The Basics of iPhone Photography in 2020 – Professional Quality Just Got Easier

iPhone photography is as easy as it gets. Apple has made it so simple to get high-quality photos and videos from your mobile device, but are you near to unlocking the potential of your iPhone’s camera?

You’re probably aware that your iPhone camera takes photos and videos, but past that, you’re a little overwhelmed. Well, we’ll explain each camera mode for you and give you the optimal settings for each. Mobile photography and videography should be fun and straightforward, after all.

iPhone Photography Tips for Beginners

While some may tell you that the native camera app on your iPhone is rubbish, there are plenty of successful iPhone photographers that use it. If you’re locking the focus and exposure when shooting in the iPhone’s camera app, then the content can’t be that bad. iPhone photography is easy, remember?

Before we get into how to use the app, however, let’s quickly open it.

Open Your iPhone Camera App

Now, this may be tedious to some, but to others, it’ll be eye-opening. There are two ways to open your iPhone camera.

  1. Open the Camera App When Locked – press and hold the camera button in the bottom right of the lock screen.
  2. Open the Camera App When Unlocked – locate the Camera app and select it.

When you’re out and about, you’ll come across things you want to photograph. The amount of time saved by opening your iPhone camera from the lock screen can be the difference between getting and missing a shot. The main appeal of iPhone photography over traditional cameras is the ease of use, so take advantage of just how quick you can be.

Switching Camera Lenses

iphone camera lenses
Photos with Phones

Many newer iPhones come with multiple cameras – for example, my iPhone 11 Pro has four! At the same time, every iPhone I’ve ever had has had two cameras – a front and a rear one. Switching between the front and rear iPhone cameras is circled in the top right-hand corner of the graphic above.

Switching between the three other cameras on a new iPhone is just as simple if you understand what you’re looking for.

  • 2x is the Tele Lens
  • 1 is the Wide Lens
  • .5 is the Ultrawide Lens

Are you interested in add-on iPhone lenses? Well, here are our 10 best options of 2020.

The three-camera set-up is a massive leap forward in iPhone photography – three times the content capability does that. Regardless of which lenses your iPhone has, though, the yellow box and AE/AF lock visuals that show that you’ve locked your focus and exposure are the same. Are you curious as to which lenses your iPhone has? Here’s our write-up on all the iPhones since the iPhone 8.

Understanding the iPhone Camera Modes

how to open iphone camera
Photos with Phones
  • Photo – the simplest mode on your iPhone camera, it’s as simple as point as shoot. Be sure to hold your finger down on the subject of your photo, though, until the yellow box and AE/AF Lock appear. These indicate you’ve locked your focus and exposure. Your photos will be crisper as a result.
  • Video – another easy mode, but one that has more to it than meets the eye. Different frame rates – measured in fps – are ideal for certain circumstances.
    • 60 fps – ideal for if you aren’t sure if you want to have a clip at normal speed or slo-mo. At 60 fps, the audio and other sounds get preserved, and you can slow it down to 120 fps without issue.
    • 30 fps – personally, I’m not too fond of 30 fps as it looks less authentic. The motion blur is gone.
    • 24 (25) fps – the cinematic frame rate. At 24 fps, you get a nice motion blur to your videos. Think, if you wave your hand at a recording camera, would you expect to see your hand crisply in focus as it flops back and forth? Or, would you prefer to see the motion blur that your brain sees in real life? Definitely the latter. It’s worth noting that the U.S. loves 24 fps, whereas the rest of the world uses 25 fps.
  • Slo-Mo – 120 or 240 fps (frames per second) come standard. Slo-mo is a great mode to use when there’s action going on. You should turn it on when you’re around sports, running water, pets, and other movements.
  • Time-Lapse – captures 6x frames per second in the native camera app and then compiles them into a sped-up video. The effect allows you to see small changes that you may otherwise have missed. Timelapses are great for sunrises, sunsets, food content, and traveling towards an interesting subject.
  • Portrait – features what is known as bokeh – the blurred background that’s so popular on social media. Did you know that the blurriness is meant to replicate using a longer focal length? It’s a nifty tool, but be sure that the effect isn’t blurring out parts of your subject – it does happen occasionally.
  • Pano – a super stretched photo that allows you to pack a whole lot of scene into one image. When shooting panoramas on an iPhone, it’s important to remember to remain steady and slow when shooting. As far as the subjects of your iPhone panos go, think epic!

7 Basics Tips to Taking High-Quality iPhone Photos

Take Good Photos on your Phone
Legal I-Can

Lock exposure and focus

Place your finger on the subject of your image until the yellow box blinks, and the AE/AF Lock visual appears. Locking focus and exposure is important for all iPhone camera modes, but it’s most important in video. Any video that’s using auto-focus and exposure will automatically appear amateur because of the constant flickering that results from the camera’s AI working too hard. If you lock your focus and exposure, then this constant auto-fixing doesn’t occur. This is, without doubt, the easiest and most beneficial iPhone photography tips.

Use the Volume Control Feature

Did you know that straight out of the box, your iPhone will take photos if you press the volume buttons when in the native camera app? This method is preferred because it results in less phone camera shake or a crisper photo. As an additional trick that goes one step further, if you plug your Apple headphones in, you can use their volume controls as a Bluetooth camera remote!

Don’t get why that’s awesome? Check out this post about why you need a bluetooth camera remote.

Don’t Zoom or Use Flash

When you’re zooming on a smartphone, you’re using digital zoom, which is different than optical zoom. The latter is what you see on fancy traditional cameras, and it allows you to zoom without loss of image quality. When you zoom on your iPhone’s camera, the effect is the same as cropping. If you feel the need to zoom, don’t – just get closer. If you can’t get closer, then take the photo and crop it.

As far as your iPhone’s flash is concerned, it’s harsh. Obviously, in certain circumstances, you need to use it, but it should be avoided. Natural light is always more flattering. The best option is to have it hit your subject in the front at a 45-degree angle, as this will illuminate the highlights and shadows without washing them out (what your phone’s flash does).


Photography composition is the most important thing when it comes to capturing captivating images. While loads of people would tell you that improving your gear is step number one to improving your photography, I would vehemently disagree. I’ll let you know that if you suck at composition and you get the best camera in the world, your photos will still suck. Check out this photography 101 post to learn about composition.

Get Closer to your Subject Than You Think

You want detail – it’s part of what makes photos so appealing to us as consumers. Details in a photo help us to experience the image – the more senses you can titillate, the better! An easy way to do this is by getting close to your subject. You know that you shouldn’t be zooming, so this is something you should be doing anyway. If you have a newer iPhone with a tele lens, then you have a limited optical zoom capability! Use your tele lens to help you get a little closer. If you add a telephoto lens like one from this list, then you can get twice as close.

Use Shadow, Reflection, and Textures

It only makes sense that adding elements to your iPhone photos makes them more interesting. The best elements to add are shadows, reflections, and textures. All three can help to highlight your photo’s subject in an exciting way that stands out on the monotony that is social media.

Symmetry – Diagonals and Rule of Thirds

The human brain is hardwired to find symmetrical things appealing. So, having symmetry within your iPhone photography is to your advantage. Turning on the grid on your phone will allow you to evaluate your photo for optimal composition quickly. You should take into account the Rule of Thirds too. It states that your subject should lie at the intersecting points of the grid. Imagine diagonals through the center of your image too, as this can help you to visual possible leading lines to include.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *