13 iPhone Camera Settings Photographers Should Know


Common sense says you grab the iPhone, open the Camera app, and just start shooting. It will work, but it turns out that there are so many settings and features hidden in these phones that far too many people, sometimes even some of us pros.

So, I was inspired to write them all down and explain them one by one, with tips on what I think are the best settings for each of my top 13. And I set the iPhone apart here because A., I’m an iPhone user, B. I think the 13 Pro is by far the best smartphone camera on the market and C. If you’d like me to do follow up on Android, say the word!

To get started, let’s say you’ve updated to iOS 15, the latest operating system. Then open the Camera app. Here’s what you’ll see and what I recommend.

From left to right:

1. Flash. LEAVE IT OFF. The smartphone flash, when used in dark situations, usually gives the impression that you are lighting someone with a torch. Instead, try using a friend’s phone flashlight. It’s softer.

2. Night mode: TO. This is an automatic setting that only kicks in after dark (really! You won’t see it during the day.) Night mode opens the shutter to let in more light, until 30 seconds, which many of us professionals do with our expensive cameras for taking night skies and the like. You can use a handheld in night mode, but for best results you want the camera to be on a tripod. Otherwise, Apple won’t let you go to the full 30 seconds; it will just give you about a second exposure. For really dark photos, you need the shutter open for a long time. I shot these shots below in total darkness. Pretty cool, isn’t it?

Night mode on iPhone

Total darkness in Bosque Del Apache, New Mexico

3. Live photos. TO. A fun feature that brings seconds of video to your photos. You can do small curls and bounces, and they’re fun, but the best feature is long exposure. You can get long, milky water using the Long Exposure trick here, and no tripod is needed here. Just take the photo, then click the tab above the photo and select Long Exposure.

4. fashions. MAYBE. (Only on iPhone 13 Pro models so far.) They will make your image look different, filter-like, with Rich Contrast, Vibrant, Warm, and Cool. Usually, I don’t like taking photos with filters because if you don’t like the look later on, you’re stuck with it. I prefer to do my processing afterwards in software like Lightroom. But Apple reminds me that you can remove the filters by selecting the Edit tab in the Photos app after clicking the shutter button and bringing it back to normal.

5. Aspect ratio: 16: 9, square or 4: 3. 16: 9 PLEASE. You have your choice, cinematic, widescreen 16: 9, like on flat-screen TVs, square for Instagram, or 4: 3, the standard, like televisions of yore. 16: 9 is actually a crop of the inside of the 4: 3 version, but for my money the wider shot looks better on the big and beautiful iPhone screen, so that’s what I ‘uses. Also, since I am making videos which are also in 16: 9 aspect ratio, it is much easier to insert photos into the timeline this way.

Long exposure live photos on iPhone

6. Exposure control. YES. No, iPhone photography is not 100% automatic. If an image is too dark or too light, you can adjust it here with the exposure slider.

7. Timer. 10 SECONDS. My most used feature in this menu, for selfies. Click on the timer and you get 3 or 10 seconds to take your shot, giving you more time to compose and get it right, without having to awkwardly put your hand to snap the shutter.

8. More filters: DISABLED. Beyond styles here you get a bunch of Instagram style filters including black and white hot and vivid and like styles good news they will return to normal when editing so have fun. you. But I still prefer to shoot normally and edit in Lightroom afterwards.

8A: Those other two buttons: It should be obvious to anyone who has used a smartphone camera before, but the big white button is the shutter and the circle is for the selfie camera.

No more iPhone settings outside of the app

9. Burst mode. Keep your finger pressed on the volume up or down button and you can stop the action by taking many photos in a row.

10. Shutter for video. You want to get video fast and don’t have time to switch from photo to video, just slide the shutter button to the left and you will get 1080p video instantly.

11. Video settings: 4K / 24. The iPhone offers so many choices in frame rates and speeds. Here’s what I use: 4K at 24fps which is great for a cinematic look. If storage is an issue, upgrade to 1080p at 30 frames, or go for 60 frames if you want to speed up or slow down the footage. For slower footage just use slow motion at 1080p at 120fps which is fabulous. There is another option, at 240 fps, but it’s really really slow, too much for my liking.

Portrait mode on Mimi the dog

12. Portrait mode: a fantastic way to blur the background of portraits. Remember that you have the choice between a large format or portrait lens, 1x and either 2.5 (on the 11 and 12) or 3x on the 13. Portraits will always look better with large numbers. You also have studio lighting choices. I default to Studio Light for the best overall look and feel, and High Key Light Mono for headshots.

13. Instant camera. Don’t wait for the camera app to open. Just click on the camera icon on the home screen and it will take you straight there.


Goals : If you have a late model iPhone, you have three goals to work with. Ultra-wide (0.5) equals 12mm, which is ideal for wide views. The 1x is a normal wide angle, equivalent to 26mm, while the iPhone 13’s telephoto lens is 77mm, compared to 65mm on the iPhone 12 series. Consider you’re walking around with a 12-77mm lens, then that most photographers have a 24-70mm zoom as a versatile zoom lens for street and event photography, and a 16-35mm for landscapes. IPhone lenses aren’t as sharp as business lenses, but they’re certainly versatile.

Kinematic mode: Another new feature of iPhone 13 series brings “Portrait” mode as the background blur to the video.

Macro: Also an iPhone 13 exclusive, you can get much closer than ever with the macro function. Try it by coming tight on a strawberry or something quite small.

Did I miss any of your favorite camera features? Let me hear you.

About the Author

Jefferson Graham is a Los Angeles-based writer-photographer, host of the “Photowalks”Series of travel photographs on YouTube, and Tubi, former technical columnist and active photographer at USA TODAY. You can find more of Jeff’s work on his website, Facebook, Instagram, Youtube, and Twitter. This article was also published here and shared with permission.

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