10 Hidden iPhone Camera Features Every Photographer Should Use

Are you using your iPhone camera to its full potential? Some iPhone camera settings are so well hidden that you might not even realize they exist. But once you find them you’ll be able to take your photography to a whole new level. Read on to discover 10 hidden iPhone camera features that will dramatically improve your photos… and give you ultimate control over your iPhone camera.

iPhone Camera Features

10 Hidden iPhone Camera Features: Introduction

When you first open the native iPhone camera app, it looks simple. There are a few icons and a list of shooting modes. And of course, a big white shutter button for taking the photo.

But there’s a lot more to the iPhone camera than meets the eye. There are many camera settings hidden behind the scenes. Most people never use these features. In fact, they probably don’t even realize these camera options exist.

But these hidden features are some of the best iPhone camera settings. And once you start using them, you’ll see a huge improvement in your photos. So let’s get started!

1. Swipe Left For Quick Access To Your iPhone Camera

Do you often miss a great shot because you can’t open the iPhone camera quickly enough? It doesn’t have to be this way!

There’s a simple way to open the iPhone’s native camera app in less than a second. You don’t even have to enter your passcode to unlock your phone.

When your iPhone is locked, press the Home button to wake up it up. Then swipe left across the lock screen to open the camera app. On the iPhone X, you’ll need to press the Power button to wake up your phone.

iPhone Camera Features Open Camera App

There are some other quick methods to open the camera app. This video from my iPhone Photo Academy online course shows you three ways to open your iPhone’s camera. Click here to find out more about iPhone Photo Academy.

In my iPhone Photo Academy online course, you’ll discover how to create stunning pictures with your iPhone. Join now and start taking incredible iPhone photos that everyone adores.

To open the camera app when you’re already using your iPhone, use one of the methods shown below.

If you can see the Home screen, tap the camera app icon. It’s a good idea to add the camera icon to the dock at the bottom of the screen. This makes it easy to find, allowing you to open the camera as quickly as possible.

iPhone Camera Features Open Camera App

Add it to the dock by tapping and holding the camera icon until it starts to jiggle. Drag it to the dock at the bottom of the screen, then press the Home button.

If you’re using an app and suddenly want to take a photo, you don’t have to close the app to get back to the Home screen. Instead, open the Control Center by swiping up from the bottom of the screen. On the iPhone X, swipe down from the top right. In the Control Center, tap the camera icon and you’re ready to shoot!

iPhone Camera Features Open Camera App

These three methods allow you to access the iPhone camera in only a second or two. With these techniques you’ll always be ready to shoot when a great photo opportunity arises.

2. Switch On The Camera Grid

Did you know you can display a grid on the iPhone camera screen? This is an amazing tool for helping you compose your photos.

iPhone Camera Features Grid

It ensures you get horizons level in your landscape photos. And you can use it to compose your shot according to the rule of thirds.

The rule of thirds is a classic composition technique. It states that your photo will look more pleasing if you position your subject or horizon off-center.

Use the grid to position the horizon along one of the horizontal gridlines. Or place your subject at one of the intersections where the lines meet.

iPhone Camera Features Grid

To turn on the camera grid, open the Settings app, select Camera, and make sure the Grid option is on (green).

iPhone Camera Features 5

When you switch on the grid, the leveling tool is also activated. This tool helps you take perfectly level photos when shooting straight up or down.

It’s ideal for still life flat-lays or food photography where you’re shooting from above. And it’s useful if you want to shoot straight up above you.

iPhone Camera Features Grid

If you point your iPhone straight up or straight down, you’ll see a pair of crosshairs in the middle of the screen. These crosshairs will merge into a single yellow cross when the phone is parallel with the ground or ceiling.

3. Set Focus & Exposure

If you want to learn how to use iPhone camera features to take amazing photos with iPhone, start by getting the focus and exposure perfect.

Iphone camera features focus 1

Making sure your subject is in sharp focus is really important. If the subject appears blurred, your photo will look like an amateur snapshot.

Exposure refers to the brightness of your image. If it’s under-exposed (too dark) or over-exposed (too bright) it won’t look good.

Iphone camera features focus 3

So how do you set focus and exposure in the native camera app? It’s actually very easy. But most people don’t know about these hidden iPhone camera features.

To set the focus point, tap the area on the screen that you’d like in sharp focus. This would usually be your main subject. When focus is set, you’ll see a yellow square indicating the focus point.

Iphone camera features focus 2

Once you’ve set focus, you can adjust exposure (brightness) if necessary. To do this, swipe up or down on the screen. Swipe up to make the image brighter or down to make it darker.

Iphone camera features exposure 2

You can also lock the focus and exposure settings using the AE/AF Lock feature. Tap and hold the screen for a couple of seconds at the point you want to focus on. A yellow box with AE/AF LOCK will appear at the top of the screen.

Now when you take a photo, the camera will keep the current focus and exposure settings ready for the next shot. This is useful for situations where you want to take several photos of the same scene. It means you don’t have to set focus and exposure for each new shot.

iPhone Camera Features 13

To unlock focus and exposure, tap anywhere on the camera screen.

4. Use Burst Mode For Incredible Action Shots

Most people only discover burst mode by accident when they press the shutter button for too long. By holding down the shutter button, you can take a burst of many photos in quick succession.

This is one of the best iPhone camera tricks you can use when photographing moving subjects. It makes it easy to capture the perfect action shot as you’re bound to get at least one great photo in the sequence.

iPhone Camera Features Burst Mode

Burst mode is perfect when there’s movement or unpredictability in the scene. Use it for sports photography, street photography and action photography.

Use it when photographing children or animals who won’t keep still. And use it to capture stunning water splashes or crashing waves.

iPhone Camera Features Burst Mode

Frame your shot, then hold down the shutter button while the subject moves through the scene. You can choose the best photos from the sequence and delete the rest.

iPhone Camera Features Burst Mode

Burst mode is one of the best iPhone camera settings you can use for photographing moving subjects.

5. Create Stunning Long Exposures With Live Photos

Did you know you can take beautiful long exposure photos with the iPhone’s native camera app? The long exposure feature lets you create a slow shutter effect. This makes any movement appear as motion blur.

iPhone Camera Features Long Exposure

You can use this setting to create a stunning veiling effect on waterfalls and rivers. Or use it to capture dramatic light trails at night.

iPhone Camera Features Long Exposure

So where is this long exposure setting hidden? You’ll actually find it within the Live Photos feature of the native camera app.

First you’ll need to switch on Live Photos using the circles icon at the top of the camera app. When you tap the shutter button, you’ll record a 3-second Live Photo complete with movement and sound.

iPhone Camera Features Long Exposure

To turn the Live Photo into a long exposure, swipe up to access the Live Photo Effects. Swipe across the effects and select Long Exposure.

iPhone Camera Features Long Exposure

Any movement in your Live Photo will appear as motion blur, while stationary objects remain sharp. If you change your mind, you can remove the long exposure effect by selecting Live in the Effects section.

The 7 Best iPhone Photography Apps

There are thousands of excellent photo apps on the App Store, and the things you can do with apps are absolutely incredible. With that said, the number of photo apps out there is overwhelming, and it's really hard to know which apps are worth getting. 

That’s why we created this free report revealing the 7 best iPhone photography apps that you should start using straight away. Click here to download this free report. 

6. Capture Blurred Backgrounds With Portrait Mode

Do you want to know how to blur background on iPhone camera? Creating a shallow depth of field is typically only possible with DSLR cameras.

iPhone Camera Features Portrait Mode

But if you have the iPhone 7 Plus, iPhone 8 Plus or iPhone X, you can use Portrait mode to create a shallow depth of field effect.

This camera feature keeps your subject sharp, while the background appears out of focus. It’s perfect for shooting portrait photos of people and pets. But you can use it blur the background behind any kind of subject.

In the native camera app, select the Portrait shooting mode at the bottom of the screen.

iPhone Camera Portrait Mode

When you’re composing your shot, you may see several on-screen prompts. If you’re too close or too far away from your subject, the camera will tell you to adjust your distance.

iPhone Camera Features Portrait Mode

If there’s not enough light in the scene, a prompt will appear telling you that more light is required. Portrait mode doesn’t work well in the dark, so try to shoot in locations where there’s plenty of light.

iPhone Camera Features Portrait Mode

When you’ve framed your shot, set focus and exposure by tapping the subject’s face on the screen. If you’re planning to take several shots of your subject, tap and hold to activate AE/AF Lock. This locks in the focus and exposure settings so that you don’t have to set them again for each shot.

On the iPhone 7 Plus, you’ll see Depth Effect highlighted in yellow when the depth effect feature is ready. If Depth Effect doesn’t appear yellow, you won’t get a blurry background. You won’t see the words Depth Effect on the iPhone 8 Plus or X.

If you have the iPhone 8 Plus or iPhone X, you can also use the Portrait Lighting feature. Swipe through the Portrait Lighting options (shown on the right of the viewfinder in the screenshot below) to select a lighting effect.

iPhone Camera Features Portrait Mode

The Natural Light setting doesn’t apply any studio light effects to your image. Studio Light brightens the subject. Using this can make it look like you took the photo under professional studio lights.

Contour Light darkens the shadows and contours on the subject’s face. Stage Light makes the background completely black. Stage Light Mono is a black and white version of the Stage Light effect.

These lighting effects can also be applied or changed after you’ve taken the photo. Open the image in the Photos app, tap Edit, and choose a different Portrait Lighting setting.

iPhone Camera Features Portrait Mode

Portrait mode is a useful photography tool, but it’s not perfect. It uses software to digitally simulate a shallow depth of field effect. But it doesn’t always get it right. Sometimes part of the background might appear in focus. Or part or your subject, especially the hair, may appear blurred.

If you’re not happy with the depth effect of a picture you’ve taken, you can always convert the photo to a regular image. Open the photo, tap Edit, then tap Portrait at the top of the screen. To switch the depth effect back on, tap Portrait again.

iPhone Camera Features Portrait Mode

As you can see, Portrait mode is a fantastic photography tool available on the newer iPhone models. Click here to learn more about the iPhone 8 Plus camera features and iPhone 10 camera features.

7. Use HDR To Create Perfect Exposures

You may have noticed the HDR iPhone camera setting. But do you know what it does? Or how it can help you take better photos with your iPhone?

HDR stands for High Dynamic Range. This is one of the best iPhone camera options for creating perfect exposures in tricky light conditions.

iPhone Camera Features HDR

HDR lets you capture more color and detail in both the shadows and the highlights. It’s perfect for high contrast scenes, such as a landscape with a bright sky and dark foreground.

Without HDR, the sky is likely to be over-exposed or the foreground will be under-exposed. In the photo below you can see the foreground is correctly exposed but the sky has over-exposed areas.

iPhone Camera Features HDR

Using HDR lets you create a more balanced exposure with detail in both the dark and bright areas. The next photo shows the same scene taken with the HDR setting switched on.

iPhone Camera Features HDR

So how does HDR actually work? The good news is you don’t have to do anything except turn on HDR and press the shutter button. The camera works behind the scenes to do the rest for you.

iPhone Camera Features HDR

With HDR switched on, the camera takes three photos at different exposures when you press the shutter.

It captures one photo at normal exposure, one brighter and one darker. It then combines the three images to create a single photo with good exposure throughout.

iPhone Camera Features HDR

8. Take Photos With The Volume Buttons

Did you know that pressing the on-screen shutter button isn’t the only way to take a photo? You can also use the volume buttons on the side of your phone.

This is useful if you’re holding your iPhone in horizontal orientation as shown below. With your phone in this position, it can be awkward to press the shutter button on the screen.

iPhone Camera Features Volume Shutter Button

Using the volume buttons means you can hold your phone steady with both hands while pressing the button with your index finger. This makes your iPhone feel more like a traditional camera.

The one downside of this method is that you have to press the volume button quite hard. This might cause your phone to move, resulting in a blurry photo. So avoid using the volume buttons when taking photos in low light situations.

9. Take Photos With Your Apple Headphones

Another little-known iPhone photography trick is to use your Apple headphones as a shutter release. Connect them to your phone, then use either of the volume buttons on the headphones to take a photo.

iPhone Camera Features Headphones

This method is great when you want to be discreet while taking photos. It’s perfect for street photography. You can pretend to be listening to music or making a call while you’re actually taking photos.

iPhone Street Photography

You can also use your headphones as a remote shutter release when shooting with a tripod. Even with a tripod, pressing the shutter button on the iPhone screen can cause camera shake. But with your headphones, you can take a photo without having to touch the phone at all.

A remote shutter and tripod are just two of the 8 essential iPhone camera accessories that we recommend.

10. Geotag Your Photos With Location

When you enable geotagging, your iPhone records the location every time you take a photo. This means you’ll always know where you took a particular picture.

In the Photos app you’ll be able to view all the photos you took at a certain place. And you can even search for images based on location.

You can turn geotagging on or off by going to Settings > Privacy > Location Services. Ensure Location Services is on (green), and that the Camera option is set to While Using.

Iphone camera features geotag1

When you open a picture in the Photos app, the location name appears at the top of the screen. Swipe up to view a map of that location and see other photos taken nearby.

iPhone Camera Features Geotag

To find photos you took at a particular location, tap the Search icon (magnifying glass) at the top of the Photos app. Type the place name into the Search box at the top of the screen. A list of matching locations will appear below.

iPhone Camera Features Geotag

To view your photos on a map, open the Places album in the Photos app. Pinch to zoom in and out on the map. Tap on a set of photos to see more images from that location.

Tapping Grid at the top of the screen displays your images in a list. Each set of photos is grouped by date and location.

iPhone Camera Features Geotag

With geotagging enabled, your iPhone’s photo library will turn into an exciting database of places you’ve visited. And if you ever need to find all the photos you took in a certain place, it only takes seconds!

There’s one thing to be aware of when using geotagging with your photos. If you share your images on social media or directly with others, the exact location where you took the photo might also get shared.

If revealing your location is a concern to you, it’s best to not use geotagging. If this is the case, turn off Location Services for the camera app in Settings.