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Take Better iPhone Photos: Tips & Tricks to Improve Your Smartphone Camera Photos

Updated on June 26, 2017
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Vivian is an experienced photographer and writer who holds a master's degree in journalism. Enjoys travel, photography & life hacks.

TIP

A camera's flash can only reach about 8-9 ft. Be sure to stay within that distance of your subject when using flash!

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Exposure and Focus

Open the camera app on an iPhone and aim it at the scene or object you wish to photograph. The camera will automatically set an exposure and focus for you but it may be too dark, too bright, or focus on the wrong thing. To adjust:

  • To set the exposure on a specific spot of the scene you wish to photograph, use your finger to tap that spot on your iPhone screen while the camera app is open. A yellow square will appear on the spot you tapped, and the exposure will adjust.
  • To further adjust the exposure drag your finger up or down on the yellow exposure square to darken or lighten the photo's exposure.
  • You can lock the exposure and focus point on a particular spot by holding your finger down until the AE/AF lock notice appears. To unlock simply tap your finger elsewhere on the screen.

Digital Zoom

On average, all iPhones have the equivalent to a 30mm wide angle lens built in. This means they're excellent for landscapes, group photos, panoramas, etc. Novice users might be tempted to use their iPhone's digital zoom to get a good shot but don't be fooled! Digital zoom reduces photo quality, often resulting in grainy, pixelated and blurry images. The better option is to skip digital zoom when possible and simply "zoom with your feet" by getting closer to your subject.

  • Avoid using digital zoom, instead use your feet to get physically closer.

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Photographing Indoors and Outdoors

Indoors:

  • As always, use the above exposure tips to get the right exposure.
  • If light is very low, turn on the camera's flash.
  • Window light is universally flattering. Try to photograph your subject near a window so that the light hits the front or side of their face (not the back of their head). This is indirect, soft light.

Outdoors:

  • Midday sun creates harsh shadows so avoid it by taking photos in the shade.
  • If you cannot avoid photographing in harsh sunlight turn on your camera's flash to "fill in" some of the harsh shadows from the sun. This will help the background and foreground to be properly exposed.
  • For scenes that are very high contrast, ones that contain very bright and very dark areas, turn on the HDR mode on your camera app (this is at the top of the screen). HDR stands for High Definition Range. When on this setting you phone will take three photos at different exposures and stitch them together as one.

Use the HDR (High Dynamic Range) setting on the iPhone camer for better photos in high contrast situations like landscapes. Photo above shows before/after.
Use the HDR (High Dynamic Range) setting on the iPhone camer for better photos in high contrast situations like landscapes. Photo above shows before/after. | Source
Hold the camera's shutter button down to take a burst of images at once.
Hold the camera's shutter button down to take a burst of images at once. | Source

Sports / Action Photography

  • Burst mode takes several photos at once - which is ideal for sports and action shots. To take a burt of images simply hold the round shutter button down with one finger for a few seconds.
  • Try to get as close to the action as possible.
  • Flash photography will be ineffective unless you are 9 feet away or closer from your subject, opt instead to use available light for your photos.

TIP

Go to iPhone settings > Photo & Camera > Camera > and turn on Grid. This overlays a grid on your camera's view which helps with photo composition and balance.

Summary

  • Use the exposure settings built into the iphone camera app to focus on your subject and get the proper exposure
  • Flash can be used in dark situations (indoors) and outdoors as a way to "fill in" harsh shadows in bright light
  • Avoid digital zoom by getting physically closer to the photo subject
  • Burst mode allows for high action shots.
  • The camera's grid can help you compose your photo and take level shots.
  • HDR (High Dynamic Range) mode is great for photo subjects that have high contrast like landscapes.

Knowing the features available to you and how to use them will help you get better shots. With practice you'll start to recognize when to use flash, HDR mode and set the proper exposure. Happy shooting!

© 2017 Vivian

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