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We’ve rounded up the top iPhone photography tips you need in your life right now! It’s wild what phones can do these days in terms of photography, especially when you know the tips and tricks to making the most out of them. Below we’re spilling all the tea on our top tips for shooting on an iPhone!
Also be sure to check out our other photography tips: 15 apps you NEED for photo editing, Why You Should Always Use ‘Live Photo’ (coming soon), iPhone Video Tips (coming soon) and the photography gear we can’t live without!
iPhone Photography Tips: Settings
First and foremost, let’s talk iPhone photography tips regarding settings. While there aren’t nearly the amount of settings you need to set before using a manual camera, there are a few settings to change that will up your iPhone photography game instantly.
To access all of these settings go to Settings > Camera.
1. Turn on Grid Lines
Grid lines are SO key for photo composition! They help you level the horizon, follow the rule of thirds, center a subject, etc.
To turn them on just go to Settings > Camera and toggle “Grid” to ‘On’ (Green). Now when you open your camera you should see a grid on top of the frame.
2. Mirror front camera for better selfies
I’ve always HATED how iPhone selfies flip after you take them – I know that’s how it’s technically supposed to work but I feel like it always makes my face look unrecognizable. So for years I’ve only taken selfies in the Instagram app since it doesn’t flip the image, even though the quality is a lot lower. Well HELLO, now there is a setting to change the front camera mirroring!
Just go to Settings > Camera and toggle the switch for “Mirror Front Camera” to ‘On’ (green). This way your selfies will turn out just how they appear when you press the shutter, not flipped.
3. Turn off “View Outside the Frame”
This seems to be a new setting with the iPhone 11 and newer, but by default you can view outside of the frame of the photo. This feature seems to always trip Scott up for composition as his brain thinks those areas are within frame, and many people we’ve talked to have said the same.
Thankfully it’s an easy setting to fix. Just go to Settings > Camera and toggle “View Outside the Frame” to ‘Off’ (white).
4. Shoot video in 4k
Once you’re in camera settings, click ‘Record Video’ and then choose the quality you want to shoot video in. If you want the best quality of videos, choose 4K at 60 fps (frames per second). This means that every time you take a video on your iPhone it will take in 4K quality.
Do note: the better the video quality, the more storage it will consume on your phone. More video editing tips will come in our iPhone Video Tips blog coming soon!
iPhone Photography Tips: Shooting
1. Clean your lens (most important iPhone photography tip)
It sounds so incredibly simple yet so many of us forget to do it! Our phones’ cameras don’t have lens protectors so they get dirty in hands, pockets, purses, etc. So our #1 iPhone photography tip is always to clean your lens! You can use a microfiber cloth or just the inside of your shirt to wipe off the lens. It will make your photos SO much crisper if you remember to do this regularly.
2. Tap on a subject to focus
Once you have the camera app open, tap the screen on the spot you want the camera to focus. Once you tap a yellow box will appear around the focus area. This will usually be your subject’s face, your food, etc. The iPhone will usually do this automatically but this takes the guess-work out of it and sets the focus for sharper images.
3. Adjust light before you shoot
After you tap the screen to set focus, you’ll see a yellow box and a sun appear where you tapped. From here you can hold your finger on the screen and drag up to add more light into the photo or drag down to darken the photo. Since we typically shoot underexposed based on our editing style, we often drag the light down before shooting.
4. Use the grid for a straight horizon
A straight horizon is the #1 way to improve your photo composition. Having grid lines turned on (see Settings Section above) makes this super easy! Just use the grid to make sure the horizon line is level before you take the photo.
5. Use the leveling tool (+) for overhead shots
When you’re taking overhead shots (like photos of food), two plus signs (one white, one yellow) will appear in your screen. When the two + line up and turn into one yellow +, that’s when your camera is level!
6. Use self-timer to take non-selfie shots with the whole group
The self-timer button has become a little more hidden in recent updates but it’s just as useful as ever! When you open the camera, swipe up and you’ll see a menu under the frame. From there select the icon that looks like a stopwatch and choose 3 or 10 seconds. Tap the shutter button and the countdown will start. Now run into place and smile!
7. Get closer instead of zooming in
Since zooming in degrades the quality of the photo, if you want more of the subject in the photo just take a few steps closer. That said, if someone asks you to take a photo they’re likely wanting to see the whole backdrop of whatever is behind them. So I always recommend getting the full scene in the shot and they can always crop it in later.
One exception to this is if you’re doing the lens compression technique (see tip #14).
8. Turn on Live Photo mode for the most versatile shots
Live photos are the best thing since sliced bread! They are SO versatile and really help you to get all the content you need. You can take one photo and not only choose the best frame, but also turn it into a long exposure, video clip, gif, boomerang & more!
To make sure Live Photo is turned on, open your camera and tap the circles in the top right corner.
Make sure to read ‘How To Make the Most Out of Live Photos’ for how to take them, edit them & more! (coming soon)
9. Use Portrait Mode for depth
Portrait Mode is a great feature to add depth into iPhone photography. This means you can add more focus to your subject by blurring the background.
To use Portrait Mode, just open your camera and swipe over to “Portrait.”
Tip: make sure you are standing far enough away from the subject (the screen will tell you) and you tap the screen where you want it to focus.
10. Adjust the f-stop before or after your shot
The f-stop determines how much depth is in a photo which our eyes may see as blur. So the f-stop decides how much the background is blurred in a Portrait Mode shot. Similar to a real camera, you can set the f-stop before you take a photo on the newer iPhones.
To do this, go to your Camera > Portrait Mode > “f” in the top right. From there you can slide left and right to find the amount of blur you want (smaller f is more background blur, bigger f is less background blur).
While this is great, what’s even COOLER is that you can change it after you take the photo too! This is definitely something we can’t do on our camera. To do this just take a photo in Portrait Mode then click Edit. From here click the f button in the top left and then swipe your finger left and right to change the f stop (see gif above).
11. Use the 0.5 wide angle lens to fit more in the frame
If you have one of the newer iPhones, there is a wide-angle lens built in! This means you can fit a lot more into a frame when you use this lens. For example, in the photo above we wanted to get Scott’s legs in the photo to show perspective so we used the .5 lens.
To shoot wide-angle photos, just open your camera and click the “.5” to the left of 1x.
12. Use a vertical panorama for tall buildings
Sometimes buildings are just too tall to capture in a single shot and if you’re in a dense city it can be hard to get far enough away to do so. That’s when the vertical panorama comes in!
Just open your camera app and scroll over to “Pano.” Turn your phone horizontal where the white arrow is facing upwards. Point the camera towards the bottom of the building and hit the shutter button. Slowly tilt your phone up while the pano is being captured. Press stop when you’ve captured the height you want.
13. Think about the Instagram crop
Oh the dreaded Instagram crop. For those who are unfamiliar, the vertical Instagram photos have an aspect ratio of 4:5 and you cannot post a photo taller than that. Since the iPhone defaults to shooting 4:3, this leads to many feet or tops of buildings being cut off when it comes time to post.
That said, always leave a little extra room in your image on all sides so that none of the important objects are chopped off when you go to post on IG. You can then crop it to 8:10 in your camera roll to see what it will look like in IG.
14. Use the lens compression technique to enlarge the scenery
Contrary to my no-zooming-in rant above, there is a legit reason to use zoom on an iPhone and it’s called Lens Compression. Lens Compression is a technique used in photography to make the background objects appear larger.
You can do this by backing up and zooming in. You’ll notice that your subject will stay the same size but the background will be enlarged. See how in the photo above Scott stays about the same size but the Space Needle gets much bigger?
While this technique is best when done using a real camera, it will definitely still work on an iPhone! I don’t recommend zooming in any further than 2x, though, for quality. Here is a tutorial we did talking about this technique!
15. Turn your phone upside down to get the lowest angle
If you need a lower angle, you can gain an extra few inches by turning your phone upside down! This way the camera is the lowest part of the phone to the ground. Your phone should realize you’re doing this and rotate your photos automatically, but if it doesn’t you can just rotate them 180 degrees afterwards.
16. Use Night Mode for low-light shots
Night Mode is one of the features on newer iPhones and it’s fantastic! It allows you to take photos at night without attempting to use the crappy built-in flash.
When it’s dark enough you’ll see a moon icon appear in the top left of the camera screen. It will auto-set to the length of time it needs for the amount of light, but you can also set it yourself by clicking that icon and sliding left and right.
Tip: the iPhone has great stabilization built in, but for the best night mode shots consider using a tripod.
17. Take RAW photos using Lightroom
This is a power-user tip but I figured I’d throw it in here: you can actually take RAW photos on an iPhone! While the regular camera app takes photos in JPG format, if you use the camera in the free Lightroom app you can set the format to DNG. This is a RAW file format which will allow you more editing control in the photo.
To do this open Lightroom Mobile > tap the camera icon in the bottom right > tap JPG in the top middle > toggle to DNG.
iPhone Photography Tips: Editing
18. Straighten the horizon directly in the photos app
Like I mentioned above, a straight horizon is key to good composition. And if you don’t get it straight in the moment, it’s an easy fix in the Photos app! Just open your photo and click edit. Then select the crop tool at the bottom and slide your finger left and right to rotate the image. Use the grid that appears on the screen to guide you to a fully level photo!
19. Download some editing apps
There are so many great editing apps out there now that make mobile editing super easy. Plus you can really get creative and take your photos to the next level. These apps are what we use daily for our mobile edits and we couldn’t live without them!
Don’t miss: 15 Best Apps for Photos & Videos
20. Use Mobile Presets in Lightroom
There’s no denying that Lightroom is the premiere photo editing app out there. The amount of control it allows you to have over your photos is second to none, and it’s FREE! Whether we’re posting a quick iPhone photo to our stories or editing a Raw Image from our camera, we always edit in Lightroom.
To make our edits even quicker and easier we designed our own Lightroom Presets (which are like custom photo filters). They’re made to work with the free Lightroom app and make your photos pop in 1-click. Then you can use the app to quickly make any adjustments to the edit so it’s perfect for that specific photo!
iPhone Photography Tips: Organization
If anyone has the same problem as me where I have 70,000+ photos and can’t remember where that screenshot of ‘that recipe I saw that one time was’, these tips are for you!
21. Use albums
Albums are a great place to start when it comes to organizing your iPhone photos and they’re super easy to create and label. To create an album just go to your camera roll > select > select the photos you want to add > tap the share button > tap Add to Album. When the albums appear either choose an album you want to add them to or create a new one!
Once you have albums you can use the Search function in the camera roll to search by album name and they’ll all be there!
22. Use the search to filter by date, location, etc.
If you can’t be bothered with creating albums, don’t worry! iPhone actually does a lot of the work for you. It automatically adds info to photos that make them searchable. Try searching by dates and locations like “September 2019” or “Denver.” You can also search by objects like “food”, “bike”, “car”, etc. I’m constantly shocked by how quickly I can find what I’m looking for using this tool!
23. Add captions for easy searching later
I’m not sure when they added this feature but I’ve been waiting YEARS for it! You can now add captions to your photos and videos for easier searching later or just to annotate why you took that screenshot, etc.
For instance, you can take a screenshot and add a caption “photo inspo” and when you go to search “photo inspo” later, it will appear!
To add a caption, just open a photo and swipe up. Right below you should see a gray bar that says ‘Add a Caption‘ and that’s where you can start typing (see gif above)!
Want to learn more about photography?
For more iPhone photography tips, make sure to read 15 Editing Apps we couldn’t live without! If you’re interested in learning more about photography in general, check out our Photography Course and the Photography Gear we use for all of our photos and videos.