How To Use iPhone Burst Mode For Stunning iPhone 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? If you want to take great photos of moving subjects, using the burst mode feature in the camera app will make it much easier to get the timing right and capture the perfect shot. In this tutorial you’ll discover how to use burst mode to take amazing iPhone photos whenever there’s movement in the scene.

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What Is Burst Mode?

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 to 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.

Below are some of the individual shots from a burst sequence that I shot of a canal in Amsterdam with seagulls flying around the scene.

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Most of the images were no good for one reason or another. In some images the composition wasn’t aligned perfectly due to me moving the camera slightly as I took the burst sequence. In other shots the birds were either in the wrong place in the scene, or they appeared as a motion blur because they were flying so fast.

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Here’s the one image that I was happy with from the sequence, after being cropped and enhanced in a photo editing app.

At the end of this tutorial you’ll learn how to shoot using burst mode and how to keep or delete certain photos from the burst sequence. But first, let’s look at some specific situations where using burst mode will help you capture the perfect shot.

1. Take Fun Action Shots

Using burst mode to capture fun action photos like people jumping, skateboarding, or even swimming underwater (if you have an underwater housing/case for your phone) is the best way to shoot in these situations.

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Burst mode allows you to capture multiple shots of every moment during the movement of your subject. Just keep your finger held down on the shutter button and then you can select the best shots from the action sequence afterwards.

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The key for 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, where the composition is perfect and the subject is in just the right pose. You can keep the best shots from the sequence and just 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. If you only take one photo of someone jumping, it can be very difficult to press the shutter button at just the right moment. But with burst mode you’re pretty much guaranteed to get a good shot in one take.

2. Use Burst Mode For Candid Shots Of People

The best photographs of people are normally when they’re not actually looking at the camera, or even aware that the photo is being taken. The problem with this is that your subject isn’t posed still, so they often move while you’re taking the photo.

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 happy that one of the images will have the person in a good position.

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In this photo I wanted to capture a silhouette of a woman in a natural pose against the sun. I took about 85 photos in burst mode before I was convinced that the composition was right. This one photo was the perfect shot. I love the way her glasses are clearly silhouetted against the sky.

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With this photo the problem was movement. The man wouldn’t stop talking and the falcon wouldn’t stay still. I chose to shoot the scene using burst mode to make sure that I captured at least one photo without motion blur and where my subjects had a good facial expression.

This was certainly a good choice of camera feature to use, and I was extremely happy with this shot that I selected from the burst sequence. At that split second the falcon stopped moving and both subjects had their mouths open in a pose that mirrored the other’s expression.

3. Capture The Perfect Expression In Portrait Photos

When photographing portraits, especially when your subject is posed, you might think that burst mode isn’t necessary since the person is usually sat or stood still.

However, people rarely stay perfectly still or keep the same facial expression for long, making it difficult to capture the perfect pose and expression if you only take one shot.

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They might make tiny adjustments to their facial expression which makes all the difference to your shot. Using burst mode for posed portraits allows you to capture their different facial expressions so that you have several images to choose from.

During the exposure the person might blink, so shooting in burst mode ensures you get plenty of shots with their eyes open. They might also move their head or arms, resulting in a blurry streak across the image. Using burst mode should ensure that you get some good sharp shots even if the person moves.

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You could ask the person to slowly change their expression or pose while you’re shooting in burst mode so that you have a variety of shots to choose from. They might even do something totally spontaneous or unexpected that actually works out really well.

Using burst mode allows you to capture all of the person’s 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, rather than at the point where both of their legs are together. This creates a more dynamic shot with a sense of movement in the scene.

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However, it can be difficult to capture the perfect stride if you just take a single photo. Using burst mode makes it much easier to obtain the perfect shot.

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

This technique is especially useful in street photography, and you can also use the same technique when photographing animals. I used burst mode to take the silhouette photo of the camels below.

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There were lots of shots in the sequence where the stride of the animals didn’t look so good, and where the silhouettes of the two camels were overlapping. By being patient and using burst mode, I managed to get this great silhouette photo showing the unique shapes of my subjects on the move.

5. Capture Interactions In Street Photography

Timing and framing is key when you’re composing a street photography shot. Street photography is all about telling stories by capturing moments and interactions between people that you don’t know.

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

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Burst mode also allows you to get moving subjects positioned just where you want them in the frame. When shooting down on this street scene, I shot a sequence of photos over about ten seconds to capture many shots with the people in slightly different positions.

6. Use Burst Mode In Windy Conditions

When it’s windy, anything swaying in the wind such as grass, trees, hair or clothing can appear blurred due to the movement. Or something might be in the wrong position, such as a scarf blowing over the person’s face. Using burst mode makes it easier to capture the perfect shot when objects are being moved by the wind.

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

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This was my favorite shot from the burst sequence. I like the flowing shape of the woman’s skirt that’s being blown around by the wind. It shows movement to indicate that it was a windy day, but in this particular image there’s no motion blur in the skirt or grass.

7. Use Burst Mode For Children & Animals

Photographing children can be extremely difficult because they move a lot and don’t sit still when you tell them to! 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 on these occasions will help you get shots without any motion blur and capture the spontaneous or quiet moments you were looking for.

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You’re likely to end up with a lot of photos in your camera roll when photographing children with burst mode, but it’s really the only way that you’re going to get sharp shots of them in a good pose.

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 this horse resulted in this humorous shot when he decided to get really close to the camera. The rest of the photos were mostly blurred, but this one was just perfect!

8. Take Better Group Shots Of People

Photographing groups of people, or scenes where there’s more than one person in the frame, can often be tricky as it’s difficult to get everyone doing the right thing at the same time.

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Some people might have their eyes closed, be looking away from the camera, moving their arms, etc. Using burst mode will maximize the chances of you getting at least one good shot of everyone.

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Burst mode is really 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 Water Splashes

Water splashes make a great photography subject, but this type of shot only works if you can capture the splash and water droplets at just the right time.

Whether you’re shooting waves crashing onto the beach, rocks being thrown into a pond, or children splashing in the pool, capturing the splash at the perfect moment is vital for getting a good photo. Using burst mode will make this task simple.

Below are two photos from a burst mode sequence that I took at the beach where I wanted to capture the waves breaking and splashing on the shore.

I got in place for my composition and held down the shutter button to activate burst mode, making sure I didn’t miss out on that precise moment when the waves broke right in front of my iPhone.

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There’s only a short moment to capture the perfect shot in this situation, so I started shooting as the wave was coming in and didn’t stop until it had broken. Most of the shots looked like the photo above, but below is the exact moment when the wave broke.

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Here you can see the individual water droplets splashing into the air as the wave broke. Without burst mode it could have taken many attempts to capture the splash at this precise moment.

10. Anticipate Your Subject’s Movement

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 with them moving through different parts of the frame. You can then choose the best one in terms of composition, focus, etc.

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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 them appearing as if they’re just about to walk or cycle out of the photo.

11. Use Burst Mode If Your Camera Is Moving

Finally, it’s worth considering using burst mode even if your subject isn’t moving. If there’s a chance that your hands are moving, even just slightly, it’s often worth using burst mode to ensure you get the perfect composition and focus while you take the shot.

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Here are two shots from a burst sequence where I had moving subjects, but I was also struggling to keep my iPhone steady enough to get a shot without camera shake. Camera shake causes blurry photos and is a common problem 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 where you’re not moving the camera. Above is one of the shots from the sequence where I wasn’t moving the iPhone and where the fish were in a good position within the frame.

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I often use burst mode when photographing an aligned composition, such as symmetrical and patterned scenes. Composing a perfectly symmetrical image and deciding when to push the shutter button can be quite tricky and take some time to get right. This is where burst mode comes in handy.

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Just keep the shutter button held down while you move the camera around slightly, trying to get the perfect symmetrical composition and perspective. I find that using burst mode is the best way of photographing patterns.

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.

Burst mode was introduced with the iPhone 5s, so if you have an iPhone 5s or newer you can follow the instructions below to activate burst mode.

Older versions of the iPhone won’t shoot in burst mode, but they can still take multiple and sequential pictures by holding down the shutter button. You just won’t get the amount of shots that you would with the iPhone 5s or later models.

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

2. If possible, lock focus and exposure on the subject before you take the photos. By doing this the focus and exposure settings of the photo will be maintained 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 the focus areas pulsates and a yellow box appears.

You will see AE/AF LOCK (Auto Exposure and Auto Focus Lock) at the top of the screen. If necessary, adjust the exposure by swiping up and down on the screen.

3. To activate burst mode, simply press and hold down the shutter button (or the volume-up key). You’ll hear the conventional shutter sound, but rather than once, you’ll hear a fast sequence of them.

Also a count-indicator shows up 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) which means that every second ten photos will be taken.

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

5. Open the Photos app, then either open your Camera Roll album, or the special Bursts album which contains only your images that you shot using burst mode.

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6. 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…” at the bottom of the screen.

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

8. At the bottom of the screen beneath the tiny image thumbnails, you’ll notice a grey dot appear beneath one of the photos. This is a really neat feature of burst mode.

The iPhone works in the background evaluating every shot, analyzing sharpness, clarity, motion blur, and it can even detect when someone’s eyes are closed.

The grey dot appears beneath the thumbnail of the photo that your iPhone thinks you might like best, according to the automatic analysis.

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

11. Now either 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.

It’s even useful when you don’t have any moving subjects, such as when you’re getting camera shake or when you’re trying to align subjects in the frame for your composition.

Burst mode makes sure that you don’t miss out on that valuable split second that makes all the difference. It allows you to register each moment with the most clarity possible.

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Blurry photos will probably be taken during the burst, but don’t worry – you can delete any blurred images afterwards.

Just 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.

However, in low light you might get lucky with one or two shots where everything is in focus, which is more than you’d get if you just took a single shot.

Don’t be put off by the amount of photos you’ll end up with when shooting in burst mode. It’s a quick and easy process to keep and delete selected photos. It’s definitely worth it for the chance to get that perfect shot!

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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 🙂