It’s often said that the best camera is the one you have with you. Apple has helped lead the charge to dramatically improve smartphone cameras over the years. Here we will show you how to make best use of the iPhone camera and get every ounce of functionality out of it.
How to Launch the Camera App
As long as you are running one of the last few iterations of iOS, getting the camera app can be done one of two ways. On Face ID-enabled iPhones, the current lock screen has a shortcut to the camera at the lower right. The icon looks exactly like a camera. You don’t even have to unlock the phone. Just press and hold the camera icon, and the camera app will pop up.
If your iPhone X or more recent model is unlocked, and you are on any home screen, swipe down from the top right to bring up Control Center. If you are on an iPhone 8 or 8 Plus and below, you can swipe up from the bottom. Either way, you will find a camera shortcut button directly in Control Center. Tap on it and it will take you into the app.
Additionally, a camera app lives somewhere on your home screen or in a folder. Tapping that icon will take you directly into the app. The final method is Siri. Just say “Hey Siri, take a photo” and it will drop you right into the app.
Apple Watch users can also launch the camera app from their watch. Tap on the digital crown to see your available apps and locate the camera icon. When you tap on it, the camera app immediately opens on your iPhone.
Understanding the Camera Settings
Once the camera app is launched, a variety of settings and features are at your fingertips.
On the top of the screen you will see four different setting options:
- To the far left is the flash button which allows the LED flash on the rear of the phone to “flash” when you’re taking a photo add extra light. There are three options with flash: Auto, On and Off. The latter two are self-explanatory, but “Auto” allows the iPhone to decide how much light is coming into the lens and whether or not more light is needed to properly capture a photo.
- Second from left is “Live Photo.” A more recent addition to the iPhone over the past few years, Live Photos can be turned on or off. When on, every photo will grab a few seconds of video prior to the shutter going off to go along with the image. These can make for some really fun animations or gifs later on.
- Looking at the icon second from right that looks like a clock is a Timer. This is ideal for family or group photos and activates a three or ten-second timer before it captures a photo.
- The icon on the far right is the “Filter” button. The iPhone comes enabled with a variety of filter options (think Instagram).
At the bottom of the camera app screen are a number of options. When you open the app, “Photo” is selected by default.
As for the options you have available, they are as follows from left to right:
- Time Lapse is a video recording mode that captures video at a very low frame rate. When played back, this video now appears to be the opposite of slow motion.
- Slo-Mo allows the iPhone to capture slow-motion video at a high frame rate. When played back, this can make for some really funny moments of action taking place in super slow motion.
- Video is exactly as it sounds. In the camera settings, you can capture video in HD or 4K depending on what level of quality and/or how much memory you want to use with each video.
- Portrait mode is available on any iPhone that has two more or lenses. This includes the iPhone X, XR and every new iPhone since then. This mode can create a blurred or dark background and simulate a wide-aperture portrait lens.
- Square mode is ideal for anyone who loves Instagram. It captures images in the shape of a square and is great for social media.
- Finally, Pano mode is shorthand for “panorama.” With this mode, you can shoot a wide image on your iPhone that is automatically stitched together. This is great for outdoor photos of nature, skylines, etc.
The very bottom row is the most important. To the far left you have a preview of the last capture you took. If your phone is unlocked, it will take you to the photo gallery. If you entered the camera from the lock screen, the preview will only show you photos or videos captured since the iPhone woke up. To the left of that is the “Shutter” button. You cannot miss it. It’s the giant white button. Press it to capture photos or videos. When you shift to video mode, the shutter button becomes red to let you know you are about to record.
To the right of the capture button is a camera icon with two circular arrows. When pressed, this icon enables the front-facing or rear-facing camera. Think of this button as the selfie/video chat button to bring the camera around so that it’s facing you.
Using Camera Focus and Exposure
When the camera app opens on the iPhone, its intelligent learning allows it to look for faces right away. If you would prefer to focus on any particular area in the frame, all you need to do is to tap on it. A yellow box will appear letting you know that the focus is on that area. Autofocus does a great job, but having the ability to manually focus is very comforting. The same goes for exposure – manually changing the exposure to allow more or less light in will help you capture the best possible photo.
To manually change exposure, slide your finger up and down on the screen when you hold it to autofocus. As you slide up, the exposure increases, allowing more light into the camera lens. When you slide it down, less light is let in. Try it on any object or person, and you will quickly see how it works.
To zoom in on your shooting object, pinch two fingers together anywhere on the screen and drag them out. To zoom out, place two fingers at opposite ends of the screen and drag them together. A bar will appear at the bottom of the screen showing you how much zoom you have left to use.
Use the Grid
While just about anyone can learn to take photos, the iPhone adds a feature that helps you find a better onscreen composition. To get the most out of your photos, line up your subjects at the point where the lines intersect. To enable the grid, head to the iPhone Settings app. Scroll until you find “Camera -> Grid” and then enable.
As you can see, the default camera app on iPhone is pretty capable. However, if you are looking for more features, you can try other camera apps for iOS.