Photography Tips for Shooting with Your iPhone

Painted brick wall of woman with flower

There are many ways to switch up and enhance your iPhone photography skills but first you have to know the basics! Take your iPhone photos to the next level with these tips.

The Basics

For most of these tips, you might want to to manually set a focus point to get the best results, and it’s as easy as tapping your finger on the screen where you want to set it.

You have a couple options when setting the focus. When you tap the screen, you can drag your finger up and down from here to set your exposure manually.

You can also set the AE/AF (Auto Exposure/Auto Focus) lock. To access this shortcut, just hold your finger down on the screen, and an “AE/AF lock” and a little box will pop up. This trick is helpful if you’re taking a few pictures in a row (like one of a butterfly, for example) and you need to set the focus to the same subject.

Using HDR (high dynamic range) on your iPhone will also help you recover more details from your photos automatically! (More on that here from Alexi if you’re using a camera). This is great if you’re shooting landscape photos or any subject that has a lot of detail and contrast. Turn on HDR in Settings > Camera > Auto HDR. In Settings, you can also choose to keep the normal photo before HDR so you have two versions to play with in post production.

Did you know your iPhone camera has a self timer? It actually takes a “burst” (more on that below), so you can pick the best photo in case of a self-timer mishap! Select 3 seconds or 10 seconds from the top menu on your camera screen.

Last but not least, get to know your flash. You can toggle the flash settings right in the camera app on the top left.

Get to know Live Photos, Burst Photos & iPhone X camera modes

There is so much to get to know on your phone that you might not even know what you’re missing so let’s start with Live Photos.

Once you take a Live Photo (accessible by tapping the circle icon on the top of your camera app), swipe up. There will be a few options to make your photo a mini-movie/gif. Select loop, bounce, or my favorite, long exposure. Try shooting something moving like a waterfall with Live Photo to see what amazing scenes you can get.

You can also “play” live photos as a video if you hold your finger down on the screen! And making them into a video is easy with the help of an external app (more on that below).

Transform your photos into “loop” or “bounce” photos that will play as videos when you send them to your friends and family in iMessage.

Burst mode is another hidden gem from iPhone cameras. Simply hold your finger down on the shutter button to capture as many photos as you want. This action is perfect for taking photos of something moving or something in a sequence. Once you’re done, go to the Photos app and choose the photos you want to keep from the burst.

If you take a self timer photo, your phone will take a burst of 10 photos, allowing you to choose the best (or funniest!) of the photos.

If you have an iPhone X, you’re probably familiar with Portrait Mode which gives a studio-style background blur so start experimenting and follow the on-screen prompts to get a portrait photo you’re happy with. Once you have the perfect photo, tap “edit” from the Photos app to start editing your photo with different lighting effects. Use trial-and-error to figure out the best lighting method for your image and find new ones you like.

Pano mode is probably one of the most underrated (and one of my favorite!) parts of iPhone cameras. It’s simple to use just hold your phone up and follow the prompts to get that perfect pano. A couple tips and tricks:

  • SLOW DOWN, and follow the line no, really. The image will come out warped if you don’t
  • You can flip the direction of the pano just tap the image preview and the arrow will switch to the other side of the screen
  • Experiment with the focus and AE/AF lock panos tend to get overexposed, so locking your exposure and focus could help

Test out your iPhone’s video capability

If you don’t usually shoot video, iPhones are the perfect place to learn. Since you’re likely familiar with the video mode on your iPhone, test out the slow-mo and time-lapse the next time you’re out shooting.

You shoot slo-mo video just like regular video on iPhone but the fun begins later when you edit the video in the Photos app. After you tap “edit,” select the part of the video you want to be slow motion it can be the whole video, a few seconds, or just a blip! This allows you creativity with your video. If you mess up, or want to change the video back, just tap “edit” again, and then tap “revert” and your video will be good as new (or at least back to how you shot it).

The same goes to begin shooting your timelapse video, set up your phone somewhere steady (or get a tripod, more on that below!) and hit the record button. You’ll have to capture a good bit of footage if you want a timelapse video, as shooting in this mode speeds up your video (hence the name). Try experimenting with the AE/AF lock here, as you did in panorama mode.

(iPhone Camera) Accessories are Your New Best Friends

You have accessories for your camera, so why not try them out for your phone?

One of my favorite accessories is my tripod yes, they make them for iPhones! And since they’re just for iPhones, they are smaller and can double as selfie sticks and can be tucked away in your backpack easily. Some camera tripods may also have an iPhone attachment (so check that out before you buy a new one), but I like this one because it can bend in a bunch of shapes, which is perfect for adventure photography. And most come with a bluetooth remote so you can take photos from afar a must-have for selfies when you’re hiking all over New Jersey.

Another favorite of mine is iPhone lenses. They’re inexpensive, so you can try out a fisheye or wide-angle lens without breaking the bank and trying one our on your camera. You can get them on Amazon or your local bookstore.

Experiment with Apps

If you want to have more fun with your photos and videos, that’s where apps can come in.

If you love shooting timelapse videos but want to control the speed and length of your video, download Hyperlapse (free). Once you start shooting, you’ll see that 6 seconds of video translates to roughly 1 second of final video product, but you can change that in the Hyperlapse settings after you’ve shot the video. After you’re done capturing that amazing sunset or the clouds rolling by, check it out at 2x, 4x, 6x, 8x, 10x, or even 12x, speed. You can easily share to Instagram and Facebook from here, too.

Boomerang (free) is another fun way to play with photos, and is easily shareable to Instagram stories. Just point your iPhone camera at something moving, and BOOM! You have a Boomerang. All of your Boomerangs can be saved to your camera roll, but are also saved in the app.

Now that you’ve been playing with Live Photos, you may want to share them with the world and share their actual movement and that’s where Lively (free) comes in. With this app, you can export a gif, movie or frame from your Live Photo to your camera roll.

If you want to edit your iPhone photos with apps, our founder Virginia has a whole post on that right over here!

Be Yourself and Shoot What You Want to Shoot!

This one may sound a bit corny, but continue to take pictures of what sparks joy for you! If you want to take landscape pictures, continue to do so but try taking a landscape photo with HDR turned on, or try taking a short pano to capture a scene in front of you that might be just too big for your frame

Move yourself away from using your iPhone as a point-and-shoot device make it work for you!

BONUS TIP: Turn on the Photo Grid

This is my secret weapon when it comes to making my photos straight. To turn it on your alignment grid, go to Settings > Camera > Grid. It also has a built in level, so when you’re playing with your tripod and shooting something from above, a little plus sign (+) will appear on the screen (and line up with another plus sign), allowing you to shoot a level, straight photo!

Did I miss any of your favorite tips that you’re willing to share? Let me know in the comments?

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