In the not too distant past, every family had a designated photographer – a person who knew how to fiddle with buttons and dials on an old Nikon camera and take great pictures for the family album. On occasion, they would place this camera on a tripod, set a timer in motion and run in to be part of the shot. This sounds quaint in our iPhone and selfie age when powerful phone cameras have leveled the field and made everyone a photographer. While you may be proud – and rightly so – of your artsy Instagram pictures, you have to acknowledge that your mother’s shots of her lilies are not too shabby.
But although the iPhone camera is widely used in everyday photography, most of us don’t completely leverage its features to get the best shots possible. Taking time out to learn a few hacks can mean the difference between good and great when it comes to your photos. And with the holidays just around the corner and so many moments waiting to be captured, what better time than now to master these.
So, here’s our list of five hacks (curated from experts) to help you get the most out of your iPhone camera:
1) Lock focus and exposure
Before we get into how this hack helps, it’s important to know what the focus and exposure tools can do. Focusing is a simple task with the iPhone; just tapping on the screen allows you to bring the subject of your photograph into focus. Exposure controls the brightness of your image. After you have tapped the screen to bring your image into focus, you can change the exposure by swiping up (increase brightness) or down (decrease brightness). Apple automatically sets the focus and exposure at default levels. This means they are usually just right, but not perfect all the time. There are times when you may need to manually tweak these settings.
And in cases where you are trying to get multiple shots of the same scene or at the same location, you can activate the Auto-Focus/Auto-Exposure Lock feature. Not many iPhone owners know that this feature allows them to freeze these parameters so that they can be used for a series of shots. Now you can get multiple shots of the group at Thanksgiving without having to check and adjust your settings each time.
2) Get night/low light right
Night photography, or even low light photography, is difficult on an iPhone when compared to a DSLR camera because the light sensors on a phone are relatively small. However, there is a way to get great shots on an iPhone, even in low lighting. The trick is to focus on the dimly lit subject and tone the exposure down a little (overdoing this would result in a completely blacked out photo) instead of increasing it. This is because when you raise the exposure, the other objects in the frame appear brighter and grainy.
Another option is to add in extra light – with or without the flash – depending on the type of photo you want.
3) Use the grid and the ‘Rule Of Thirds’
Create a balanced composition by using the iPhone’s camera grid. When you activate this feature, you get a faint 3×3 grid over the framed shot so that you can apply the ‘rule of thirds’ to it. This is a compositional technique in which points of interest are positioned along the lines of the grid to make the picture more visually appealing.
Using the grid helps you visually align every shot with this rule in mind. It’s one of the easiest ways to give your iPhone shots a pro look.
4) Prevent blurry shots
When you hit the iPhone camera button, you may inadvertently shake the device and wind up with a blurred picture. A simple hack to counter this is to use the volume button on the side of your phone to fire the shutter. This will help you take clearer shots and will also make it easier to maintain a steady hand for selfies, especially when trying to get a group of people in the frame.
Another handy trick for the same purpose that most people don’t know about is to use a set of Apple EarPods. All you have to do is plug them into your iPhone, open the Camera app, and press either volume control button (+ or -) on the EarPods to take a photo. This works really well for street photography and for those times when you want to take candid shots without attracting the subject’s attention.
5) Take a series of quick pictures with ‘Burst’ mode
The Burst mode is a simple and handy tool to take a series of photos in sequence. Simply tap and hold the shutter button down, and the iPhone will start taking photos one after another — as many as 8-10 per second. Burst mode is especially useful for capturing action in the frame, such as kicking a ball during a soccer game, people jumping in the air or a flock of seagulls in flight. It’s also a good feature to use with your hand or camera in motion.
The iPhone groups the series or ‘burst’ of photos together, making it easy to select and delete the ones you don’t want to keep. The grouping also allows you to easily share the entire series with others.
There’s clearly more to the iPhone camera app than meets the touch at first. Making the effort to discover and use these and other hidden features can elevate your iPhone photography to a whole new level.