9 iPhone Camera Features Every Photographer Should Use

You want to get the most out of your iPhone camera. However, some iPhone features are so well hidden that you may not know how to use them. In this tutorial, you’ll discover nine iPhone camera features that will radically improve your photos – and give you much more control over your iPhone camera.

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1. Swipe Up 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.

The fastest and most convenient way to access the camera is from the lock screen.

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Find the camera icon at the bottom right corner, as shown in the screenshot above.

Put your fingertip on the camera icon and swipe up, keeping your finger on the screen. The camera will open instantly. You don’t even need to enter your passcode if the iPhone is locked. 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.

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From here, just tap the camera icon at the bottom right and you’re ready to shoot!

2. Turn On The Grid

The grid (two horizontal and two vertical lines that divide the screen into nine equal parts) is one of the most useful photography tools on the iPhone.

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The grid serves as a reminder to always think about composition when taking a photo.

When composing a great iPhone photo, it often looks best if you place your subjects at the intersection of two grid lines. This is called the rule of thirds, and it’s one of the keys to great photography.

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You’ll also want to be sure that your horizon is straight in any landscape photo. The grid is a terrific tool for keeping your image level.

To turn on the grid, go to the Settings app, scroll down to Photos & Camera, and make sure the Grid option is turned on.

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3. 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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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4. Set Focus & 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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

5. Lock Focus & Exposure

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

6. 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.

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Below is the HDR version of the same photo.

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As you can see, the HDR mode adds additional detail in the bright clouds and darker greenery in the foreground, as well as brighter colors throughout the frame.

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.

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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.

7. 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.

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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. For this reason, you should avoid using the volume buttons on the side of your iPhone in low light situations.

8. 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!

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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.

You can also try using the headphones as a remote shutter when you shoot with a tripod. Since you don’t even have to touch the iPhone, this is a great way to minimize unintentional camera movement.

9. Use Geotagging… Only If You Want To

When you enable geotagging, you’ll always know where you took a particular photo. If you can’t remember where you took that incredible landscape photo years ago, now it’s no longer a problem since the iPhone saves that information for you.

This data can be used to search for a particular location within the Photos app, or even display your images on a map using apps like Google Photos.

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Over time this will turn into an exciting database of places you’ve visited. And if you ever need to find all the photos that you took in New York City, it only takes seconds!

With that said, be careful when you share your images on social media or when you share photo files with someone directly since they show the exact location where each photo was taken. If revealing your location is a concern to you, it’s best to not use geotagging.

You can turn geotagging on or off if you go to Settings > Privacy > Location Services. There you can turn all Location Services off at once, or enable or disable them individually. Make sure the Camera option is set to While Using if you want to enable geotagging for your photos.

Bonus: iPhone Camera Features Video Lesson

Want to learn more about your iPhone camera’s features? We’ve created an in-depth video explaining 7 hidden iPhone camera features that every photographer should use. In this video lesson you’ll discover advanced tips and hands-on instructions for using the techniques you learned about in this article. 
iPhone-camera-features

If you also want to take incredible photos with your iPhone, please join 138,712 subscribers who receive our free iPhone photography email tips that you won’t find anywhere on this website.

  • Faye

    Good tips! I need to practice using focus and exposure more. Thanks, Emil.

  • Neha

    Great tips… Very useful .

  • gsingh

    Great tips, especially using the earphone volume button to take the pic and manual focus

    • Thank you, these are great features that people should use more often!

    • La Mo

      Dear Emil,
      It is a very useful tip that I never see about iPhone photography. I’m just start it a few months ago bit love it so much. I use DSLR for many years special for landscape and Macro but now start. With iPhone because I have no money to buy expensive gears.
      Here you are my photo of macro, with iPhone 5S and iPhone app, please advice.

  • Linda Apple

    I have to say, your blog ROCKS! I cruse though a lot of blogs, but I park at yours. Thank you again and again!

    • That’s a great compliment Linda, thank you! I’ll do what I can to make it even better in the future.

  • Emmichelle Salazar

    Your every article about iphonephotography brings new ideas and knowledge to me. Thank you ao much Sir Emil.

  • Alakowe

    Just learning you can lock the focus.thanks.

    • Happy to hear that, it’s a great little-known feature!

  • Waleed

    For those who want to enjoy more and more focus and exposure, should use “Procamera 7” app which is also recommended by Emil. I love that app. As it allows u to set the exposure and focus manually so easily and perfect way 🙂

    • That or Camera+, both are great. This article was about the native camera app, but these apps are great for people who want even more control over their images.

  • Gwyn

    Awesome! So glad to learn about the focus/exposure lock.

  • Mojo Bazaar

    I see the functionality of my iPhone 5’s camera in a whole different mindscape. I’m addicted to iPhonography and utilize it moreso for my business’s merchandise photography. Can’t wait to use these tips! Thanks mate!

    • Thanks Mojo, happy to hear that! For merchandise you also want to have bright, dissolved light and use a tripod to avoid any camera shake.

  • Bonvivantgal

    Thank you so much for your tips…! I use my iphone to take food pics for my restaurant & now I feel you opened many, new possibilities for making them awesome..& scrumptious !!

    • Thanks, happy to hear that! For food make sure yo have bright, dissolved light and use a tripod to avoid any camera shake.

  • John Heggaton

    Hey Emil, great tips, #5 is probably my favourite

    • #5 is definitely useful, people should use it more often.

    • Zemira A. Bianchi

      I agree. Thanks Emil!

  • Rao

    Good more usefull thank u

  • shrutika

    this is certainly useful. Thank you so much emil 🙂

  • Great article Emil!

  • Roman Ivanov

    Thank you for advices)

  • Mark

    Cool tips. Didn’t kno you can lock focus and exposure settings. Useful to kno.

    • Thanks Mark, it’s a great “hidden” feature of the camera app.

  • vinayak thakar

    Thanks for good tips,shall follow.

  • Stuart Guest

    Thanks Emil. I will definitely use burst mode more so I increase my chances of capturing that perfect moment. Keep up the good work.

    • Thanks Stuart! Burst mode is great, and now it’s super easy to quickly select your favorites and discard everything else.

  • Cecilia Dinio-Durkin

    Great tips! I will share and subscribe

  • amyfrenchink

    Great tips! I will be back. Pretty much daily, I predict.

  • Susan

    More awesome tips. I love using the headphones to take shots when I need to keep the phone still.

    • Thanks Susan, that’s a great technique that I really use a lot!

  • Susan

    Also thanks so much for sharing that you can access the iPhones’s camera simply by “swiping up” the small camera icon (which I’d never ever noticed before) at the bottom right hand of the iPhone screen at any time (even when your phone is “locked.” Absolutely brilliant.

    • That little trick is often the difference between missing a shot or not 🙂

  • Neago

    hello, thanks for tips!
    How can i maintain the edited photos (with effects) and copy them onto my laptop?
    Each time i copy those photos i find only the original ones
    Any clue?
    MN

  • khentouchthis

    I’m really surprised to find out that you can lock exposure and focus on the stock camera! Thanks for the tip 😀

    • Awesome, happy to hear you learned something new from this article 🙂

  • Jeffrey Ramos

    Thanks emil! I just started iPhone Photography last month and i can say that all my photos were based from your tutorials..though, still have a lot to learn.. so keep it comin’ bro:)

    • I’ll try my best, though I’m really busy with the Academy right now 🙂

  • Daniil

    Latvia? My country featured here? Baffled…. Also great article!

  • Soo

    #5 is a great tip. #8 sounds good too, but I didn’t like the example of using it as a sneaky way to take photos of people who might not want their photos taken. If it’s not a group shot and the person is identifiable, I usually ask if it is alright to take a photo of them, especially if there are children involved. Please respect others’ rights to not have their image taken.

    • 71Magi

      Thanks for posting that, my thoughts exactly, I was surprised being sneaky was included in photo tips.

    • Soo

      I realize taking photos of people in general often helps make your photography more interesting. That said, I used to work for a community magazine and every recognizable person in my photos that were not in crowd scenes had to give permission to be published. It’s only right to get someone’s permission if you’re going to put their image in print and online.

      Even now, on my blog, I try to continue doing that. There will be some that got away, such as the man in Nicaragua riding the ox as our shuttle went by, but, I did get the okay to take photos of children in Guatemala, vendors in Costa Rica and celebrating Panamanians, etc.

      If you don’t have permission, consider taking profiles or other shots that don’t infringe on their privacy. Also, tilt-shifting works well in blurring faces and surroundings to add some mystery or focus!

    • Deborah Polley

      Sometimes you may need to…if I were taking photos of someone being violent or committing a crime, I sure wouldn’t want to ask them permission first.

    • Soo

      I was referring to photography in general. Of course, the two situations you mention would be the exceptions.

  • Very good article, Thank you dear Emil

  • Ron.Pia

    THank you for great tips. Number 2 & 3 have my interest as I take photos of animals. Lately my shots have lost sharpness since loading IOS 8, especially shooting indoors. I think it’s me more than the camera. Suffering from subject movement and low light. You have given me some ideas to experiment with.

    • Happy to hear you found these tips useful 🙂

  • Chantel

    This was very helpful

    • Glad to hear you found it useful Chantel 🙂

  • deni2s

    Paldies, Emīl!

  • waw4

    Great tips! I learned so much! Thank you Faye!

  • Kanik Raj

    Superb article with awesome tips..
    Any free app u suggest the best??

    • Snapseed is one of the best free photo editing apps.VSCO Cam also has a great selection of free filters as well as adjustment tools.

    • Kanik Raj

      Thank u so much for suggesting those apps Kate., i wud like to knw the best app to manage the photos as well Kate pls..

    • I like to use the native Photos app to create albums and organize my photos: http://iphonephotographyschool.com/photo-albums/

      The Cleen app is good for mass deleting of images: http://iphonephotographyschool.com/cleen-app/

      Hope that helps 🙂

    • Kanik Raj

      It definitely helped Kate.. thank you so much 🙂

  • Aldair

    I’ve always had an iPhone and I’ve always bought cameras separately cause i though the iPhone camera was not good enough to take a good picture, i feel like i have a lot to learn. Thanks for sharing!

  • Ram Sabarish

    Thanks Emil , ryte now i understand how important burst mode .

  • Larry Moran

    Emil… When taking photos of my computer screen (on MacBook Pro), why do I get moire patterns on some photos but not on others?

  • Larry Moran

    When cutting cord to make dedicated remote trigger from old earpods, do you tape the cut end or is that unnecessary? I want to use for taking macro photos using Camera +.

  • John Gregory Wyman

    Thank you for the most helpful tutorial!

  • This article helped me a ton. Started off photography illiterate and was mainly just point and shoot. The focus lock alone is a big improvement. Thanks 🙂

    • Hi Ryan. Glad you found this helpful 🙂

  • tip #4 and #5! 🙂 thank you for this useful guide.

  • Barry Steil

    is there any way to impose a date on the photo. Legal types need to have date stamp on photos

  • Sam Nipius

    Wow. I found this article randomly through Google and now I see that it’s written by you! Great article Emil! How’s life?

  • Kathy

    Could you walk us through the proper way to use/set flash? I seem to always get color distortion. Thank you!

  • Gwenn

    Thank you so much. Just really started paying attention to using my iPhone 5S camera. I usually always have my Nikon with me. These are great tips for when I do not. Much appreciated.

    • So glad to hear you found these tips useful Gwenn 🙂

  • Mk Word

    Really want to improve your iPhone photos? Get the Camera+ photo app. It pioneered several of the new features you find on the regular iPhone camera, but adds several more, as well as possibly the best set of filters available. It also allows you to make full use of the 16:9 screen and shoots photos to fit. I’ve used the OME camera on various iPhones and I’ve tried a lot of the other various camera apps available … but I always come back to using Camera+.

  • Chomps Snack Sticks™

    Good stuff!

  • Roosvansia Sipahutar

    Nice… Thanks for sharing.

  • Fuad Efendi

    What about “How to use optical zoom” and “How and when to use digital zoom”? I cannot find. Thanks for excellent article!

  • boomeractivist

    very good help on how to use the iPhone to best advantage

    • Happy to hear you found this helpful 🙂

  • I have had iPhones for years & didn’t know half of these options existed – thanks for sharing such useful tips!

    • It’s amazing what great features are hidden away within these apps isn’t it! Glad you found this useful Becky 🙂

  • Tia

    I had no idea that I could use the headphones as a remote! Very helpful tip, thank you!

    • Laine Rudolfa

      I’m happy to hear that you found the headphones tip useful, Tia! 🙂

  • Khizer Hayat Khattak

    Hi wonderful tips for a beginner like me and I really liked the idea of taking photos with volume buttons. Well I am looking for a photo effect/filter where you can actually blur the edges/corners of your photo

    • Je-ann

      You can do this in Snapseed Khizer 🙂

    • Khizer Hayat Khattak

      Thank you so much for your reply. Can you please let me know how can I do that in Snapseed

    • Je-ann

      HI Khizer, you need to use the Lens Blur filter for this. Here’s a tutorial that may help: http://iphonephotographyschool.com/snapseed-filters/

    • Khizer Hayat Khattak

      Thank you again and it was so easy I didn’t know. Sorry to bother again but could you please let me know snapseed can be used to make all the borders of photo blur. I mean edges/borders blur in the background

    • Je-ann

      Can you show me a sample photo so that I can see what you mean? Thanks 🙂

    • Khizer Hayat Khattak

      I really appreciate your reply. I have attached a sample photo for your understanding

    • Je-ann

      I see what you mean. Squaready app will do this. Here’s a review of this app from our blog: http://iphonephotographyschool.com/not-crop-instagram/

    • Khizer Hayat Khattak

      Thank you so much for the app but I just found Square Edit and it works great. Squaready is a great app but you have to select color of the blurry background manually. if you know more apps please let me know.
      I am so thankful to you for the support you are providing.

    • Je-ann

      You’re welcome 🙂

  • Pat

    Very interesting and informative to a newbie. Thanks! I’m wondering if you can make a recommendation for a telephoto lens to be used with the iphone SE. We tried an inexpensive clip on one but it wobbled. Some have a brace that fits around the iphone. Too many choices and no sense of direction. Thanks!

    • Je-ann

      Hi Pat, Moment produces good telephoto lenses but they are still not available for the iPhone SE. You may also want to check Olloclip as their iPhone 5S lenses fits the iPhone SE. You can check our review of their telephoto lens here: http://iphonephotographyschool.com/olloclip-lens-and-case/