iPhone Photo Settings: The Essential Guide for Beginners

iPhone Photo Settings: The Essential Guide for Beginners

Woman taking a photo of breakfast with smartphone
Knowing the essentials of iPhone photos is very important to keep you on track.

So, you think you already know everything about your iPhone since you own one for so long already? Well, if you are into iPhone photography, that would be possible but if you are merely a beginner, that is doubtful.

And for the record, there is always something new that you can learn and you can discover on your iPhone camera. 

Your iPhone’s built-in camera comes with a lot of stunning features that will allow you to capture jaw-dropping photos and freeze every important moment. You just have to discover, learn, and master every inch about it to do so. But, how?

In this article, you will find out the essential iPhone photo settings you need to know to level up your photography skills. Continue reading to find out how you can get the best out of your iPhone photos every time you click the shutter button. 


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Keeping your focus will allow you to capture sharper images.

One of the most important things you should consider when taking images using your iPhone is your focus.

Always make sure that your subject is in sharp focus. Otherwise, everything else would look like trash. You won’t capture what is special about your subject and it will look like a three-year-old captured it. 

The iPhone’s camera is designed in such a way that the depth of field is large. This means that your iPhone’s camera has the capacity to keep both your background and foreground sharp. However, this won’t guarantee a beautiful image every time, even without focus. 

It is a staple that before you press the shutter button, your camera should be sharply focused on your subject. But, how will you set then the focus of your iPhone’s camera?

To manually set your iPhone’s camera focus, tap on the part of your camera’s viewfinder where your subject is located. A yellow box into the area where you tap to indicate that the focus is in there. 

Setting the focus might take a few taps. If you are taking several shots, lock the focus by tapping and holding on to your focus for seconds. After that, wait until the AE/AF Lock banner appears at the upper part of your screen. To unlock your focus, simply click anywhere on your screen. 

Setting your focus is especially important with close-up shots since your camera will be very up-close to your subject; thus, your depth of field is very shallow.

Moreover, remember to set your camera’s focus always to avoid blurry shots. 


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Exposure refer to the brightness or darkness of the images you take.

Exposure refers to the amount of light that reaches your camera’s electronic image sensor. Ib simpler terms, it refers to how bright or dark your image will be. 

By default, the exposure of your iPhone is automatically adjusted for you based on how your camera perceives your environment. But there are times that your camera would not get the exposure right. What will you do if this happens?

Well, you do not have anything to worry about. Solving this problem is very easy with your Exposure Slider. The Exposure Slider is a camera tool, which allows you to override the exposure settings of your iPhone. You can manually adjust it to your liking. 

The Exposure Slider has a lot of functions. But perhaps, its most important role is on correcting the brightness of your photos. Finding out your Exposure Slider would be quite confusing since it is hidden. It will only appear if you manually set your focus. 

Now, to adjust the exposure, set your focus by tapping on the screen. This way, the yellow box will appear. Once it does, you can now swipe up or down your camera screen to adjust your exposure. Swiping up will make your image brighter while swiping down will make your image darker.

Generally speaking, your aim should be capturing as much detail and color of your subject as possible. Avoid over-exposing or under-exposing your image. If you over-expose it, then the bright areas will come out completely white with no details and overly bright shadows. Meanwhile, if you underexpose it, then the dark areas will lack details and the bright areas will come out dull. 

So, it is very important that you set to exposure just right. That is unless you are aiming for creative shots like a silhouette photo, which you can achieve through underexposure 

Night Mode

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The Night Mode feature allows you to take good shots at night.

If you love taking images at night, you probably have gone through the struggle of getting good photos with a dark environment. 

If you own an iPhone 11, iPhone 11 Pro, or iPhone 11 Pro Max, then shooting at night is not exactly a problem you have to deal with. These iPhone models come with a Night Mode feature that allows you to capture more details and color of your subject even in the dark. 

To activate the night mode feature of your iPhone, you have to make sure first that you are using either the 2x Telephoto lens or the 1x Wide lens. You can only choose one of these lenses since the night mode feature does not support the 0.5x Ultra-Wide lens. 

The night mode feature will automatically turn on once you take images in low light places. Of you are shooting somewhere with fairly low light, the night mode icon which looks like a moon and is located at the upper part of your screen will be white.

This means that you can use the night mode feature, but you have to activate it first. If you want to use it, simply click on the night mode icon. Once the icon turns yellow, then the night mode feature is already active. 

Aside from the yellow-colored icon, a number will also appear if the night mode is active. The number that appears is the exposure time or the time it will take in order for your camera to shoot your image. 

The Auto exposure time that appears is the one recommended by the camera but you can adjust it manually by dragging the Exposure Time Slider and set the exposure time the way you want it. If you choose not to use the night mode, drag the Exposure Time Slider to the right.


If you are in a low-light scene, and your camera’s night mode feature is not available for use, you can opt to use the Deep Fusion feature instead. The Deep Fusion feature allows you to capture more detail and feature in such scenarios 

Portrait Mode

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The Portrait Mode blurs the background of the images you shoot.

Are you wondering how you can blur your background every time you take portrait shots?

Doing so is very easy as long as your iPhone is either iPhone 11, iPhone 11 Pro, iPhone 11 Pro Max, iPhone XS, iPhone XS Max, iPhone XR, iPhone X, iPhone 8 Plus, or iPhone 7 Plus.

The portrait mode is one of the top-notch features of newer iPhone models that blur the background of your photos with the use of a depth effect software. This allows you to capture professional-looking portrait shots with just your iPhone. 

To use the portrait mode, simply swipe across the shooting modes that you can find at the bottom part of your iPhone’s camera screen and then, select Portrait. Your background will automatically turn blurry once the camera has detected it. 

There are cases that your camera will tell you that you are way too close to the camera than you should, thus, you have to move a little bit farther away. You have to make sure that you maintain the right distance away from your camera which is around two to eight feet away. This is because if your subject is too close or too near, the depth of effect won’t function. 

The phrase ‘Natural Light’ in yellow color will appear if the portrait mode is active. Once the portrait mode is active, you can shoot stunning images right away. But, what if you do not want a blurry background after? 

Well, you can just simply remove the depth effect after shooting. To remove a blurry background, go to your Photos App and then tap the Edit option at the upper right corner of your screen. A yellow-colored Portrait icon will appear at the top of the screen. Simply tap that to remove your blurred background. 

If you have changed in mind and want the blurred background back, you can do it any time of the day with just a single tap at the Portrait icon again. Once you have done the changes you wish to do, click on the Done icon. 

Portrait Lighting

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The portrait lighting adds extra effect on the images you take.

If you wish to do a little extra with your portrait photos by adding a professional studio light effects, then the portrait lighting feature is your go-to. The portrait lighting feature is available for use when in portrait mode. 

In order to maximize what the portrait lighting feature has to offer, you need to select Portrait Mode in the camera app first. The following lighting effects will show at the bottom part of your screen:

  • Natural Light
  • Studio Light
  • Contour Light
  • Stage Light
  • Stage Light Mono

If you want to keep things natural, then simply choose the Natural Light. But if you want to be a little bit playful with your lighting, you can choose the other lighting options. For example, using the contour light will give you moody photos stage or studio light will help you create professional-looking photos. 

Burst Mode

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The burst mode feature allows you to take consecutive images.

It could be quite challenging to take stunning photos of fast-moving images not unless you have something that could help you a lot. Thankfully, your iPhone comes with such an amazing feature. And that is known as the burst mode feature. 

The burst mode feature allows you to take around 10 consecutive images. This gives you a higher chance to get at least one high-quality photo of a moving subject. How will you activate the burst mode feature then?

To activate the burst mode feature, you can just simply keep your finger pressed on the shutter button while shooting. You can also use any of the volume controls to do so. 

If in case your iPhone is iPhone 11, 11 Pro, or 11 Pro Max, you can use the burst mode by sliding the shutter button to the left. Your camera will continuously take images not unless you release your finger from the shutter button. 

If your iPhone is iPhone XS or older, hold down the shutter button to shoot in burst mode. 

The burst mode feature actually eats up a lot of memory space, but you can just choose the images that you want then permanently delete the images that do not pass your standards. 

The burst mode feature is most especially useful for action shots or when shooting kids or animals whose actions are very unpredictable. 

Live Photos

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Live Photos allow you to take short clips of the moments you live for.

The Live Photo feature of your iPhone allows you to take more realistic images by bringing life to it through a 3-second moving image. Contrary to still photos that freeze your images, a live photo does not just capture moments but it captures sounds and movements as well. 

It is ideal to use when you want to preserve precious moments that ordinary still photos can’t give. To use the live photo feature, you have to make sure that the Live Photo icon which you can find at the upper part of your screen is on. 

Once you have turned it on, you can click on the shutter button to start taking Live Photos. Just keep in mind that the camera automatically captures 1.5 seconds of video before and after you take the shot which means that you have to keep your camera still for a few more seconds right before and after pressing the shutter.

If you want to give your Live Photos a twist by adding effects, simply open your Live Photos then swipe up. Choose the effect that you want to apply before clicking the Done button. 

Some of the effects that you can choose from are Loop, Bounce, and Long Exposure. 

If you wish to convert your Live Photo into a still image, tap the Edit option at the upper right side of your screen. And then, click on the Live icon at the bottom of the screen. Next, tap the yellow Live icon at the top of the screen.


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The timer allows you to delay shooting your images either by 3 seconds or 10 seconds.

One of the most underrated iPhone camera features is the timer. The timer allows you to set a delay shooting the scene for a few seconds which makes it very ideal when you are trying to capture images of yourself. Using the timer means that you do not actually have to click the shutter real-time to shoot. You can go hands-free and be there on the photo too. 

The self-timer is very useful and serves a lot of purposes such as taking selfies or groupies. With it, you no longer have to go extra in stretching your hands just to fit everyone in a single photo. You can just put your phone somewhere stable then you can already join the session. 

To use the timer, click on the Stopwatch icon which you can see at the top right corner of your screen. You will be given two choices – three-second delay or 10-second delay. 

Ideally, you should use the 10-second delay if you are shooting a self-portrait or a group photo. This will give you enough time to go and fix yourself to your place right before the shutter fires away. But, if you are shooting a self-portrait or a group photo and landscapes, the three-second delay is already a good choice. 

If your iPhone is iPhone 11, you can find the timer by tapping the up-arrow that is located at the bottom part of the screen. Doing so will display more iPhone camera settings. Choose the timer icon then select your desired time. 

For iPhone XS and older versions, the timer is at the top part of the screen.

Grid Lines

 Unnamed dinner takes a photo using the rule of thirds at Moom Kapao fast food restaurant on Katchanaphisek road in Bangkok
The grid lines are helpful in the composition of an image.

Before you went into photography, then you probably heard about the Rule of Thirds (ROT). Let’s have a recap. The ROT is simply about dividing the frame into a 3 x 3 grid, so you can know where your subject should be placed. When using the rule of thirds, your subject should be placed where the lines intersect. 

But sometimes, imaging where the lines lay is hard. Thankfully, your iPhone comes with built-in grid lines. Basically, these grid lines have four different functions, which are as follows:

  • They help keep the horizon level when you are shooting landscape photos.
  • The grid lines ensure that the lines in your images are straight.
  • They divide your camera screen into nine equal squares known as the rule of thirds.
  • The lines help you come up with a perfectly symmetrical photo.

To use the gridline feature and have better photo compositions, go to your iPhone’s Settings. Scroll down until you see Camera. Tap it and then switch on the Grid options. Exit and then open your Camera app. Now, you can already shoot beautifully-composed images. 


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The filters allow you to adjust your images and add effects to it.

Using filters to enhance images is so common nowadays. There are a lot of filters or apps with filters that you can download. Your iPhone alone already offers you a wide range of beautiful filters. 

And, using the built-in filters in your iPhones comes with a few advantages. One of these advantages includes using the filters even when you are using the Live Mode feature. This means that you can directly apply the filter you want in real-time. 

To choose the filter that you want to use, follow these steps.

  1. Go to your Camera app.
  2. Tap on the filter icon that looks like three overlapping circles. You can find this at the top right corner of your camera screen.
  3. Click the icon and finally, choose the filter you want to apply in the images that you will shoot. 

If you want to change the filter that you used, you can do it at any time in your Photos app. To do this, simply go to your Photos app, choose the photo that you want to preset and then click on the icon with the three circles. Choose the filter that you want to change then hit Done. 


The size of your images matters according to where you are going to use it. For example, there are social media platforms that only allow rectangular 5:4 or 4:3 photos. And the easiest thing that you can do to get your desired size is to crop the image itself. 

In cropping an image, go to your Photos app and then open the image that you want to crop. Then, tap on the crop tool that looks like a square icon that is surrounded by arrows. You can either manually crop your image or choose from the available preset ratio.

The available preset ratios are 5:4, 5:3,4:3, and 3:2 for rectangular images. If you are cropping a panoramic image, you can choose from either 7:5 and 16:9. If you are adjusting the image for you to post it to your Instagram account, and then choose 1:1. 


HDR stands for High Dynamic Range allows you to take beautiful and clear images by taking three consecutive shots in three different angles which will be combined into one image.

The HDR feature is ideal to use in high-contrast lighting, which includes overcast scenes, sunrises, and sunsets. The HDR takes more space than a normal photo and it takes much longer time for an image to be captured. 

To use the HDR feature, simply turn on the HDR which you can find at the top part of your camera screen.


Your iPhone, most especially the camera, has a lot of things that await you. You just have to explore it and learn how things work. Do not be afraid to go wrong every now and then. That is normal. Just keep on exploring and sure enough, in no time, you will master everything.

That’s it. We hope you learned something. Do you have any questions? Share it with us in the comment section!