Your iPhone has a pretty good camera, especially from the 5 on, and in particular, excellent light and image processing hardware. But can you take better pictures? Of course, if you know a few simple tips …
1/ Go straight into camera — Have you ever missed a shot scrabbling for your camera in your pocket of bag, tried to unlock it with the thumbprint, resorted to the code, found the Camera app and then … missed the shot? No more. When you wake up your iPhone (click a button so the screen lights up), notice the little camera icon at bottom right. Put your finger on this and drag it upwards to go instantly into camera mode, bypassing the unlock screen.
2/ Turn on the grid — You may have heard of the Rule of Thirds, since it has been used by artists for hundreds of years. Basically, if you divide a rectangle in three horizontally, and in three vertically, the four intersections that result are used as compositional focal points (one of them, not all of them). If you put your subject on one of these points instead of smack-bang in the middle, your image immediately becomes more artistic, partly because you’ve been subconsciously conditioned to this by, you know, art, and partly because smack-bang in the middle is so overused. So turn on your iPhone/iPad/iPod touch camera grid: Settings>Photos & Camera>Grid. Don’t worry, the grid doesn’t imprint on the photos, it’s just in your viewfinder. Extra tip: having the grid on also helps line things up (buildings, horizons) vertically and horizontally.
3/ Shoot videos properly — Have you noticed your TV is a horizontal rectangle? As is a movie screen? Unless you actually have a vertical television – in other words, that’s higher than it is wide – please remember to shoot videos while holding your iPhone HORIZONTALLY (ie, in the main picture, above) it’s not going to be easy to play a vertically-held video on any TV, and it’s not that easy to rotate videos to view properly, either. While’s you’re at it, use the rule of thirds while you are shooting (not exclusively, of course – mix it up).
4/ Miss the manual shutter release of a camera? It can be hard navigating around to find the on-screen shutter button (the big round one) to snap a picture, particularly if you are holding your iPhone above your head, like in a crowd, or in another way different to normal. Luckily, Apple has enabled the volume control, both up and down, as shutter releases. Hold the iPhone horizontally, and the forefinger of your right hand naturally falls on the volume controls (not the Mute button; it doesn’t work). Click it and you take the picture. Click-and-hold to shoot ‘burst’ – lots of stills, perfect for getting the exact right portrait or the perfect frame for an action shot. In Video mode, click once to initiate video recording, and click again to stop.
5/ Try Flash in daylight — You already have HDR for difficult lighting situations (extremes of light and dark in the same image for example – HDR stands for High Dynamic Range and shoots then sandwiches a couple of shots to get the best exposure for each end). But sometimes, flash is worth turning on, too (it’s the little icon at top left of your screen while in Camera mode on one of the Photo, rather than video, settings).
Tap it and you have three settings to choose from: Auto (the iPhone decides, according to light), Off (always off) and On (even in daylight). If someone is facing you with the sun behind them, for instance, and you’re close enough, the flash can fill in the shadows on their face. Taking a picture of a car, even in daylight, the flash can add a little sparkle to the shiny bits. Try and a couple with and a couple without, and compare the results. It’s also good at helping ‘freeze’ moving objects, but note, the flash is tiny and has a limited range.