How to Take Better Photos and Videos with Your iPhone

Think you need an expensive DSLR camera to take great photos? Think again.

Most of us have our mobile phones with us at all times – which is a great thing when it comes to snapping a great photo! A professional photographer once told me, “The best camera is one you have with you all the time.”

Even expert photographers believe that iPhones may not be technically superior to fancy DSLR cameras – but they can still take fantastic photos!

In this post, I’d like to give you some quick tips for taking better photos and videos with your iPhone.

Let’s start with some iPhone photography basics.

Mastering the Basics of Phone Photography and Videography

1. A better way to press your phone’s shutter.

Most of use the circle-shaped button at the bottom of our phones to take photos – but doing this can actually cause your phone to shake, which can cause blurry photos.

I recommend using the “Up” volume button (on the side of your phone, or on your white iPhone headphones) to take a picture.

2. Posting your photo to social media? Play with your iPhone’s modes!

Most people know how to switch modes for video, slo-mo or panorama, but a great tip for social media fans is to switch to “Square” mode for Instagram photos! When you take a picture in this mode, it captures a photo in the perfect size and shape for Instagram.

3. Take higher quality photos using HDR.

For higher quality photos on your iPhone, open your camera app and turn the “HDR” button to “On.”

HDR, or High Dynamic Range, is a setting on the iPhone Camera app. When you’ve got HDR set to “on,” your camera will process photos slightly differently, so you can capture greater detail from bright and dark areas in your subject.

When you’re using HDR, it will take your camera a little longer to take a photo – so you’ll need to hold the phone very still.

Your camera will also keep both a regular and HDR copy of every photo you take, and that can suck up a lot of space on your phone.

If you don’t want your camera to save both versions, go to Settings > Camera and turn off  “Keep Normal Photo.”

Use your iPhone’s “Live” feature to bring your photos to life.

Using the “Live” feature on your photo can bring your photo to life by capturing 1.5 seconds of video.

It’s possible you’ve discovered this feature on your own already. You may have gone into an album, opened a photo, and been surprised when the photo moved!

To turn on this feature, tap the round icon in the center of the top of your screen until you see the word “Live” appear in yellow. The circle will stay yellow until you tap it again to turn it off.

Live images take up a lot of memory on your phone, so I recommend only turning it on when you want to use it on a specific image. Need more ideas for using the Live feature? You can find more tips on the iPhone Photography School site.

Troubleshooting Your iPhone Photography Problems

Here are some quick fixes for common iPhone challenges:

Poor Focus or Blurred Photos: Before you take a photo, you always need to tap on screen to focus the shot. This helps focus the camera so your subject doesn’t turn out blurry in your photo.

Choose a particular part of your subject to be the focal point of your shot, then tap on that area on your screen to focus. To lock the focus, hold down a spot on your screen.

Another tip for eliminating blurry images: Stop using your iPhone to zoom in on your subject!

When you zoom in using your camera’s zoom feature, the image becomes blurred as the pixels separate. The best way to make your subject appear closer is to actually move closer to it. If you can’t do that, take the photo at your current distance and crop your image later to remove the background.

Poorly Lit Photos: Lighting is key to good photography, so pay attention to your surroundings when you’re taking photos!

You can adjust the exposure of your shot by tapping on your screen.  You’ll see a yellow box with a sun icon and a slider on your screen. Use that slider to darken or lighten the exposure on your picture.

I also recommend steering away from using your iPhone flash. Because the iPhone flash is not the best quality, experts don’t recommend using it in low light or at night. Taking photos in low light is tricky, so you should expect to add additional light in these circumstances.

Proceed with caution on bright, sunny days, too! Former National Geographic photographer Cotton Coulson advised against shooting in sunny and direct light due to the harsh shadows it creates, especially when you’re shooting portraits. Coulson’s favorite light was “bright overcast, open shadow, or even a bit of fog. For technical reasons, the small sensor in the iPhone will handle this light best.”

Boring Photos: Make your photos more interesting by experimenting with perspective and scale. Take photos at different angles, rather than just straight on, at eye level.

Try shooting from a low angle (for example, take a beach photo from just above the sand, angling your view upward).

Or trying to shoot directly above your subject (for example, taking a photo from the top of a stairwell, looking down).

When taking photos of people or pets, try to get as close to the subject as possible. This lets you cut out any unimportant details in the background, and allows you to focus completely on your subject.

Use the Rule of Thirds to get better photo composition and create focal points in your pictures.  One way to help you do this is by turning on “Grids” in your Camera settings. Try to line up your photo subject where a horizontal and vertical line connect in your grid.

5 Quick Tips for Capturing Better Videos on Your iPhone

Want to take high-quality, well-lit videos on your iPhone: Here are my best tips:

1. Turn the iPhone horizontally to capture your video. When your video is vertically-oriented, it limits the area you see in the frame, and it makes it difficult to share the video on social media.

2. Try to keep a steady hand, or attach your iPhone to a tripod. You can also use your white iPhone headphones to start and stop recording (see above).

3. Don’t zoom in when you’re filming. Just like when you’re taking pictures, using your iPhone’s zoom function can cause problems. Move closer to your subject if you want to zoom in.

Lock the exposure so your camera won’t keep auto-focusing while filming This can lead to jittery video. To do this, tap on the screen to get a yellow box, then tap and hold the box until you see “AE/AF LOCK” light up in a yellow box at the top of your screen.

5. Don’t talk while you’re filming. Unless you’re adding your own narrative (which can be tricky), keep in mind that your subject should be more important than your voice!

Use Photography Apps to Take Your Photography to the Next Level

If you’d like to experiment with advanced options for taking photos on your iPhone, you can try out some of the third-party app for iPhone photography.

The website explains: “Apple’s opened a bunch of controls up to developers, including shutter speed, ISO, white balance, and exposure, which means that you can often snap a photo with much more clarity than you would be able to from the default camera application.”

Check out iMore’s article, Best Manual Camera Apps for iPhone, for their top app recommendations.

The Most Important Thing to Remember When You’re Taking Photos on Your iPhone

If you’d like to explore this topic further, I recommend digging into some of the excellent (and free!) online tutorials and blog posts that are available online. One of the most comprehensive sites is the iPhone Photography School.

But as you’re learning, don’t lose sight of your real focus as you’re taking photos: Capturing stories and having fun!

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