delete the rest.
It’s worth using burst mode whenever there’s any movement or unpredictability inside the scene.
Consider using it when photographing children, animals, birds, and splashing water.
It’s also great for capturing magical moments in street photography. Try using burst mode to capture the perfect stride or pose.
Burst Mode is one of the most useful iPhone camera features. So in my iPhone Photo Academy online course we use it for a variety of different situations, including street photography, portraits, action shots, reflection photos, silhouettes and more.
6. 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 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. This is particularly important in low-light conditions, when any movement of your iPhone will result in blurry photos.
My iPhone Photo Academy course shows you exactly how to hold your iPhone to reduce camera shake, which is essential for taking sharp and clear low-light photos.
7. 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!
This feature is incredibly useful when you want to take discreet 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.
This technique also comes in handy when your iPhone is on a tripod. By releasing the shutter with your headphones you can eliminate any unintentional camera movement, which is essential for night photography, long exposure photography and more.
These and many other photography genres are covered extensively in my iPhone Photo Academy online course. This course will show you how to take incredible iPhone photos that everyone adores and that you’ll be proud to look at years later!