How to: Taking Better Pictures with your iPhone

BY Tris Hussey

Published 12 Nov 2012

For many people the iPhone has replaced their point-n-shoot camera as their primary camera, if you fall into this group, do you know how to get the most out of your iPhone’s camera? Here are some tips that will help you start taking better pictures with your iPhone right now.

I’ve been a shutterbug since I was about 9, so almost 35 years now, over the years I’ve gone from Polaroids to simple film cameras to 35mm to digital to digital SLRs, recently however I’ve found myself taking more and more pictures with my iPhone. Why?

  • It’s fun
  • It’s fast
  • It’s convenient (since I already have it with me)

Over the few years I’ve had an iPhone, I’ve applied a lot of the tips and tricks I’ve picked up using “regular” cameras to shooting with the iPhone. I’ve also figured out a few things (quirks, tips, etc) that are specific to the iPhone itself. In this how to I’m going to pass on my favorite, simple tips that will help you take better pictures with your iPhone right now. In fact, I recorded a short video that shows you all these tricks in action, take a gander:

To recap my favorite tips are:

  1. Turn the flash from Auto to Off. If your picture is too dark, then try using the flash, just remember it might wash out your subject, cause red-eye, and glare.
  2. Turn on the grid. Just lining your subject up using the rule of thirds will make a huge difference in how your photos turn out.
  3. Tap to set the focus and exposure. Get what you want in focus, in focus. Apps like Camera+ let you set the exposure and focus separately, the default camera app doesn’t.
  4. Tap and hold to set the exposure to enable the focus/exposure lock.
  5. Turn on HDR from options. Remember not all settings are worth HDR and it will take a little longer to process in HDR mode.
  6. Avoid digital zoom. The photo quality will degrade quickly. Sometimes you can achieve the same effect with cropping.
  7. Panorama works only under iOS 6 and on iPhone 4S iPhone 5.
  8. Tap the arrow in Panorama mode to switch direction
  9. Turn your phone landscape to take a vertical panorama

I didn’t talk about the “purple haze” lens flare issue, because…I don’t think of it as an issue. All cameras and lenses will get lens flare when the sun or a light sources in in frame. The purple cast is just a quirk of the iPhone. You can both use that creatively (J.J. Abrams added digital lens flare in the Star Trek movie) and if the color is wrong, fix it in something like iPhoto.

Those are my top iPhone photo tips. Have any others to share? Share them in the comments!

Update: Here are some tips from my friend Mark Jaquith via Twitter:

use two hands, lean against something, hold your elbows together and bring the phone in close to your face.

I have more: don’t use hardware button. Causes shake. Don’t tap the shutter, it works on release (less shake). Take multiple.

Bonus tip…use your earbuds with volume control as a cable release (or even some Bluetooth headsets). Just plug in the headphones, open the camera app, and press volume up to take the picture. This works because the hardware volume up bottom also works to trigger the shutter!

Have a tip? Send it to us anonymously!