Your complete guide to iPhone camera filters

Your complete guide to iPhone camera filters

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Person Holding iPhone 6 Outdoor-min - iPhone camera filters
You can improve or overkill a photo with iPhone camera filters.

Using camera filters on your iPhone can be overwhelming. 

You can’t always know if a filter brings out the best in your picture… or makes it look like a mess. 

However, don’t fret about it. Thousands of iPhone users aren’t knowledgeable about their camera filters. As a result, they end up with overexposed photos or underwhelming shots. 

Now, now… we heard your pleas. That’s why we wrote this guide about the iPhone camera filters. 

Specifically, we’ll be talking about the basics of the iPhone camera filters, the new filters of the iOS 13, and many more. 

Why use the iPhone camera filters on your pictures?

a woman browsing her Pinterest feed on Mac laptop. - iPhone camera filters
To use filters effectively, determine your purpose of using them first.

Before we explore how to use filters, let’s get this out of the way, first: 

Should you use filters on your iPhone photos?

Well, if you’re a content creator who wants to boost engagement on Instagram—or any other photo-sharing site—then you should apply filters on your photos. 

Using filters to boost engagement

Based on a study about using filters on smartphone photos, pictures with filters are 45% more likely to engage followers in photo sharing sites.

However, the aim of using filters extends beyond engagement. 

For professional photographers, filters are best used in correcting photos. For instance, many photographers use lens filters, such as polarizing filters to reduce glare in their photos

Nevertheless, when it comes to using smartphone filters, they aren’t much of a fan. 

What do photographers think about using filters?

According to serious shutterbugs, filters usually just distract the viewer from truly understanding the context of a photo. 

Now, we have to agree with them.

Even though you’re using filters with the aim to attract and engage, this shouldn’t overpower the aim to make your followers understand the message of your photo. 

However, take note that using filters is never a form of cheating.

It’s just another way of expressing the mood, presenting a different aesthetic, or showing another side of a photo’s context or story. 

Therefore, even though you’re using a filter, try not to overdo it. 

Aim to enhance and not to overkill. 

Do iPhone cameras have filters?

woman taking photo of outdoor church.  - iPhone camera filters
The iPhone camera has 9 built-in filters.

Yes. On your iPhone’s Camera app, you can take pictures with any built-in filter in Photo or Portrait Mode. 

You can’t remove or change any of these filters, by the way. Still, you can add more. If you want to know how, skip ahead and find out here: How to get more filters on your iPhone. 

Meanwhile, here are the steps on taking photos with filters:

How to take photos with a filter on iPhone camera

  1. Launch your Camera app. 
  2. Tap the filter icon that’s shaped like a Venn diagram. 
  3. Swipe left/right to preview the filters. 
  4. Tap on your desired filter. 
  5. You can now take photos with the filter you chose.

How to use filters on the iPhone 11, 11 Pro, and 11 Pro Max

  1. Launch your Camera app.
  2. Select the icon that’s shaped like an arrow pointing upward. 
  3. After tapping the arrow, a panel showing the editing tools will appear.
  4. Tap the filter icon that’s shaped like a Venn diagram. It’s beside the timer icon.
  5. Swipe left/right to preview the filters. 
  6. Tap on your desired filter. 
  7. You can now take photos with the filter you chose.
  8. After you capture it, your photo will show a filter icon at the upper right icon.

NOTE: To remove or switch the filters on your photos, you can edit them on the Photos app. 

Can you apply filters on the iPhone camera’s Video Mode?

woman taking a video of a dancing newly wed couple on her iPhone. - iPhone camera filters
You can now apply photo filters on your videos.

Many users were enduring not being able to add filters to videos in iOS 12. 

So, now that iOS 13 is here, your suffering is about to end. 

If you update to iOS 13, you can now use the photo editing tools on your videos. That means you can add photo filters to videos and even control their intensity. 

Besides putting filters, the iOS 13 new video editing support also allows rotating, cropping, and increasing the exposure of videos. 

How to apply filters on your videos on iPhone

  1. Open your Photos app. 
  2. Under the Media types section, select Videos. 
  3. Tap on the video you want to edit. 
  4. Select the Edit option at the upper right corner. 
  5. At the bottom, tap the filter icon that’s shaped like a Venn diagram. 
  6. Swipe left or right to choose your desired filter. 
  7. Moreover, you can also control the intensity of the filter. 
  8. Click Done if you’re satisfied with your new filtered video!

Meanwhile, if you want to try a third-party app for applying filters on videos, you can check out this free app on iOS called zShot. It has a wide range of tools for video editing such as cropping, visual fx, trimming, and merging. You can even change the lighting!

Related: iPhone Photo Settings: The Essential Guide for Beginners

Are the built-in iPhone camera filters excellent?

guy taking a selfie on white background - iPhone camera filters
You can’t be happy with your iPhone camera’s filters if you’re nuts about variety.

Judging the quality of filters can be subjective. However, in the iPhone’s case, theirs have an adequate range. 

You can deepen your photo’s shadows, tone down its warm hues, or turn it into Black & White using the built-in filters.

Although, if you’re the type who likes to choose from plenty of options, you won’t appreciate their nine built-in filters. 

Here are the latest filters of iOS 13, which we will individually explore in the next section. 

  • Vivid
  • Vivid Warm 
  • Vivid Cool
  • Dramatic
  • Dramatic Warm
  • Dramatic Cool 
  • Mono 
  • Silvertone
  • Noir

The filters on iOS 13 remain their excellent quality. The only difference this time is that you can control their strength. You can edit a photo’s filter and either fade or intensify its filter.

Related: Complete Guide to Close Up iPhone Photography: A Must-Read

9 built-in filters on your iPhone camera

Each filter has its own strengths, and you can use them to bring out the best of different photo situations or scenes.

Moreover, by choosing the best or the right filter, you can trigger the right emotion with the viewers, making them connect with your photo. 

Therefore, make sure to choose the right filter, so you can tell a beautiful, coherent story with your photo. 

Find out more about your iPhone’s built-in filters below. 

Vivid filters

1. Vivid

Don’t want a flat photo? A quick application of the Vivid filter will solve your problem. This filter particularly increases the contrast of your photo. 

In photography, high contrast photos have brighter highlights and even darker shadows. This will cause your subjects to appear more textured and pronounced. 

Therefore, if you want to highlight the details in your photo, then you can choose 

2. Vivid Warm

The Vivid Warm filter is a variation of the Vivid filter, but with a more yellow tone. 

If you took a photo during a gloomy day, you can apply this filter. It will make your photo look livelier and less flat. Photos with lower contrast look dull. 

Meanwhile, when you apply a filter with a warmer tone, such as this one, you’re sending a message of positivity or happiness. 

3. Vivid Cool

Now, do you want to tone down the warm colors of your photo? The Vivid Cool is the filter for that. 

This filter washes your picture with blue tones, causing it to appear as if you took it with cooler lighting. 

Using cooler tones in your photo will represent loneliness, isolation, or emptiness. So, if you want to amplify those emotions in your photo, then you can apply Vivid Cool. 

Dramatic filters

4. Dramatic

In using the Dramatic filter, you will be reducing the intensity of the highlights and boosting the shadows. You will also increase your photo depth. 

As a result, your subject/s will look more real but also mysterious—like you’re hiding something that doesn’t appear to the naked eye. 

Meanwhile, if you’re literally photographing shadows on your photo, using this filter will make them more pronounced.

You can use shadows to depict the “other” in a photo or even frame your subject/s. 

5. Dramatic Warm

Just like Vivid Warm, Dramatic Warm is just the Dramatic filter but with more yellow hues. 

By applying Dramatic Warm, you will make a photo look more active. That’s because photos with red, orange, or/and yellow tints trigger overpowering and optimistic emotions. Hence, they draw more interest from a viewer. 

As a result, if you want more engaging photos, then you could use this filter. 

6. Dramatic Cool

Do you want to retain your photo’s pronounced look but don’t want it to be too overpowering?

You can try the Dramatic Cool filter, so your photo will look more subdued. That’s not a bad thing, especially if you want to trigger relaxing or calming emotions with your photo. 

Also, did you know that blue-tinted photos on Instagram are more likely to get more engagement? 

They may not be warm-colored photos but people like them because they don’t have that distracting effect. 

Black and White filters

7. Mono

Mono is a no-nonsense filter. It simply turns your photo into a Black & White image. 

However, if you own models like the iPhone 8 Plus, iPhone X, iPhone 11, iPhone 11 Pro, or iPhone 11 Pro Max, you might find yourself having fun with a different version of this filter. 

The camera’s new update, the Portrait Mode’s Stage Light Mono effect, cuts the subject out of the background. It then applies a black and white filter, similar to a striking and dramatic studio photo effect. 

Be warned though that it can be a tricky effect to perfect. Other iPhone users suggest shooting in low light environments or places with ambient light. 

8. Silvertone

The Silvertone filter is another variation of the Mono filter. However, this filter will deepen the shadows in your photos. 

The photo above by Reddit user u/DenraelLeandros perfectly depicts the effect of the Silvertone filter. 

As you can observe, the shadows are bumped while the highlights are muted, hence the “silver tone”. He didn’t use any apps or editing effects—just the Silvertone filter on the native camera app. 

9. Noir

Ever seen the high-contrast cinematography of The Godfather trilogy? You can get that “look” with the Noir filter. 

Out of the three B&W filters, Noir is the strongest variation. 

As you can notice in the above photo by a Reddit user from r/iPhoneography, the blacks are extremely black. As a result, the highlights and subjects easily stand out. 

The Noir will give your photos an ominous, mysterious vibe—just like the tales being told by The Godfather’s cinematography through its colors. 

Just make sure your photo doesn’t have a heavy contrast. Noir won’t work well on photos with striking contrast. 

Tips on using iPhone camera filters on your photos

guy taking a photo of a person on minimalist background. - iPhone camera filters
Use filters properly and you will bring out something magical in your photos.

You already learned about the built-in filters of your camera app. Now, it’s time to know the good practices of using those or any filters on selfies, landscape photos, and beach pictures.

Why is knowing about these tips important? Filters, whether physical or digital, are your first line of defense when you don’t have enough time to edit a photo. 

One tap can automatically improve or reduce the quality of your snapshot. Therefore, you should know how to use them properly, especially in these three photo situations.

Selfies 

girl taking an overexposed selfie.  - iPhone camera filters
Be careful in applying filters on overexposed photos; otherwise, you’ll disappear!

1. Don’t overdo it. 

It’s easy to spot a selfie that’s packed with layers of filter. So, how do you apply filter and change the mood of your selfie without overkilling things? 

For one, if you’re already taking a selfie in daylight, you can lessen the intensity of the filter. You don’t need to bump it to 100% when the natural lighting is already doing the job for you. 

Another trick is to know what’s lacking. Does your photo need warmth? Well then, you could apply a filter with orange or yellow tones, such as the Vivid Warm filter. 

The key here is to use the filter as a supplementary effect on your selfie. Don’t forget to use an iPhone selfie stick to avoid blurry photos and sore forearms. You can also use a clip-on selfie ring light to enhance the effect of the filters.

2. Try using Black and White filters. 

blonde girl taking a selfie in black and white filter.
Any B&W filter will help viewers focus on the emotion of your subject.

The effectivity of a B&W filter depends on the subject. For example, if you take a photo of something plain like a clean room, it won’t show that much significance and appeal. 

On the other hand, if you take a close-up portrait of a person or something intricate, the B&W filter will work perfectly. 

In the case of selfies, B&W filters help the viewers focus on your smile, instead of the distracting colors in the background. 

As you can see, the purpose of the B&W filter is to help the viewers focus on the subject and the context of the photo. Take note!

3. Play with shadows. 

shadow selfie on stairs at old ruins.
Get creative by playing with shadows!

Wait, isn’t the purpose of selfies to show your beautiful face? Well, in the world of photography, anything can go. Plus if you’re brave, you shouldn’t be scared to try and play with shadows

One thing you can try is to turn your back against the sun, face an interesting background, and take a silhouette selfie. 

girl and shadow of foliage on her face.
Work with foliage for that classic, subdued summer afternoon vibe.

Another style that you can play with is positioning under foliage and let the pattern appear on your face. Make sure you’re facing the sun or a light source, though. 

Meanwhile, if you’re blessed with a gorgeous bone structure, then you should definitely try different angles. See how shadows enhance your face!

Landscape photos

gorgeous morning on greenery and mountains
Lighting played a crucial role in this perfectly exposed photo.

1. Use filters to enhance the lighting. 

In landscape photography, lighting is even more crucial. If you can’t learn to figure out bad lighting, then you’ll make the mistake of settling down on a wrongly lit picture. 

Therefore, use or apply a filter that enhances the natural or ambient light in your landscape photo. It should never diminish the light; otherwise, it can easily ruin your photo. 

2. Shoot in RAW format. 

raw format logo on pink background.
When in doubt, shoot in RAW.

If you’re taking landscape pics, it’s normal to feel dissatisfied by the results. You will even feel more upset if you can only post-process limited elements in your photo.

That’s why you should shoot in RAW. Through this, you’ll have more data to manipulate if ever you use digital filters to edit your photo. 

Since your iPhone doesn’t allow you to shoot in RAW, you can install third-party apps that allow you to do so.

3. Learn about Neutral Density Filters. 

Holding up a Neutral Density Filter against grassland and bright sun.
You can expose landscape scenes and showcase the gorgeous details with the help of NDFs.

In professional photography, seasoned pros use NDFs to regulate the amount of light that hits the sensors. As a result, they can take better long-exposure photos of rivers, mountains, caves, etc. even in daylight. 

Now, since you’re using an iPhone, you can buy NDFs for iPhone camera lenses, or even better, just install the app called AutoND

This app lets you measure and minimize the dynamic range, so your iPhone camera’s sensor can capture multiple details in a scene. And not only that—AutoND also recommends the right filters for your landscape photos!

Beach photos

Holding up a Polarizing filter against a blue sky and sea.
Polarizing filters are must-have essentials for beach shutterbugs.

1. Opt for a filter that reduces glare.

Photographers use a polarizing filter on their DSLR camera’s lens to reduce the glare from the sun. The filter helps remove the polarized light while making the sky appear bluer. 

As a result, you should totally use this filter if you’re a beach bum and a shutterbug! 

On your iPhone, you can either use an artificial polarizing filter for smartphones or/and install apps that help you reduce glare. One example of the latter is the Digital Film Tools app on iOS. Besides its polarizer effect, you can also enjoy its wide range of filters—74 types, to be exact!

2. Use UV filters to protect your camera. 

Clip-on UV filter for iPhone
This is an example of a UV filter for iPhones.

Besides digital filters, you should also include clip-on physical filters on your beach photography essentials. 

For example, you should invest in one or two UV filters for your iPhone camera. They prevent sun damage on your iPhone camera’s lens and prevent atmospheric haze or that blue tinge on your photos.  You can also get a lens kit for smartphones. We suggest you buy the ORPHEK LENS kit for smartphones—it has a macro lens and a polarized lens, among others. If you only want one lens, try this universal clip-on lens by HPS. It comes with a rubber backplate that prevents scratches.

3. Go the other way. 

Experiment with a subject you don’t normally shoot at the beach. After that, use a filter that wouldn’t normally enhance the blues of the water or the sky. For instance, don’t be afraid to look for a story among intriguing subjects such as garbage, rocks, or even shadows. 

Also, why not go for the Black & White filters instead of the orange and teal filters? The trick here is to go beyond what’s usual and capture an interesting story. 

And while you’re at it, don’t forget to invest in a waterproof case. We suggest you buy this waterproof case by LANYOS if you’re taking a dive in no more than 15m for up to 30 minutes. If you prefer a phone pouch, you can get this waterproof phone pouch by Hiearcool. It can get you as deep as 49ft.

How to get more filters on your iPhone

Two girls taking a fun selfie behind the sunset.
You can import additional filters from 3rd party apps into your Photos app.

So, you’re not that satisfied with the built-in filters by Apple. You can now stop pouting! 

Did you know that you can import additional filters on your Photos app? 

For instance, if you use another third-party camera app with cool filters, you can export them to your Photos app and edit your photos there. 

It’s actually super easy. Just follow these steps: 

Enable photo filter packs on your iPhone

  1. Open your Photos app. 
  2. View one picture.
  3. Tap Edit.
  4. The panel with buttons will appear. 
  5. Tap the button with three grey dots. 
  6. A page will open, showing all the third-party camera apps that allow photo filter pack sharing. 
  7. To export their filters, just toggle the switch. You can do this to more than one apps. 
  8. Next, exit and open your Photos app again. 
  9. View a photo. 
  10. Tap Edit. 
  11. Tap the button with three grey dots again.. 
  12. You will see the apps you chose earlier. 
  13. You can now apply the filters. 

How do you change the camera settings on your iPhone?

Do you hate your camera resetting to normal mode every time you take a picture? If you want to take photos with one default filter every time, just follow the steps below. 

  1. Go to Settings. 
  2. Tap Camera. 
  3. Next, go to Preserve Settings. 
  4. Under “Camera Mode”, toggle “Filter”. 

Now, your camera will automatically open with your desired filter every time. Besides that, you can also preserve Live Photo settings, depth, and/or lighting. 

Why does the iPhone have three cameras?

black iPhone 11 Pro Max laid down on black ground. - iPhone camera filters
The more cameras, the merrier… and the more details you can capture.

Smartphone cameras have always been pale in comparison to DSLR cameras in quality such as the Canon PowerShot SX530. The latter have larger sensors, which means they can gather more light—allowing you to take higher quality photos. 

To compensate for what they lack, Apple introduced the multi-camera phones—the iPhone 11 and the iPhone 11 Pro. 

The purpose of those phones having three cameras, apart from providing you with more techniques and wider Field-Of-View (FOV), is to help your iPhone cameras collect more light. 

The more light that enters the cameras, the better your photos will be. 

In this case, it’s safe to say that the more the merrier. 

How do I get FaceTime filters on my iPhone 6?

Asian woman talking to someone on FaceTime at the mountains. - iPhone camera filters
When the normal mode of your FaceTime viewfinder fails you, you can depend on filters.

The FaceTime app has several camera effects available such as filters, memojis, and animojis. 

When you’re having a conversation with someone, you can apply filters, which the recipient can see during your conversations. 

To use filters on FaceTime calls, follow these steps. 

  1. Open your FaceTime app. 
  2. Tap the star-shaped filter icon. 
  3. Next, tap the filter icon that’s shaped like a multi-colored Venn diagram. 
  4. Swipe to preview the filters and tap one to change your appearance. 
  5. To return to the conversation view, tap outside of the app’s viewfinder. 

NOTE: The filter effect on FaceTime is only available in the following iPhone models: 

  • iPhone 7 
  • iPhone 7 Plus 
  • iPhone 8
  • iPhone 8 Plus 
  • iPhone X
  • iPhone X 
  • iPhone XS 
  • iPhone XS Max
  • iPhone XR
  • iPhone 11
  • iPhone 11 
  • iPhone 11 Pro
  • iPhone 11 Pro Max

Conclusion

Your iPhone can take gorgeous, sharp photos without a filter. However, it would never hurt to experiment with a few every now and then. 

Besides, filters don’t just enhance your snapshots—they also help tell your story. 

What is your favorite filter? Do you know any other iOS apps that have bomb filters? 

Share them in the comments below!

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