They say the best camera is the one you have with you. Since so many people have smartphones these days, phone manufacturers are continually upgrading their devices with smaller and more powerful cameras.
The Apple iPhone is renowned for producing beautiful images. However, it's important to know that it's not the camera that makes a good photo, it's the person behind the camera.
You have the ability to create amazing photographs even without a fancy (and expensive) DSLR camera. All you need is an iPhone and these easy tips.
So let's get straight to it!
Here are 23 of the best iPhone photography tips grouped into sections for beginner, intermediate, and advanced photographers. Happy snapping!
1. Swipe Sideways for Instant Access
The opportunity for a great photo can disappear in an instant, so you need to be able to access your camera app as quickly as possible. From the lock screen, swipe sideways to the left, and instantly your is camera ready.
You can also swipe up after pressing the home button and click the camera app or hold the camera app button to bring up more options such as "record a video" or "take a selfie".
2. Snap Photos with the Volume Buttons
Sometimes hitting the shutter button can be difficult if you are taking a group selfie or you're in an awkward position. In this case, you can take a picture by pressing the physical volume buttons on the side of your iPhone.
A sneaky option is to use the wired earphones that come with your phone. Look for the inline volume button control on the cable - press it to capture a shot and avoid the dreaded camera shake. Ah, crisp perfection!
3. Use Your Apple Watch
That gadget on your wrist can act as a viewfinder for your iPhone camera. On the watch screen, preview the scene captured by your iPhone's lens, tweak your settings, and then hit the shutter button. The Apple Watch is an ideal remote shutter if you have a tripod or are taking a big group selfie.
4. Portrait Mode
Portrait mode is an option on newer iPhone models such as 7 plus, 8 plus, and later. This mode imitates what you can do with a DSLR camera by making your background blurry, much like you see in professional photographs (called "bokeh"). It focuses on the subject (what you're taking a photo of) and blurs out the background automatically using 2 (or more) lenses on your phone in tandem. You can even choose how blurry you want the background to be.
It can be tricky to get the iPhone camera to recognize exactly what you want to be blurry, but with a little practice, your shots will look uber professional.
5. Don't Use Flash
Using the flash when taking photos with your iPhone can wash out your subject. The bright light shining directly onto your subject is very harsh and originates from a small LED light, often producing a flat, unflattering lighting effect. Instead, try to find another light source; natural light is always best.
If the scene is too dark, use the LED light on a 2nd phone (that's what friends are for!) and hold it to the side and slightly above eye level. More flattering shadows will be formed. This is what pros call "off camera flash".
6. Don't Zoom In
When your subject is far away from you, it's tempting to just zoom in to get a better image, but this isn't a good idea. iPhone 7 and later models have an optical zoom, but once you push the limit of that, the digital zoom kicks in and will only crop your photo and decrease the quality. Instead, move closer to your subject if possible.
7. Live Photos
Live Photos are an effortless way to capture memories, and despite what you might think, they're not just a 3-second video. When you take a Live Photo, your iPhone captures 1.5 seconds before and after you push the shutter button. These take up about twice as much storage space as a normal photo.
If you take a Live Photo and want to switch it back to a normal photo, you can tap share in the lower left-hand corner > duplicate > duplicate as still. If you do this, you'll need to select the key photo by hitting edit and then tap the live symbol in the lower left-hand corner.
8. Clean Your Lens
This one may seem obvious, but fingerprints and smudges on your lens can make a big difference. Clean your lens to get tack sharp photos. Preferably use a microfiber cloth, but if desperate, the inside of your t-shirt works too.
9. Use the Rear-Facing Camera
Use the rear-facing camera whenever possible. The front-facing camera is the most convenient choice for selfies, but the rear-facing camera has higher resolution, giving you clearer, sharper photos.
10. Shoot Square to Frame Your Image
If you know you want to post a photo to Instagram, go ahead and take the photo using square mode. The reason is that it's much easier to compose your shot using the frame that you'll be using rather than cropping and trying to recompose later.
Of course, it's a good idea to go ahead and take plenty of photos in vertical, horizontal, and square format. This way you'll have lots of options if you decide you don't like one of the compositions.
11. Always Edit Your Photos
Editing your photos is almost as important as how you take a photo. Adjust settings such as brightness, white balance, saturation, and more to make your images look more professional.
Editing photos with the built-in photo app on your iPhone works well for a quick touch-up, but its capabilities are limited. Third-party editing apps give you a much wider range of controls. My favorites are Snapseed and Adobe Lightroom. Both are free on the App Store.
12. Use Leading Lines
"Leading lines" is a composition technique that uses lines to lead the viewer towards the main subject. A leading line paves a smooth path for the eye to follow through different elements in a photo. The photo below shows an example of subtle leading lines.
When I took this photo, I wanted the sign to be the main focus, so I used the lines of the building and sidewalk to point to the subject, "leading" your eye through the image.
13. Keep Your Horizon Straight
This may seem like a minor thing, but keeping your horizon level in-camera is very important! The horizon is arguably the most important line in a picture, especially for landscapes. Even if the horizon is slightly tilted, it can make the entire photo look off. Try to notice if the horizon is straight when you're practicing photography, and soon it will become second nature to you to hold your phone perfectly level.
14. Hold Your Phone Correctly
It's a bad habit to tilt your phone down towards your subject when taking a photo, especially if it's a picture of kids or pets. Holding your phone parallel to the wall (at a 90-degree angle to the floor) can make your lines look straighter and will eliminate undesirable distortion.
In addition, if you're taking a photo of something close to the ground, instead of tilting your phone, squat down to reach the eye level of your subject. This offers a more natural and appealing perspective.
15. Change Your Angle
Shooting something that's been photographed a million times before? Try changing your perspective. Taking a photo from a new and unique angle can make your photos fresh and interesting. For example, get down low or up high or shoot through an opening like a hole in a fence or a keyhole.
Using the HDR setting on your iPhone can create more balanced lighting in a scene with a "wide dynamic range" (a large difference between darks and lights). So how does HDR work? This software-based approach takes 3 photos all at once: 1 adjusted to the brightest parts of the scene, 1 adjusted to the darkest parts, and 1 in between. Then the 3 photos are automatically combined to give you an image that doesn't blow out the highlights or lose too much detail to the shadows.
This setting is especially useful for taking landscape photos. You can set your HDR to auto so that the smartphone camera detects when it's needed, or you can use it manually. Just go to Settings > Camera > HDR.
17. The Rule of Thirds vs. Symmetry
One of the fundamental rules of effectively composing a photograph is the rule of thirds. The rule of thirds involves placing your subject off to the side instead of directly in the center of the photo. You can see this rule demonstrated in the photo below.
As you can see, the truck in this photo is lined up with the left vertical gridline marking the first third of the image. Using this technique can make your photos instantly look more professional. It's doubly effective when you work both horizontal and vertical thirds together - the 4 points on the grid where the lines meet.
You can easily incorporate this approach by using gridlines on your iPhone camera. To turn on the gridlines, go to Settings > Camera > and toggle Grid. When you capture a photo, line up your subject along either the first or second vertical line. Aligning the horizon with the lower or upper horizontal line can also give your photo a more interesting composition.
On the other hand, you can use symmetry to create a beautiful photo. Symmetry is pleasing to the eye, and using the rule of thirds in every single photo can get a little boring. Try to get creative and experiment with your composition. Rules are made to be bent!
18. Use a Tripod
Incorporating a tripod can have many advantages. Most people know that a tripod is useful when the photographer wants to set a timer and be in the shot, but there are other uses for a tripod such as reducing camera shake. Turn on the 3-second timer so you can push the shutter button and give the phone time to recover from the slight vibration which will increase the sharpness of your photo.
A tripod is also very helpful in low light situations. If you are able to manually adjust your shutter speed with a third-party app, you can set the shutter speed very low, capturing more light. Then you won't have to worry about holding the phone completely still during the slow shutter.
19. Third-Party Apps
The App Store has a lot of options when it comes to camera apps with manual settings. Unfortunately, most of them are paid apps, and most free apps have limitations. One free app that I discovered that seems to work well is NeoShot. This app lets you adjust your settings for ISO and shutter speed just like you would your DSLR camera - very helpful when the iPhone camera isn't giving you the results you want.
20. Create Depth
An interesting photo has depth to it. For example, if you have a person in front of a background, moving them closer to you and away from the background creates depth and makes the background blurry.
Another way you can create depth in your image is to use the foreground. Shooting through some flowers or other objects very close to you can make for a beautiful and interesting photo.
21. Shadows and Reflections
Instead of taking a picture of your subject, look around at the shadows or reflections the subject produces. This can give you a creative image that tells a unique story.
22. Use Negative Space
To achieve a simple and clean look, use negative space. In other words, it's okay to have empty space around your subject. You don't have to fill up the frame every time, and too many details can be distracting. Extra space may give an impression of openness or freedom.
23. Shoot 4K
Your iPhone has the ability to shoot video in 4K. This will give you the highest quality video possible. Unfortunately, these videos take up a lot more space on your phone and shooting them will drain your battery quicker.
To select the quality of video you will record, go to Settings > Camera > Record Video, and choose from the options listed.
It is my hope that these tips for capturing better iPhone photos was enjoyable and will improve your photography skills. So, what did you think? Did you learn anything new? The best way to learn is to practice, so get out there and start taking great iPhone photos!