How To Use iPhone Burst Mode For Incredible Action 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 the iPhone burst mode feature to take amazing photos whenever there’s action or movement in the scene.

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What Is iPhone Burst Mode?

Burst mode is of the most useful iPhone camera settings. It’s a powerful and fun “hidden” feature in the native camera app that allows you to continuously capture ten photos every second.

To activate burst mode, simply tap and hold the shutter button within the iPhone’s camera app.

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

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

At the end of this tutorial you’ll find a step-by-step guide to shooting in burst mode with your iPhone camera. But first let’s take a look at 11 ways that iPhone burst mode can help you take better 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 photos are perfect because they allow you to capture multiple shots as your subject moves. Just keep your finger pressed down on the shutter button while the subject moves through the scene.

Once you’ve taken a set of burst photos, you can then 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 through the scene.

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 sharp and in just the right pose.

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 iPhone burst mode you’re pretty much guaranteed to get a good shot in one take.

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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, however, is that your subject is likely to be moving around as you’re taking their picture.

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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.

The photo below 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.

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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.

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

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3. Capture The Perfect Facial Expression In Portrait Photos

In portrait photography, your subject is usually posed while sitting or standing still. So why would you want to use burst mode?

Even when a person is posed, they 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 or try out different facial expressions, knowing that you’ll capture plenty of pictures to choose from.

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Using burst mode allows you to capture all of your subject’s 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 more dynamic shot with a sense of movement in the scene.

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Using iPhone burst mode makes it easy to capture the perfect stride in your photos.

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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 the 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 the shutter button held down whenever you anticipate that something interesting might happen.

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By taking a series of burst 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 breeze such as grass, trees, hair, or clothing can appear blurred due to its movement.

iPhone burst mode makes it easier to capture a sharp shot of moving subjects because it’s more likely that there will be at least one picture where the subject doesn’t appear blurred.

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In the picture above, the long grass was blowing around in strong winds. And in the photo below the woman’s skirt was creating different shapes as it blew around in the breeze.

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iPhone burst mode made it possible to convey the movement of these subjects as they blew around in the wind, while keeping the subjects sharp.

Many of the other photos that were captured during these bursts had motion blur, but these two images captured the subjects perfectly.

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 that make these photos so special.

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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 this horse resulted in a 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 – especially if you’re shooting action shots of people such as a group of people jumping in the air.

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Burst mode is also very 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.

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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.

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The trick to capturing the perfect water splash photo is to anticipate the movement of the water and start shooting in burst mode a few seconds before you expect the splash to appear.

So if you’re shooting waves crashing onto a beach, watch as the wave approaches the shore, then press and hold down the shutter button before the waves makes its splash.

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Keep the shutter button held down until the splash has disappeared. Now you’ll have lots of shots to choose from, and at least one of them should capture the perfect moment with the water droplets in the air.

Without burst mode, it’s very difficult or even impossible to capture such an ideal moment.

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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. Most of the images that were shot of the scene below were poor for one reason or another.

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In some shots the birds had already flown out of the scene, and in others they appeared too far away or were in the wrong position for a good composition. In some shots the birds appeared blurred because they were flying so fast.

By keeping the scene framed in the viewfinder, and waiting patiently while anticipating the movement of the birds, it was possible to use burst mode to capture this one great shot where a single bird appears in the perfect pose against the sky.

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 can run into this problem when you’re standing on a moving object, such as a boat or 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 the photographer’s feet nor the fish are blurred, and everything is 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 if you’re hand-holding the camera. 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 iPhone Burst Mode

Now that you’ve seen how burst mode can help you capture the perfect shot in a variety of shooting situations, let’s go through the process of shooting burst photos and selecting the images 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’ll see AE/AF LOCK (Auto Exposure and Auto Focus Lock) at the top of the screen, and a sun icon 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. You’ll hear the shutter sound continuously for as long as you hold it down.

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 locate the set of burst images in your photo library. Images captured in burst mode will appear both in the All Photos album and the special Bursts album which you’ll find in the Albums section of the Photos app.

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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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Step 6. You can now choose which photos you want to keep. Swipe across to view all of the photos that you 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 thumbnails of the photos that your iPhone thinks you might like best, based on an automatic analysis of sharpness, clarity and motion blur.

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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).

Tap Done in the upper right corner when you’ve selected all of the photos that you’d 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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The individual images that you chose to keep will now be stored in the All Photos album within the Photos app. From there you can open and edit the photos as normal.

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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.

Remember to hold down the shutter button to shoot 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.

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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. 

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. But 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 that you shot in burst mode, and 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 🙂

  • 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.

  • Margaret Baker Ford

    How can I share a priceless family photo burst–children’s personalities revealed?