The Best iPhone Camera Settings For Professional Results

Smartphones cameras have come on leaps and bounds in recent years. Unfortunately, they cant produce results close to that of high-end DSLR and mirrorless system cameras. However, if used correctly, they can still attain outstanding results. This article will look at the iPhone Camera Settings For Professional Results. Ones that if used correctly, will see you snapping professional quality results in no time.

1. Camera Settings

Before we can begin playing paparazzi with our pets and smartphones, first, we must make sure the correct settings are dialled in. Like any camera system, getting the most from the device starts by taking this necessary step. Below is a list of what I believe to be the crucial camera settings in modern-day iPhones.

1.1. Turn Off Live-Mode

An iPhone will automatically come with the live-photo setting turned on. The first step to getting the most from your device is to turn this setting off.

Turning off live mode is important because every time you press the shutter you record a short video. The setting effectively captures 45 stills and stitches them together to do this. By shooting multiple short videos, you will inevitably fill up the memory far quicker as it will be storing 45 images for everyone visible in the gallery.

To turn this setting off, open your camera application and click on the dotted circle on the top right-hand side of the screen. Once disabled, it will be greyed out, with a horizontal cross through it.

iPhone Camera Settings For Professional Results
iPhone Camera Settings For Professional Results

1.2. Turn on Smart HDR

The next step is to turn on the iPhones smart-HDR function. This abbreviation stands for high dynamic range and is a setting that helps achieve a well-balanced exposure throughout the highlights, mid-tones,

It does this by taking an overexposed photograph to expose the shadows correctly. An underexposed image for the highlights. And a balanced exposure for the mid-tones.

Taking HDR photographs is always a better option when faced with the alternative, taking one image with a balanced exposure. This is especially true for images you intend to edit later in post-production, as you will have more information in the image to work with.

Smartphone computational power has become so effective that you can be confident it will still yield quality results even when shooting moving subjects.

To turn on the smart-HDR function:

  1. Go to the settings app
  2. Scroll down to the camera app and open
  3. Scroll to the bottom and toggle on the Smart-HDR function 
iPhone Camera Settings For Professional Results
iPhone Camera Settings For Professional Results

1.3. Turn on The Grid Lines

Turning on the grid lines means 2 horizontal and 2 vertical lines will be displayed over the camera’s preview screen. This grid is helpful to properly compose your images when following the rule of thirds. It also helps to achieve a level horizon in your photographs. 

To turn on your iPhones grid lines:

  1. Go to the settings application
  2. Scroll to the camera application and open
  3. Toggle on the grid setting from the options found under composition. 
iPhone Camera Settings For Professional Results
iPhone Camera Settings For Professional Results

1.4. Preserve Settings (Optional)

Preserving your camera settings means you will not need to reprogram your preferences each time you open the camera app. This can save you a considerable amount of time. Make sure you don’t waste time before a shot reprogramming the settings or reapplying them in post. This function is entirely optional but can be a lifesaver in some instances. 

Depending on your phone’s model, you will be presented with several options from the preserve list. On the iPhone 11, these include: 

Camera Model: Preserves the last mode, such as video, rather than automatically resetting to photo

Creative Controls: preserves the last filter used, aspect ratio, light or depth settings.

Exposure adjustment: Preserves the exposure adjustment and always shows the exposure adjustment indicator.

Night Mode: Preserves the night mode setting. 

Live Photo: Preserves the live photo setting. 

As you can see, there is a good selection from this list. The most useful in this case would most likely be the camera mode preserve for videographers that would make the camera open in the video function. However, your needs may be different. If you need to access these options, you will find them in the preserve settings option in the camera app. 

1.5 Enable Geo-Location (Optional)

While not directly linked to taking quality photographs. Enabling the geotagging feature on your iPhone is a useful archiving tool for your images. Furthermore, it can also add value when looking back in the future to reminisce about a holiday or other travel experience. 

To turn on this feature:

  1. Go to settings
  2. Privacy
  3. Location Services
  4. Camera
  5. Select while using the app. 
iPhone Camera Settings For Professional Results
iPhone Camera Settings For Professional Results

2. Key Camera Controls For iPhone

Hidden within your iPhone are several highly effective settings to help you achieve professional results with your smartphone photography. I could write an extensive article on these settings alone. However, to keep things brief and engaging, I will limit these to 3 of the most important: Focus tapping, Exposure Control, and lock focus.

2.1. Focus Tapping

Achieving a well-focused image is crucial in photography. This is because the eye will be drawn to the plane of focus in compositions. This acceptably sharp plane is otherwise known as the depth of field.

You can have a wide depth of field. Meaning a large proportion of the composition will be sharp and in focus. On the other hand, you can have a narrow depth of field. Narrowing the plane of focus to a shorter measurement within the composition.

Unlike professional cameras that give photographers creative control over this plane through an adjustable aperture and focal length, smartphones have fixed apertures and focal lengths.

This means that most shooting scenarios will render images with everything in focus. However, when shooting macro, understanding how to use focus taping is vital because the plane of focus will be reduced to take up only a percentage of the frame.

To see this in action, place an object close to the lens. It will most likely be blurry. Next, tap on the subject on the screen. This will move the narrow plane of focus towards the camera to bring this object into focus.

Lastly, To shift the focus back once more, simply touch the background of the preview. This is focus tapping in action.

2.2. Exposure Control

A commonly missed setting is the exposure control function. This function is accessed by clicking on the sun icon displayed to the right-hand side of the focus square.

To change the exposure level of the image, simply press this icon and drag it up or down. Based on whether you’d like to increase or decrease exposure.

The iPhone does a superb job at achieving the correct exposure with its auto exposure setting. However, there may be some instances, such as low light scenarios, where you may want to increase the exposure. On the other hand, altering the brightness can help achieve creative results.

2.3. Lock Focus

In most instances, using the standard focusing system by clicking on the screen once to lock onto a focus point will usually do. However, there are some instances where locking the focus point is recommended. Like when there are moving objects in the frame. Because these may cause the autofocus to change locations.

To ensure this does not happen, you can use the Lock focus function by holding down on the point of focus in the frame.

Just press on the point for a short time, and you will notice the “AE/AF LOCK” text appear at the top of the screen in a yellow box.

This stands for Autofocus/auto exposure. And means that while in use, the camera will remain focused on the same point with the same level of exposure.

3. Useful And Creative Camera Modes

Understanding your way around the camera functions will help you achieve brilliantly exposed images in dark environments, help you capture beautiful skylines, capture silky smooth waterfalls, capture your dog mid-sprint, and ultimately help you get more creative with your photography.

3.1. Night Mode

Using the iPhone long exposure setting can achieve a well-balanced exposure in dark conditions. It can also produce some creative effects in the camera. There are two ways to create long exposures with your iPhone. Both are better suited for the different subject matter. 

Because smartphones have such small sensors, they struggle in low light situations. 

Thankfully apple introduced night mode, A function that will expose the sensor to a scene for up to 10 seconds depending on the levels of light detected. 

In most cases, the phone will calculate the optimal exposure time. However, this function can also be controlled manually by clicking on the moon icon. Which becomes visible in the camera settings in low light environments. 

This exposure technique is best suited to achieving a correctly balanced exposure with reduced noise in low light situations. 

Use a tripod when taking long exposures to reduce camera shake a motion blur. 

4.2. Long Exposure

The second method of achieving a long exposure is selecting the mode in the camera settings. This method works by stitching several photographs together and resembles what a professional camera would do if its shutter was left open for a few seconds. This method is ideal when the end goal is to achieve creative effects such as light trails and smooth water.

Use a tripod when taking long exposures to reduce camera shake a motion blur. 

To create a long exposure from a live photo:

  1. First, make sure that the live photo option is selected on the top right-hand side of the camera display. There should be no cross through the dotted circle.
  2. Next, take a photo of the subject.
  3. When viewing the photo inside the gallery, click on “LIVE” in the top left-hand corner next to the dotted circle. Choose the long exposure option from the drop-down list. 

3.1. Take Advantage Of The Camera Timer

Camera Timers are nothing new, and we have all used them at some point in our lives. However, many of us, including me, do not utilise this feature as often as we should.

For instance, when taking selfies, we will often choose to simply hold the camera at arm’s length for the photograph. Without much thought at all about the composition we are forming.

If you want your photography to stand out and be a cut above average, then this technique won’t always be enough.

By using the timer and stepping away from the camera, you can be more creative with your shots.

The camera timer is also a crucial function when taking a long exposure. First, you should always use a tripod or rest the iPhone on a still surface to stop any camera shake.

Just a touch of camera shake can vastly reduce the quality of your images. And here at shutter gang. We are about professional quality photography. So eliminating all camera shake in a long exposure is necessary.

Even if the phone is on a tripod, the instant you press the release button, the camera will shake.

To leave you with the best quality long exposure image possible, utilise the camera timer.

3.2. Burst Mode

As previously mentioned using live mode can be a useful tool when shooting a moving object to ensure you get the desired shot. A useful tool, yes, but not the most effective. If you know that the subject matter you are shooting will be moving. Perhaps you are at a sports day or motorbike race. then you should use the burst mode function in the phone.

This setting will take a rapid-fire succession of shots that will give you a selection of images to choose from. This is a far more effective solution to capturing moving subjects when compared to live mode because the camera will continue to take photographs for as long as you remain using the volume up button.

This setting isn’t accessible directly from the in-app menu so to turn on this feature:

  1. locate the camera app in the settings menu and open it.
  2. Toggle on the volume up for the bust option.

3.3. Panorama Mode

The panorama mode in the iPhone is outstanding. It especially shines when used to capture landscapes/cityscapes and architecture. Due to the way it makes these shots by stitching together multiple photographs, it is advisable to not include any moving subjects in the frame.

To get the most out of this function, take short panoramas that are two frames long/high, 3 max. This way, you are recreating the effects of a wide-angle lens, which will leave you with a well-composed photograph. And not an elongated rectangle which makes viewing difficult. Especially on social media platforms.

4. Settings To Avoid

It is worth noting that the iPhone does have a couple of settings and features that should be avoided if you intend to produce quality photographs. The most notable of these are:

4.1. Digital Zoom

There are two types of zoom in photography. Digital and optical. Never on any camera should you use its digital zoom feature. This is because, unlike optical zoom, which uses the glass in a lens to magnify a frame onto the sensor with lossless quality, digital zoom vastly reduces the quality of an image. This is because, when you use digital zoom, the camera is simply cropping into the frame of a photograph.

Fortunately, there are iPhone models now that do offer optical zoom. If you are fortunate enough to have a budget large enough for one of these models. Congratulations, if you need to zoom, then utilise its extra glass. If you are operating with two or even one, the only solution is to move physically closer to your subject.

4.2. Portrait Mode

If you have been taking photographs for some time, you will understand just how poorly the portrait mode in the iPhone performs.

Unlike a DSLR/Mirrorless that uses its aperture ring to decrease and increase its plane of focus, An iPhone creates its bokeh through a computational process. Unfortunately, this process is well below par and often leaves spaces unblurred or blurs parts that shouldn’t be.

My advice is to steer clear of this camera mode altogether. An alternative way to achieve a blurry background can be to blur the background in post-production in lightroom or use a third-party app.

The best application I have found to achieve quality bokeh is the focus app. Which does a great job at distinguishing the subject from the background and even gives users the option of setting the level of bokeh. Like selecting a wide or narrow aperture on a system camera.

5. Conclusion

This article has only scratched the surface of utilizing your iPhone as a professional device. However, I hope it has introduced you to a new feature or two or a new way of thinking about using the phone.

Please proceed to search through the site to continue your learning experience. Furthermore, consider following a link on this page to discover more about a subject mentioned.

On the other hand, if you would like to continue learning about iPhone specific content, search for it in the search bar in the right-hand column or at the top of the page.

It was great to have you here once more. Remember, the iPhone can be a fantastic tool for capturing images when utilized to its full potential. Don’t disregard it because of its size, glass or age. I have seen 10-year-old iPhones win first place in photography awards.

Now pick up that phone and start working towards that pro status!

Don’t forget to share your images with us on the Instagram page for a chance to be featured!

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David Davis
David Davis
Hi, My name is Dave, and I am passionate about photography. I am currently travelling to document the world's most interesting people and places. I have started this blog to share these incredible sights and experiences with you, including all the knowledge I gain as a photographer/videographer along the way. If you share a passion for street, documentary, and travel photography, join the mailing list and stay up to date with the latest posts and resources direct from the field.

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