Camera Tips

The iPhone does an amazing job taking great photos. It sets the focus and exposure, detects faces, adjusts color and white balance, and much more, all automatically. Most of the time, you simply point and shoot and get an awesome photo. Sometimes, however, you may need to take more control.

Manual Focus & Exposure

There may be times when you want to force your iPhone’s camera to focus and set exposure on a specific subject. For example, if there are objects both close to and far from the camera, or the scene has both very bright and very dark areas, the camera may not choose what you want.

In the scene below, there is a bright window and a darker area to the left. The camera has chosen to set the exposure based on the bright window, which makes the other part of the scene very dark. In the same scene, the flowers nearest to the camera will be in focus, while those further away will be blurry.

To manually set exposure and focus, frame your shot and then tap on the subject you want to capture:

You’ll see a box drawn around the area you tapped, indicating that focus and exposure is set there. Now take the photo. If you need to change where the focus is set, just tap again.

Once you set the focus area, you can also tweak the exposure by dragging the exposure control up or down before taking the photo:

Note: if you move the camera too much before taking the shot, it will switch back to automatic focus and exposure.

Lock Focus & Exposure

You might need to not only manually set focus and exposure, but also lock both so they don’t change when you move the camera. This allows you to take several consecutive photos or re-frame the shot with the same settings.

To lock focus and exposure, tap and hold the subject area. The focus box will pulse and the camera will show AE/AF LOCK to indicate that auto-exposure and auto-focus have been locked:

To unlock the settings, just tap the screen again.

Hold Steady

A main contributor to blurry photos is camera shake. If you move the phone or move your body as the camera is capturing the scene, the photo might be blurry.

Steady the Phone

Tapping the capture button on the camera screen can cause the phone to move slightly and thus cause a blurry photo.

Instead of tapping on the screen, you can press either volume button to snap the photo. This has the advantage of allowing you to hold the phone steady with both hands while placing a finger on the volume button. Then, just squeeze the phone to depress the button and take the photo.

Steady Your Body

Holding your body as still as possible while shooting is another way to help ensure clear photos. Here are some ways to steady yourself while taking photos:

  • Hold your breath: To help stay steady while taking your photo, take a breath and hold it before pressing the button. Inhaling or exhaling can cause your body to move slightly while taking your photo.
  • Elbows down: Keep your elbows down at your side while taking your photo. If you hold your elbows up while taking your photo, you’re more likely to move.
  • Lean: Lean against a wall or railing to steady yourself while shooting.

In Focus!

Whether you’re taking photos on vacation, at a birthday party, or at a family gathering, you want them to be the best they can be. I hope these tips help you take better photos that you’ll enjoy for years to come.


Apple’s Camera Settings Page

6 thoughts on “Camera Tips

Add yours

  1. Hey Rob, good tips here. I kinda know about AE/AF lock on iPhone but never really tried to actually use it. I have the single lens iPhone 7. Your post makes me want to explore my iPhone camera more. Coming from dedicated cams of yore, I often treat the iPhone as just a simple auto-shooter and don’t try to get creative. That said, I did snap some flower macros with it today that I might post next week. I’m now being drawn to the simplicity of using just my iPhone for all my photography, really trying to rely on it and get more creative with it. It sure would simplify things.

    Too bad instagram is no longer a good photo app for me…oh well.

    Also, I want to say that your tips and tech posts are well written. They’re simple and straightforward, and they actually have useful or insightful tips. In this post, I really like the quality of your images, both screen grabs and of the iPhone showing the button.

    Good stuff. Take care.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for the kind words Jason. I really appreciate it.

      I’ve been using my iPhone as my only camera for a couple years now. I still have a DSLR but just haven’t had a need to get it out. I’ve been pretty happy with the iPhone. A couple trips lugging around the DSLR convinced me.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Ah. I busted out my Nikon D60 for some Bluebonnet shots this year. But the shutter kept locking up. I even oiled the shutter gear inside. It just got worse. So it’s basically dead. I still have my Canon S5 to use some of its features iPhone can’t match yet. But…iPhone (iCam) is most often good enough. Not to mention it’s features my S5 can’t match.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Thanks for these great tips, Rob. Today’s were all new to me. I tried them out while I read your post and got brilliant results. The advice on holding my elbows in when taking shots was also a perfect one.
    I’d love to feature you and your blog over on my blog if you’d be interested in writing a guest post? Just let me know if that is of any interest to you.
    Best wishes,

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you, Hugh. I’m so glad the tips were useful to you.

      Yes, I’d love to write a guest post. I’ll admit that I’m new to all this, so any guidance you can provide would be appreciated.

      Liked by 1 person

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