How to improve photography with the iPhone stock camera app

How to improve photography with the iPhone stock camera app

It’s true that your iPhone stock camera app has limitations. However, by mastering a few controls, you can take great photos using your iPhone stock camera app. 

girl holding an iPhone - iPhone stock camera app

How to improve your photos with the iPhone stock camera app

There are many great third-party camera apps out there. Photoshop Express, Lightroom, zShot, you name it… but don’t discount your stock camera app yet. It’s like a toolbox that you’ve been handed for free. You have to try fixing stuff with it before you head to the hardware store and buy new tools. 

So, before you become loyal to Snapseed or Camera+ 2, try these tricks with your iPhone camera first: 

Update to iOS 14. Right. Now.

If you haven’t updated your iOS to the latest version, then you’re missing out on a few good updates in your iPhone stock camera app. Here are some of them. 

Use the Volume Up button for burst mode. 

In iOS 13, you can only take burst mode photos by dragging the shutter button to the right side. With the iOS 14 updates, you can now use the Volume Up button to take action photos easily. Just go to Settings > Camera > Toggle Use Volume Up for Burst.

90% faster camera app

A shot-to-shot is when you take photos in the iPhone stock camera in a fast, successive fashion. It’s different from the burst mode, where you will long-press the shutter button and the camera will take a set of photos continuously. iOS 13 had a laggy shot-to-shot performance compared to iOS 14.

Exposure control 

Finally, a manual control feature for Exposure! With the new iOS 14 updates, you can now adjust the exposure. As opposed to iOS 13, where the focus and exposure adjust together, you can now control the latter separately. To increase or decrease the exposure, tap and drag the sun-shaped icon on the right side of the AF/AE box. 

Mirrored photos

Apple has finally listened to many iPhone users’ demands—a mirrored selfie. Apparently, many users have their better sides in a mirrored reflection. So, with iOS 14, you can now take a selfie that mimics a mirror reflection. That means if you’re wearing a t-shirt with a logo, it will appear reversed in your photo. You can toggle this feature on Settings > Camera > Composition > Toggle Mirror Front Camera

Related articles you might want to read: 

Night Mode guidelines

When you’re taking a photo at night or in the dark, the iPhone stock camera app will help stabilize your photo. If your hands are shaking too much, two crosshairs will appear on the viewfinder. Once your hands get steady, those two will meet—that’s when you can capture the photo. Now, to turn on Night Mode, tap the moon-shaped icon at the top of your Camera screen. It will turn yellow once it’s on. 

Meanwhile, if you have the following iOS devices, you can upgrade to iOS 14:

  • iPhone 11, 11 Pro, 11 Pro Max  
  • iPhone XS and XS Max  
  • iPhone XR  
  • iPhone X  
  • iPhone 8  
  • iPhone 8 Plus  
  • iPhone 7  
  • iPhone 7 Plus  
  • iPhone 6S  
  • iPhone 6S Plus  
  • iPhone SE (2020)
  • iPhone SE (2016)

Learn how to lock your camera’s focus. 

brown and black bee on white flower - iPhone stock camera app

Most of the time pictures are ruined because of the focus being in the wrong area. Instead of the photo’s foreground, the background is the sharp one. Now, you can’t always be ready for sudden opportunities for taking a good photo. So, it’s important that you prepare yourself for those good photo ops by learning how to lock your camera’s focus. That way, your photos will have a proper depth of field. 

Photos, especially close-up ones, could look livelier and more appealing if you capture them with depth. We also discussed recently how you can take breathtaking landscape photos, and one of our tips is to know where to focus on the photo. Yes, even though landscape photos should ideally be high-contrast, and sharp front and back, they could become even more gorgeous if you know where to keep focus. 

How to lock the focus in iPhone stock camera app 

  1. Open your iPhone stock camera app.
  2. Tap and long-press on where you want your camera to focus. 
  3. Next, an AE/AF Lock icon will appear on your viewfinder. 
  4. Tap the shutter button to capture your photo with depth. 
  5. To unlock it, tap anywhere on the screen. 

Master your exposure. 

beach umbrellas at sunset - iPhone stock camera app

Exposure isn’t just about making things brighter. That’s just a misconception, especially among newbie iPhone photographers. The truth is that you can use exposure to set the mood and improve the composition in a photo.

Now, in DSLR photography, you can adjust your exposure by tweaking your ISO, aperture, and shutter speed. In capturing stars, for instance, you need to capture as much light as possible. That’s why you need a larger aperture so that more light will enter your camera and you can expose more elements in a photo. On the other hand, in the iPhone stock camera app, you have fewer manual options. However, that doesn’t mean you can’t take control of exposure and let it dictate your photos. 

How to master your exposure

couple sunset silhouette - iPhone stock camera app

Here are some of the steps you can do to master your exposure:

  • When good lighting is absent, you can use this flaw to improve the composition of a photo by adding drama and mystery. You can lower the exposure on purpose to let a subject or certain area stand out.
  • Sometimes, your iPhone might compensate for the lack of light by brightening the dark areas in your photo. Make sure the shadows stay dark and the highlights are properly exposed by manually adjusting your exposure.
  • Meanwhile, if an area has high contrast and overwhelming brightness, you can lower the exposure so that more details would become clearer. 
  • You can also use the High Dynamic Range (HDR) on your iPhone stock camera app to improve exposure. By using HDR, you can balance the highlights and shadows, thus avoiding underexposing or overexposing a photo—especially outdoors where you can’t always control the lighting.

If you practice and master those simple but effective exposure techniques, you can improve your photos drastically—even if you just use your iPhone stock camera app alone.

Use the right filter in your iPhone stock camera app!

portrait of a woman with a shaved head, wearing a veil

Should you use your iPhone camera filters? You might try different filters on third-party apps during the post-processing stage. But you can experiment with different filters on your iPhone stock camera app as you take photos. You shouldn’t worry about not being able to revert it to the original because you can do it on your Photos app later. 

Now, if you really want to improve your skills in taking photos with your iPhone stock camera app, you have to know the right filters to use. Not only will this save you time in photo editing but also save space in your storage, which is probably allotted to a bunch of photo editing apps. In your iPhone stock camera app, there are nine filters. Each has a specific purpose for certain photo subjects or situations. 

How to use the right iPhone camera filters

  • To avoid flat photos, use the Vivid filter. This will instantly make your photos high in contrast. 
  • If you’re taking photos outdoors, you might see an overwhelming splash of one color or an area that might look too dull because of the weather. To balance out the colors and tones of a photo, you can use either Vivid Warm or Vivid Cool. The Vivid Warm will add a warm yellow-orange tone to your photo, while the Vivid Cool will add a layer of icy, winter blue tone.  
  • Meanwhile, if you want photos with more depth, use the Dramatic filter. This looks good for photos with action or with skyscrapers. If you want to add more yellow tones to that depth, use the Dramatic Warm filter. On the other hand, to add a relaxing vibe with depth to your photos, use the Dramatic Cool filter. 
  • The Black and White (B&W) filters in your iPhone stock camera app also have stark differences. Use the Mono filter to add a basic B&W tone and the Silvertone to make the shadows more pronounced in your photos. You can use Noir filter to create a high-contrast, B&W effect in your low-light photos.

Each of those filters works with certain subjects. However, don’t hesitate to experiment and use them on subjects or photos you wouldn’t normally match with them. Now, if you want to know more about iPhone camera filters, check out our post where we talked about each filter in-depth.

Use Burst Mode for action photos. 

portrait of a woman with a shaved head, wearing a veil

If you don’t want to use a manual camera app with faster shutter speed, you can use your burst mode to take good action photos. The burst mode will help you freeze a person, an animal, or an object’s fast movement without that unwanted motion blur. 

When should you use burst mode in your iPhone stock camera app? It works well with these kinds of subjects:

  • Athletes or sports events. Using burst mode, you can capture someone doing a jump or skip mid-air, which is hard to do in normal mode. For example, when an athlete skis or a skater does a flip, you can use your Ultra Wide-Angle camera to capture their mid-air jump, plus their picturesque background. 
  • Street photos. City streets are full of life and color because of the people. Most probably these people will walk fast because they have somewhere to go. So, using burst mode would help you capture their movement without that unnecessary motion blur. 
  • Children’s parties. Kids should run as free as they feel. Now, to capture the precious moments of your kid, use burst mode! Children will run around a lot at parties, so using burst mode will help you capture their smiles or tears. 

This article might help you if you want to know more about Burst Mode: 8 genius ways to use iPhone camera burst mode for action photos

Switch on Live Photo for outdoor photography.

Live Photo is the photo-and-video-in-one feature of the iPhone stock camera app. If you like taking pictures of landscapes, animals, bodies of water, etc., you can use Live Mode and apply a Long Exposure effect to your photos. Besides that, you can also add a Loop or Bounce effect on your Live Photo pictures.

Here are some of the many interesting subjects you can capture or record with Live Photo:

  • Night photography. You can masterfully capture the night scene in the city or the sky full of stars using Live Photo. Of course, if you’re really keen about portraying stars clearly, you’d need more than your iPhone stock camera app. Check out our post about capturing stars with your iPhone to know more.
  • Waterfalls/brooks/rivers. Don’t you wish you could take snapshots of smooth, moving water like how DSLR photographers do? Now you can do that with Live Photo. Just capture any body of water that moves and apply the Long Exposure effect to it via your Photos App. 
  • Concerts or group activities. Want to freeze the crowd’s actions and facial expressions but also a GIF of that exact moment? The Live Photo mode is exactly made for that double purpose. Don’t hesitate to use it!


While using add-on gadgets and third-party apps is essential to elevate your photography, relying on your iPhone stock camera app wouldn’t hurt. Make our tips above your habits in taking photos and you’ll enjoy taking photos with your iPhone more. We can guarantee that. 

Related questions

How to improve iPhone camera quality in settings

Sometimes your quality needs hardware and software upkeep. You might need to clean your lens cover or refresh your phone settings. 

What are the best free camera apps for iPhone?

The following are a must-try for beginner to seasoned iPhone photography enthusiasts: zShot, Photoshop Express, and Lightroom.