Phone cameras have come a long way. In some cases, it's hard to tell DSLR camera photos from mobile phone photos. But, how do you take DSLR-like photos with your iPhone? Here are our suggestions for iPhone camera settings for taking high-quality pictures.
Change Your General Camera Settings
Before you get started taking pictures, it’s a good idea to familiarize yourself with the settings found under your phone’s Settings icon. First, tap on Settings icon then on Camera to open the Camera Settings window. From here, you can manage all aspects of an iPhone's camera.
The Preserve Settings Window
This is one of those hidden features that not many people know about. It allows you to choose which settings shouldn't change, and which ones that should revert back to default settings.
By default, this setting is turned off. This section refers to the picture modes on your camera such as Portrait, Square, and Video. By turning on this option, you are telling your camera to remain in the selected mode each time you take a picture.
Filtering & Lighting
Like Camera Mode, the default setting for this mode is "off." When you turn it on, your camera remembers which filters and lighting settings you last used.
This setting is enabled by default, unlike the previous settings. When turned on, this setting remembers the state it was in when you turn off your camera. If it's turned off, your phone will turn on the Live Photo mode when launching the Camera app.
The Grid Option
When enabled, you'll see grid lines on your camera frame the next time you open your Camera app. The Grid option helps you achieve correct alignment in your picture. You won't see the grid lines in the photo.
The Formats Window
Here is where you choose the format for saving your photos. You’ll want to choose Most Compatible.
For most people, this is the preferred setting because it saves your photos in H.264 and JPEG formats. These formats are the most common in the photography world. As a result, you don't need any expensive conversion tools to view the files.
The Smart HDR or Auto HDR Option
First, if you don't know what HDR stands for, it's an acronym for High Dynamic Range imaging. Dynamic range refers to the ratio of dark to light in a picture. When you choose the HDR option, your phone will take a light picture and a dark picture. The phone then combines the two for an HDR photo.
Turned on by default, the Smart HDR (Auto HDR in older iPhones) option lets your phone decide when to take HDR photos. Your phone will gauge the lighting and the environment and turn it on or off as necessary.
When you turn off this option, you'll need to turn HDR on or off each time you take a picture. HDR photos are more lifelike, so you will probably want to keep this setting turned on.
The Keep Normal Photo Option
Disabled by default, this setting works with the HDR setting. When you turn it on, you'll save both the normal photo and the HDR photo. You can compare them later and decide which one you want to keep.
Camera App Settings
Now that you've taken care of your Camera app's general settings, it's time to start taking pictures! And if you think you need a separate photo app to achieve high-quality photos, think again. The default Camera app has some high-powered tools under its hood.
Probably the most powerful setting on the Camera app is the Portrait Mode setting. When you take photos with the Portrait setting, you can give your photos a professional look to them.
Blur Your Background
Have you ever wanted to take a photo with a blurred background? It's super easy with Portrait mode.
Note that this setting is only available on the iPhone 7 Plus, iPhone 8 Plus, iPhone X, iPhone XR, iPhone XS Max, and the iPhone XS.
The Portrait mode uses depth-effect software to blur the background without expensive lenses.
When you open your Camera app, swipe across the shooting modes at the bottom of the screen. Choose Portrait.
Make sure your photo subject, whether it's a person, animal, or object, is between 2 and 8 feet away. Otherwise, the Portrait mode won't work, and you won't get a blurred background. Your camera will tell you this, so don't worry if you forget.
Now that you have your subject ready, snap your photo using one of the preset modes. Voila! You have a beautiful photo with a blurred background.
If you change your mind and want a standard photo, it's easy to change.
Open your photo and then tap Edit at the top right. Next, tap the yellow Portrait icon at the top middle of the screen. This removes the blurred background.
If you have an iPhone XS, XS Max, or XR, there are more robust options available in Portrait mode. For instance, you can change how much blur you want in your background.
But, this is only possible after you've taken the shot. When you open your photo and tap on Edit, a Depth slider appears under your photo. Move the slider back and forth until you have the amount of blur you want.
Achieve Portrait-Like Lighting
Blurring your background is only one component to this setting. There are a few Portrait Lighting settings to choose from to make your photos amazing:
Did you know that taking sharp pictures is super easy with an iPhone? You won’t have to worry about blurry pictures like you used to get with your older iPhones.
But where is the focus setting? Well, there isn't one. It's one of those things that people easily overlook.
All you need to do is frame your subject and tap on the screen where you want to set your focus. You'll see a yellow box appear around the focus point.
This setting is most important when taking close-up photos. When you take close-ups, the only a small part of the picture is in focus. Anything in front of or behind the point of focus will appear blurry.
The term exposure refers to the brightness levels in a photo. Too dark (under-exposed), and you can't see the subject very well. Too bright (overexposed), and it looks washed out.
Like the Camera app's hidden focus feature, the iPhone’s exposure setting is also a little-known feature. Once you know about it, though, it's easy to adjust.
First, frame your subject and then tap on it to focus on it. Then, swipe up or down on the yellow square that appears.
For the most part, you should aim for a happy medium between light and dark. But sometimes, deliberately under or over-exposing your photos is desirable.
Let's say you want to capture a silhouette photo at sunset. You'll want to under-expose to make your subjects appear black against the background.
HDR for More Detailed Photos
Remember choosing the setting for automatically taking HDR photos? Now we're going to discuss where and when to take HDR photos.
If you're in a high-contrast environment, such as a landscape, it's very difficult to get a good picture. The background is light, and the foreground is dark. But, that's where the HDR setting comes in handy.
To take a picture using HDR, frame your subject, and make sure the HDR icon at the top isn't crossed out. If it is, you'll need to check your general settings (see above). Then snap your photo and see the beautiful results.
If you turned off your gridlines under the general settings, you'll want to turn them back on.
The gridlines are useful for keeping a level horizon. You can also use them to make sure vertical lines are straight. And if you know about the classic rule of thirds composition, it's super easy to achieve with the gridlines turned on.
All you need to do is line up your subject along one the right or left lines to put it off-center. You can also use the lines to make sure the horizon isn't dead-center for a more pleasing photo aesthetic.
Enjoy taking lots of action photos but hate missing the perfect moment? Use another "hidden" feature called burst mode. When turned on, you can take up to 10 photos per second.
So where do you locate the burst mode? It's not an icon or a slider. All you need to do is hold down your shutter button. Release the button when you're finished, and review your photos to select the best one.
Live Photo Mode
This is one of the best iPhone camera settings for creating memorable photos. Rather than taking a still photo, Live Photo captures a 3-second moving image with sound.
It's perfect for taking photos of children, pets, nature, or anything else that's moving. To use it, tap on the round Live Photos icon at the top middle of the screen. It looks a little bit like a bullseye with dotted lines. When it turns yellow, you'll know it's on.
Keep in mind that the camera takes 1.5 seconds of video before and after you take the shot, so hold as still as possible. In order to watch the Live Photo, open your picture in the Photos app and hold down your finger on the screen.
You can also add different effects to your Live Photo:
Want to make your Live Photo a still image? Tap on Edit at the top left of the Live Photo. Then, tap the yellow Live icon to turn off the animation and sound. Change your mind again? Turn Live Photo back on by tapping on the Off option.
One of the more useful iPhone camera settings is the Self Timer. It allows you to set a delay between tapping the shutter button and taking the photo.
This is handy when you want to take a picture of yourself when there's no one to do it for you. It's also great for preventing blurry photos caused by pressing the shutter button.
All you need to do is set down your phone on a solid surface or use a tripod made for cell phones. Tap on the Timer icon that looks like a clock. Set either a 3-second or 10-second delay. Press the shutter button to start the countdown, and get yourself in front of the camera. The camera will take a burst of 10 shots.
Want to capture an image, but it's too far away to get a decent shot? That's where the iPhone's telephoto lens feature comes in handy.
Note that this feature is only available on iPhone 7 and 8 Plus, iPhone X, iPhone XS, and iPhone XS Max.
It's very easy to do, and it's not a hidden feature like some of the settings above. To magnify your photo subject, frame it and then tap on the 1x icon at the bottom center of the viewfinder. It will change to 2x. To go back to the wide angle lens, tap on the 2x icon.
As you can see from this guide, you don’t need to buy expensive camera apps to take high-quality pictures with your iPhone. The Camera app that comes with your phone is more powerful than ever before.
All you need to know about are the 9 iPhone camera settings that we covered above. So take this guide and start shooting photos that no one will believe were shot with an iPhone.
Featured Image Source: Pexels