11 Ways To Use iPhone Burst Mode For Stunning Photos

Do you find it challenging to photograph moving subjects with your iPhone? By the time you’ve pressed the shutter button have you missed the shot? Or does the subject just appear as a fuzzy motion blur? In this tutorial you’ll discover how to use your iPhone camera’s burst mode to take amazing photos whenever there’s movement in the scene.

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What Is The iPhone Burst Mode?

The iPhone camera’s burst mode is a powerful and fun “hidden” feature in the iPhone’s native camera app. It allows you to continuously capture ten photos every second. To activate burst mode you simply tap and hold the shutter button when using the camera app.

Burst mode is especially useful for capturing the perfect moment when your subjects are moving. It can also be a good idea to use it when your hand or camera is moving. This will give you the best chance of getting a sharp shot with good composition.

After you’ve shot your sequence of photos using burst mode, you can simply keep the ones that worked and delete the rest.

Read all the way to the end of the article for a step by step guide to shooting in burst mode, and then viewing and selecting your favorites. But first let’s take a look at how burst mode can help you take better iPhone photos in many different situations.

1. Take Crisp, Clear Action Shots

Burst mode is an ideal way to capture action photos like people jumping, skateboarding, or even swimming underwater (if you have an underwater housing/case for your phone).

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Burst mode allows you to capture multiple shots as your subject moves. Just keep your finger pressing down on the shutter button. Once you’ve taken a burst of photos, you can select the best shots from the action sequence.

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The key to capturing the perfect moment is to begin shooting before the person starts jumping or moving. This allows you to capture the whole movement from start to finish in a sequence of images that are taken in very quick succession.

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Somewhere within this sequence of shots you should have at least one image that you’re happy with, in which the composition is perfect and the subject is in just the right pose. You can keep the best shots from the sequence and delete the rest.

If you don’t use burst mode for these types of action shots, you’ll struggle to get a good shot because the subject is moving so fast. But with burst mode you’re pretty much guaranteed to get a good shot in one take.

2. Take Flattering Candid Shots Of People

The best photographs of people are usually candid, unposed shots. Candid photos are taken when the subject isn’t actually looking at the camera, or even aware that the photo is being taken. The problem with this is that your subject is likely to be moving around as you’re taking their picture.

Capturing candid shots of people in the perfect pose is much easier if you use burst mode. Just hold down the shutter button until you’re sure you’ve captured at least one great photo.

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The photo above captures a silhouette of a woman in a natural pose against the sun. It took about 85 photos in burst mode to capture the ideal composition. This one photo, above, was the perfect shot. Not only is the woman in the photo beautifully posed, but her glasses are also clearly silhouetted against the sky.

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The candid photo above was taken in burst mode as both the man and the falcon were in constant motion. The final result was a wonderful moment in which the both the man and his bird have identical facial expressions.

3. Capture The Perfect Facial Expression In Portrait Photos

In  portrait photography, your subjects are posed and sitting or standing still. So why would you want to use burst mode?

Even when they are posed, people rarely stay perfectly still or keep the same facial expression for long. This makes it difficult to capture the perfect pose and expression if you only take one shot.

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Using burst mode for posed portraits gives your subject the freedom to blink, sneeze, or swat a fly, knowing that you will have  several images to choose from.

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Using burst mode allows you to capture all of your subjects movements, reactions, and subtle changes in expression, giving you the best chance of taking a wonderful portrait photo.

4. Photograph The Perfect Stride

If you’re photographing people who are walking, it usually looks better if you capture them while they’re in full stride. This creates a dynamic shot with a sense of movement in the scene.

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Using burst mode makes it easy to obtain the perfect stride.

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All you need to do is hold the shutter button down while the person takes a few steps, and you’ll have plenty of images to choose from.

You can use the same technique when photographing animals in motion. Burst mode was the perfect tool to capture the silhouette photo of the camels below.

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By being patient and using burst mode, you can capture the unique shapes of subjects on the move.

5. Capture Interactions In Street Photography

Timing and framing are key to success when you’re capturing moments and interactions in street photography.

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Shooting with burst mode enables you to capture unique moments that might only last a second or two. Just keep pressing down on the shutter button whenever you anticipate that something interesting might happen.

By taking a burst mode series of photos as people move through a scene, you can capture an interesting set of poses and interactions.

6. Make The Most Of Windy Conditions

When it’s windy, anything swaying in the wind such as grass, trees, hair, or clothing can appear blurred.

Burst mode made it possible to capture the photo below during a windy day at the beach. The woman’s skirt was blowing in the wind, creating different shapes as it flew in different directions. The tall grass was also swaying in the breeze.

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This photo captures the flowing shape of the woman’s skirt as it’s being blown around by the wind. It also shows the movement of the grasses. Despite all this movement, there’s no motion blur in the skirt or grass.

7. Take Spontaneous Shots Of Children And Animals

Photographing children can be extremely difficult. By the time you’ve taken the photo they’ve either run out of the frame or they’re moving around so fast that they just appear as a faint blur.

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Using burst mode when photographing children will help you get shots without any motion blur. At the same time, you’ll be able to capture the spontaneous moments you were looking for.

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Photographing animals can be just as challenging. You can never predict what they’re going to do, so it’s best to just start shooting in burst mode to see what you can capture.

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Using burst mode to photograph a horse resulted in this humorous shot when he decided to get really close to the camera. This is a great example of a photo that couldn’t have been planned – or captured – without burst mode.

8. Take Perfect Group Photos

Photographing groups of people can often be tricky. It’s difficult to capture the moment when everyone is doing the right thing at the same time.

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No matter how well you set up the shot, there’s a good chance that someone will have their eyes closed or their mouths open. Using burst mode will maximize the chances of getting at least one good shot of everyone.

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Burst mode is particularly useful when shooting silhouette shots of groups of people. The pose and stance of each person is particularly important in these situations as their shape is the only thing that stands out.

9. Capture Splashing Water

Photos of splashing water can be wonderful, but only if you can capture the splash and water droplets at just the right time.

Whether you’re shooting waves crashing onto a beach, rocks being thrown into a pond, or children splashing in a pool, using burst mode will make all the difference.

Below are two photos from a burst mode sequence taken at the beach.

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Most of the shots in the burst looked like the photo above. Below, however, is the one photo that captured the precise moment when the wave broke. Even the water droplets are captured in motion.

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Without burst mode, it would have been difficult or even impossible to capture such an ideal moment.

10. Frame The Perfect Moment

If you’re photographing a moving subject, such as a cyclist or a person walking across the scene, or even waves crashing onto the shore, it’s important to anticipate the direction of their movement. You can then start shooting either before they actually enter the frame or as soon as they appear in your viewfinder.

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This allows you to capture several images of the subject moving through different parts of the frame. You can then choose the best composition.

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When photographing subjects that are moving from one side of the frame to the other, it usually looks best if you leave more space in front of your subject than behind them. This gives the impression that the subject has space to move into, rather than appearing as if they’re just about to walk or cycle out of the photo.

Burst mode can also be a great tool for framing random motion, such as the movement of birds in the sky.

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Most of the images above were poor for one reason or another. In some shots the birds were in the wrong place in the scene, or they appeared as a motion blur because they were flying so fast.

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Though there were plenty of mediocre shots in the iPhone photo burst, there was one perfect capture. The image above, cropped and enhanced in a photo editing app, includes all the elements for a terrific iPhone photo.

11. Take Great Images When Your Camera Is Moving

If there’s a chance that your hands will move, even just slightly, it’s often worth using burst mode to ensure you get the perfect composition and focus. You’ll run into this problem, for example, when standing on a moving dock.

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As the photos above make clear, it’s tough to take a photo of moving fish from a moving dock. The task is made even harder in low light situations, as the camera has to use a slower shutter speed.

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In these situations, using burst mode gives you the best chance of getting at least one sharp shot. Above is a burst photo in which neither hands nor fish are blurred, and all are well positioned within the frame.

Burst mode can also be very effective when photographing an aligned composition, such as a symmetrical or patterned scene.

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Composing a perfectly symmetrical image and deciding when to push the shutter button can be quite tricky. This is where burst mode comes in handy.

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Just hold the shutter button down while you move the camera around slightly, trying to get the perfect symmetrical composition and perspective.

How To Use Burst Mode

Now that you’ve seen how burst mode can help you get the perfect shot in a variety of shooting situations, let’s go through the process of shooting with burst mode and selecting the photos you want to keep.

Step 1. Open the native Camera app on your iPhone, and ensure the shooting mode is set to either Photo or Square.

Step 2. If possible, lock focus and exposure on the subject before you take the photos. This will keep the focus and exposure settings consistent throughout the burst session.

To lock the focus and exposure, simply tap the screen where you want to focus and hold down for three seconds until a yellow box appears.

You will see AE/AF LOCK (Auto Exposure and Auto Focus Lock) at the top of the screen, and a tiny sun and slider to the right of the yellow box. If necessary, adjust the exposure by sliding the sun up and down.

Step 3. To activate burst mode, simply press and hold down the shutter button (or the volume-up key). You’ll hear the sound of a shutter opening and closing many times, in quick succession.

A count-indicator will appear on the screen above the shutter button to help you keep track of how many images you’ve snapped in this burst. Burst mode captures at 10 fps (frames per second). In just two seconds, you’ll capture 20 images.

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Step 4. Release the shutter button when you’ve finished capturing the scene.

Step 5. Open the Photos app. Then open your Camera Roll album, or the special Bursts album which contains only images shot using burst mode.

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Photos captured in burst mode appear as stacked image thumbnails. To view all of the images in a stack, tap on the burst mode stack you want to view, then tap “Select.”

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Swipe sideways to view all of the photos captured in burst mode.

At the bottom of the screen beneath the tiny image thumbnails, you’ll notice a grey dot beneath one of the photos. The grey dot appears beneath the thumbnail of the photo that your iPhone thinks you might like best, based on an automatic analysis of sharpness, clarity, and motion blur.

Step 6. You can now choose which photos you want to keep. Select the individual images you want to keep by tapping the small circle at the bottom right corner of the photos (turns into a blue checkmark when selected).

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Tap “Done” in the upper right corner when you’ve selected (checked) all the photos you would like to save.

Tap “Keep Everything” if you want to save all of the photos in your burst, or tap “Keep Only [number] Favorites” to save only the images you’ve checked and delete the rest.

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Conclusion

Burst mode is an incredibly useful feature of the iPhone camera. You can use it in so many different situations to maximize the chances of getting the perfect shot every time.

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Remember to hold down the shutter button to shoot your images using burst mode whenever you’re photographing moving subjects. You can also use it when taking portrait photos to capture subtle changes in expression and pose.

Burst mode is even useful when you don’t have any moving subjects, as it helps you to select only those images that are perfectly clear and properly aligned in your frame. 

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Remember that burst mode works best with bright lighting conditions when the camera can use a fast shutter speed and therefore freeze any movement in the scene.

Even in low light, you might get lucky with one or two shots in which everything is in focus.

It’s quick and easy to select and delete photos. It’s definitely worth it for the chance to get that perfect shot!

7 Hidden iPhone Camera Features

As it turns out, some of the most important iPhone camera features are hidden from casual iPhone users. That’s why we created a free video revealing 7 hidden iPhone camera features that every photographer should use.
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  • Terry

    Great article! Very helpful!

    • Thank you Terry! 😀
      I’m glad you find it helpful!

  • Great article! I’m inspired to use burst mode more often now.

  • Lucas Franck

    Danny, me surgiu uma dúvida, pode até ser um pouco tosca, mas enfim… Se o modo burst captura a 10fps, se eu filmar a cena a 120fps (por exemplo) vou ter um melhor resultado tirando um único frame do vídeo?! Ou falei besteira?
    Esse tutorial ficou demais, ansioso já, pra tirar novas fotos!

    • Lucas, acho que quando vc pausa o vídeo, o frame não fica tão nitida quanto uma fotografia ficaria. Fica com bastante motion blue. Faça uma comparação que vc vai sentir a diferença entre os dois. 😉

  • Thank you Danny for this great article! It just goes to show how useful burst mode is in so many different shooting situations.

  • Eduardo Henrique

    Você está de parabéns, Danny. Este é um tutorial muito importante, pois sabemos que a função Burst é algo legal, mas esquecemos de usá-la em situações que não achamos que ela é conveniente. Porém, ela sempre pode ajudar muito.

    Congratulations, Danny. This is an important tutorial, since we know the existence of the Burst function, but we forget using it in situations in which we don’t think it is convenient. However, it is really always helpful. Thank you.

  • Beth

    thanks for this information. I had no idea how to use burst mode, and now I will probably be using it most of the time! A couple of thoughts: 1) turn off sound when shooting people/animals – one click isn’t distracting, but 10 per second is VERY distracting, 2) burst mode is also good for selfies!

    • Glad you discovered how to use this useful feature Beth – it’s helpful in so many situations! And great ideas you have there 🙂

  • thanks for the tips! secrets revealed ! gonna practice now 🙂

    • Glad you found this helpful Inna! Have fun 🙂

  • kimslip

    Thanks for this! Just standing in one place…I wouldn’t think of using this in a ‘still’ situation, but you make some great points. On one vacation, I took several pics of waves coming in, over and over…now I only need to take one burst and be done with it!

  • Lynn Mason

    Great ideas. I’ve never used it for parties but it might capture more candid shots. Thanks

  • Yeah, but how do I take a countdown picture of myself using the burst mode, FFS

    • When you set the self-timer it automatically shoots a burst of photos.