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You may or may not have heard of these iPhone camera techniques before. But one thing’s for sure—these techniques are clever.
Have a go with this list and take your iPhone photography to the next level.
9 clever iPhone camera techniques
One of the better advantages of the iPhone over the DSLR camera is portability. That’s why you can easily use your iPhone to experiment with as many techniques as possible.
Can you use these iPhone camera techniques with a DSLR camera? Not all of them. But the main benefit of using an iPhone to practice photography is you’ll get to hone your skill conveniently. Your mind, eyes, and hands will get used to working together as soon as possible.
So, if you’re a beginner photographer, don’t feel bad about using an iPhone. It’s one of the best ways to improve your craft.
Start with these 10 clever iPhone camera techniques:
1. Keep your normal photos and HDR photos.
We probably will never get tired of saying it, but you should learn how to use the High Dynamic Range (HDR) tool on your iPhone camera app. Using HDR is one of the most basic but clever iPhone camera techniques today. It simply keeps your photo well-exposed, making it more compelling and lively.
HDR works especially well with landscape photos. With one tap, you can capture well-exposed high-contrast scenes—pictures with blindingly bright elements (skies) and pitch-black elements (rocks, mountains, trees, foliage, etc.)
You don’t need to dial your exposure up and down on your iPhone camera to get a good picture. Using HDR will do the hard work for you.
Now, an even smarter thing to do when taking HDR photos is to keep your normal photo and HDR photo. Besides having the freedom to choose from two pictures, doing this will let you:
- Create a side-by-side picture of the two photos. You can use this side-by-side picture to create an interesting presentation, showing the differences between normal photos and HDR.
- Practice your post-processing skills. Even though you already have a polished HDR photo, you can still practice your editing skills on the original, unedited copy of your HDR photo.
- See your progress from time to time. Save the original photos so that you can track the advancement of your photography skills in the future.
How to keep normal photos while shooting in HDR
- Open the Settings app.
- Tap Photos & Camera
- Enable Keep Normal Photo.
- After this, your iPhone camera will now save two photos (original and HDR) when you capture an HDR picture.
Note: Remember that using clever iPhone camera techniques such as this one will eat up storage space on your phone. HDR photos are larger than normal photos. So, if you take a lot of landscape pictures, buy an extra storage device like a flash drive or an external hard drive.
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2. Marry the right iOS camera app to the right editing software.
It’s not a secret that the iPhone camera has limitations, so it’s essential for iPhone photographers to post-process their photos. Editing is essential in iPhone photography, alright—now, how can you be clever about it?
You can try marrying the right iOS camera app to the right editing app. That means you should find an iOS camera app that complements an editing app’s features.
One good example is Halide and Darkroom. Halide is a powerful iOS manual camera app. It can let you shoot in RAW and tweak the ISO, white balance, and shutter speed, which you can’t do in your iPhone camera. This blends perfectly well with Darkroom’s RAW photo editor.
So, using Halide to shoot manually and editing them in Darkroom will give you professional-grade photos. If you could find your preferred iOS camera app and an editing app that matches it well, you can level up your photos. It will surprise both untrained and trained eyes once they know that it’s taken using an iPhone.
Other great editing apps to check out
zShot is more than just a great photo editing app. Sometimes it can be surprising that it’s easy-to-use and fast since zShot also lets you scan documents, edit videos, create slideshows, and make collages. Plus it’s free. So, you would miss out on a lot if you don’t try editing on this five-in-one app.
Cut Paste Photos Pro is another professional but free photo editor for iOS devices. It has an excellent background removal feature, which can delete a photo’s background in just a few taps. Cut Paste also lets you merge photos, change their shape, apply filters, and add animated effects.
Snapseed is another powerhouse photo editor for iPhone. It can open RAW files and lets you tune your image (also known as a one-tap refining tool). Snapseed has great photo editing tools like healing, curves, lens blur, and tonal contrast.
If you’re not using Lightroom yet, then what’s wrong with you? Kidding aside, this editing app is a bona fide essential for iPhone photographers. It lets you tweak full-resolution pictures, use geometry tools to improve perspective and make selective adjustments. It also has a new color grading tool, which you can use to adjust mid-tones, highlights, and shadows.
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3. Use your stock camera app for street photography.
Many clever things in this world are usually the simplest and most obvious, but humans like to explore winding roads instead of going for shortcuts.
Contrary to the popular notion, doing the latter isn’t always bad. In fact, one of the most clever iPhone camera techniques is using your stock camera app for street photography.
It sounds really basic, but hear us out. You might be thinking that the iPhone isn’t equipped for high-action, fast-paced street photography, but you’re wrong. There are several good reasons why you should use it instead of a Fujifilm camera or Ricoh camera.
Why your iPhone stock camera app is best for street photos
- You can open it instantly.
- You can easily manage and share your photos via iCloud.
- Your iPhone is highly versatile, portable, and easy-to-carry.
- You can use the burst mode to capture great action photos on the street.
- The iPhone camera’s interface is not too complicated, perfect for random and fast-paced photoshoots in busy streets.
- If you have an iPhone 11 or a later model, the ultra-wide camera lets you take pictures of streets, people, and tall buildings with a wider field of view (FOV). No need for a GoPro camera or a clip-on wide-angle lens.
- Apple has added great upgrades to the iPhone camera’s software. One example is the Smart HDR, which works by the A12 Bionic chip combining the best parts of the multiple photos it captures and combines them into one photo. The result is a high-detail, lifelike photo—it makes you think you’re staring into a window.
- iPhone 12’s wide-angle camera has a larger sensor than the iPhone 11’s camera and an F/1.6 aperture. This means you can now take excellent, better night mode photos in the streets.
- iPhone 12 also has a smarter image stabilization where the sensor shifts thousands of times per second when it detects motion. This is different from the previous image stabilization mechanism, where the lens will move whenever it senses motion. This feature was also only available before in DSLR cameras.
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4. Add a focal point.
Editing is essential in iPhone photography. You get to adjust the color temperature, brightness, shadows, and other elements to polish your photo. However, it can be difficult to adjust a photo’s geometry. You can’t easily fake a poorly composed photo into a well-composed one. That’s why one of the most clever iPhone camera techniques is adding a focal point or two.
Focal points aren’t just points of interest in your photo. They are not always the main subjects. PetaPixel said it well: “Focal points are punctuations in a well-composed sentence.” That means your photograph is just like a sentence that needs strong punctuation/s so that it will feel and look complete to the reader’s eyes.
Having a focal point or two will add a good visual hierarchy to your photo. As a result, viewers can easily get what you’re trying to portray or highlight in your picture. So, when you’re taking a photo, remember to look for a focal point or two.
How to add strong focal points
- Find a strong subject that easily stands out. For example, in landscape photos, you can include people, animals, or objects with a contrasting color, shape, or pattern to their background.
- Use leading lines and shapes. If you can find patterns, shapes, roads, etc. that point to a subject or focal point, include them in your photo as well. This strengthens the focal points, improving the composition as well.
- Follow the Rule of Thirds (ROT). Or don’t follow it. The ROT will guide the viewer’s eyes to the focal point. It also puts the negative space in your photo into good use. However, when you feel like the ROT doesn’t suit a scene, you can definitely disobey it and go with what works better.
- Get help from the color wheel. In the color wheel, the rainbow colors that sit opposite to each other are also the best match. For example, green and red go well together; so you should place a red object in a green background and vice versa.
- Selectively edit parts in your photo. While it’s hard to fake good composition, you can enhance a photo to make the focal points stand out even more. For example, you can selectively darken or brighten areas in a photo to highlight a focal point.
5. Let elements balance in your photo.
putting strong focal points is essential, it’s also important to balance the elements of a scene. It’s one of the most underrated but clever iPhone camera techniques. But first, let’s define balance in photography.
Balance in photography happens when elements have equal visual weight. That means a photo has symmetry or even tasteful asymmetry. Not one part of the photo overpowers the others. Now, balancing the elements in a photo isn’t complicated; but it may only work best in certain scenes like landscape and portraits. Here’s how you can start doing it with your iPhone camera.
How to balance elements in your photo
- Shoot in one-point perspective. In a photo with a one-point perspective, you will only have one main focal point, usually placed at the center. This makes the photo more balanced and easier for the viewer’s eyes to focus on the point of interest.
- Practice creating informal balance. Now, in a photo with informal balance, you wouldn’t see a subject in the center. Instead, you would see more than one subject occupying the spaces in a photo. Just think that your photo has an invisible grid with four squares. The subjects are inside the top left square and the bottom right square, making the photo look well-balanced even if they’re not in the center.
- Think the opposite. You can also create balance in your photo by making opposite colors, tones, or machines as your subjects. It’s sort of yin-yang in your photography. (ex. A grandfather beside his grandkid.)
6. Buy a clip-on lens.
More and more people are using the iPhone as a camera for professional photography. Apart from its camera’s exceptional computational software, this can be attributed to the emergence of clip-on lenses in the market.
Clip-on lenses elevate your iPhone camera’s features. Using clip-on lenses, you can take photos with wider FOVs and zoom in further. You can buy clip-on lenses either as a single device or as a kit that includes a mini tripod and other types of lenses.
Needless to say, clip-on lenses should not be missing in your iPhone photography kit. Even buying a single clip-on lens is one of the most clever iPhone camera techniques you can do.
iPhone clip-on lenses you can buy today
- Macro lenses like the Xenvo Pro Lens Kit for iPhone. The Xenvo Pro Lens Kit is a wide-angle lens and macro lens in one. It’s perfect for beginner photographers who want to experiment between macro photography and landscape photography.
- Fisheye lenses like the Apexel 11-in-1 Phone Camera Lens Kit. Not only will you have one but 11 lenses in this kit. The 205°fisheye lens particularly works great and can also work as a super wide-angle lens.
- Telephoto lenses like the Godefa Phone Camera Lens Kit. If your iPhone has a telephoto lens, Godefa’s 2X telephoto lens will add power to it. You can zoom in further without the pixelation, as opposed to using your iPhone camera’s digital zoom.
- Wide-angle lenses like the Moment – Wide Lens for iPhone. Moment is one of the best and most trusted iPhone camera lenses on this list. Using it will allow your iPhone to capture photos with even wider FOVs. It’s best for streets, skyscrapers, and landscape photos.
- Anamorphic lenses like the 1.33X Anamorphic Lens by Beastgrip. Beastgrip’s anamorphic lenses will give your videos a .4:1 aspect ratio and your photos a 16:9 aspect ratio. If you want a Hollywood look in your films, add this lens to your setup.
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7. Use a telescope as a telephoto lens.
iPhones may have optical zooms, but they revert to digital zoom once you zoom in on an object beyond 2x. But iPhone photographers avoid this because the digital zoom is of lesser quality than optical zoom.
Digital zoom uses the camera’s software to make the subject larger, so the photo becomes pixelated. This is opposite to the optical zoom, where the lens physically moves in closer to the subject.
So, to avoid using the digital zoom on the iPhone camera, iPhone photographers use a clip-on telephoto lens to zoom in on objects far from the camera. The Moment 58mm telephoto, for example, is a great 2x to 4x telephoto lens with an excellent build. If you have a dual-camera iPhone, it becomes a 116mm lens.
But did you know that you can use a telescope as a telephoto lens? Is it even possible? Well, yes. If you’re into night photography or astrophotography, it’s one of the most clever iPhone camera techniques you could use. Here’s how you can do it.
How to use a telescope as a telephoto lens for your iPhone
- Buy a telescope or a binocular for smartphone astrophotography. We suggest getting the AstroMaster 114EQ Newtonian telescope, which lets your iPhone camera zoom in 100x. It’s one of the best beginner telescopes for iPhone astrophotography you could buy today.
- Next, buy a smartphone adaptor. If you want your iPhone camera lens to securely align with your telescope, buy a smartphone adaptor like the Celestron X-Cel LX Series eyepiece. It has a treaded rubber grip and a 60-degree FOV. You can also opt for the Celestron 81035 smartphone adapter, which lets your phone connect securely to a telescope through knobs.
- Start taking photos. All that’s left to do is to start experimenting with your new gears. To take better pictures, you might want to use a night photography iOS camera app like NightCap.
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8. Easily create a ghosting effect using HDR.
Using HDR is not only good for taking a well-exposed photo; you can also use it to create a tasteful motion blur in your photos easily.
When taking HDR photos, photographers always use tripods—the DSLR camera needs to be steady as it takes multiple photos. This applies to the iPhone camera as well.
On the other hand, if you’re aiming for an edgy ghosting effect in your photo, you can use the HDR on your iPhone camera to achieve it.
Ghosting is a result of the HDR process. When a fast-moving person is captured in HDR mode, your iPhone camera will capture them in different positions. Their movement from one frame to another will be visible in the photo. This results in them appearing as if they’re a ghost, hence the effect’s name.
Remember that a ghosting effect is different from a motion blur. The latter results from a slow shutter speed and the subject’s movement in a single frame. However, you can still get motion blurs and ghosting effects in one shot.
How to create a ghosting effect using HDR on iPhone
- First, turn on your camera’s HDR.
- To turn it on, go to your Settings app and select “Camera.”
- Toggle the slider for Smart HDR. This will disable the automatic Smart HDR, allowing you to tap the HDR icon on your camera whenever you feel like it.
- Close Settings and open your Camera app. HDR will now appear as a setting in the top-left corner.
- Let the subject move in your frame.
- Tap the shutter button.
- Do a few test shots to see which photo has the best ghosting effect.
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9. Use Live Photo to create a Long Exposure photo.
The Live Photo on your iPhone camera is an underrated but helpful tool for capturing out of the ordinary photos. It records 1 ½ second of video before and after you tap the shutter button. So, essentially, you will save a short video and a photo when you use this shooting mode.
Having two sorts of media is not the only perk of Live Photos, though. This feature, which used to be only available in DSLR cameras, is now possible to use in iPhone cameras.
You can use the Live Photos mode to create a long-exposure photo. However, the real magic only starts to happen in the Photos app. You need to edit the Live Photo and apply the Long Exposure effect.
If you have an iPhone 6 or later model and updated to iOS 11, here’s how you can do it:
How to turn on Live Photo
- Open your camera.
- Swipe to the Photo mode at the bottom of the screen.
- Tap the Live Photos icon at the top right of the screen. Once it’s activated, the line through the icon disappears.
- Tap your shutter button to capture your Live Photo.
How to apply Long Exposure effect on your Live Photo
- Open your Photos app.
- Open your Live Photo.
- Swipe up and then swipe to the right under Effects.
- Tap Long Exposure. iPhone will automatically render a long exposure effect on your Live Photo.
- Tap Done.
These clever iPhone camera techniques are just a few of the tricks the iPhone has in its sleeve. Is there a limit to the iPhone camera’s greatness, at least in smartphone camera criteria? We may never know. But that’s for you to find out. The torch is now in your hands. Have fun experimenting with our tips here!
Which iPhone has the best camera features?
At the risk of sounding cliché, we think that the newest iPhone series has the best features for iPhone photography. The new iPhone 12 and iPhone 12 Pro cameras have 47% larger sensor and larger pixels than iPhone 11, which means they are more effective in gathering light. With these upgrades, you can now take more vibrant and compelling photos, day and night.
How do I get the most out of my iPhone camera?
An underrated technique is learning how to balance your exposure and use your focus. As simple as they may sound, mastering those two will give your iPhone photography an instant boost. If you want to learn how to use your stock iPhone camera app, read our previous blog post about it.
Photo Video Lounge is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com. Amazon and the Amazon logo are trademarks of Amazon.com, Inc.