How to use flash with iPhone camera: Tips and tricks

How to use flash with iPhone camera: Tips and tricks

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Black iPhone flash. - flash on iPhone camera
How do you use iPhone’s flash to take good photos?

The iPhone camera is reliable if not a great camera. The flash on the iPhone camera, however, is one of its most complex features. 

Some love it while others just hate its guts! However, what is certain is you can use it to take great pictures—if you know the tips and tricks to do it. 

Now, with the recent improvements in the front and the rear cameras, you probably won’t have a hard time getting the photo results you want. 

In this article, we’ll discuss the iPhone camera flash and some tips on how to use it to take good pictures. 

What to know about the flash on iPhone camera

iPhone taking photo of a row of cars. - flash on iPhone camera
The iPhone’s flash is adequate.

You go to evening parties, eat at candlelit dinners, and go stargazing—and you take pictures, of course. 

Now, all these activities involve zero if not minimal natural lighting; however, you can’t always post-process underexposed photos. 

That is why the flash on your iPhone camera exists. 

Want to take good photos with your flash? 

To understand the purpose of the flash on iPhone camera, let’s first explore the function of flash in photography. This will help you better understand the tips and tricks we listed further below. 

What is the purpose of flash in photography? 

female celebrity being photographed by dozens of paparazzi. - flash on iPhone camera
Seasoned photographers know how to use flash to take great, thousand-dollar photos.

The major function of the flash is to brighten a dark scene when you release the shutter.

The short and quick burst of light released from the flash device illuminates a scene or a subject. In this way, it changes the quality of light, supplying adequate lighting. 

Flash devices are commonly used in indoor photography and night photography.

Most especially in indoor photography, an electronic flash device the better alternative to increasing a camera’s exposure. This is because the latter tends to produce blurry, poor-quality photos.  

Meanwhile, these days, the flash can either be a bigger standalone device for professional photography studios, a clip-on flash for iPhone, or a built-in device. 

What kind of flash is used in smartphones? 

guy taking photo of a concert stage using his smartphone. - flash on iPhone camera
Smartphones usually have LED flash devices.

In camera phones, you will typically find LED flash devices. It’s rare to find equal xenon flash in camera phones, which is more powerful than LED flash devices. The latter, however, is more efficient because it uses low voltage power.

In most smartphones today, flash quality is generally adequate. 

While the quality is understandably mediocre, some users have complained about the quality of flash in smartphones. That is why products such as external flash devices for smartphones have risen. 

One example is the LIT flash, which is designed for smartphone photographers. It’s a xenon flash that you can control the device through an app installed on your smartphone. It’s available for iPhone and Android users. 

Types of flash on iPhone camera

Over the years, the iPhone flash has been through many improvements. 

Some are pretty much contented with it; however, many others, especially those who are serious in mobile photography, use it together with off-camera devices. 

It’s worth knowing the different LED flash devices you can find in the iPhone models if you’re interested in flash photography. 

Dual LED True Tone Flash (TTF) 

black iPhone with dual True Tone flash. - flash on iPhone camera
The dual-LED True Tone Flash was first introduced in the iPhone 5S.

Models: iPhone 5S, iPhone 6, and iPhone 6S

The TTF has been available on the iPhone starting with the 5S. Now, the True Tone Flash is not just flash. It’s a color-correcting device for the skin, thanks to the iSight camera software’s ability to evaluate the scene’s color temperature. 

Together with the white LED flash, the amber LED flash on iPhone camera helps you capture portraits with more accurate skin tones, even in the dark or in low-light settings. 

Quad-LED True Tone flash

Space grey iPhone with Quad-LED True Tone Flash. - flash on iPhone camera
The quad-LED flash is brighter than its predecessors.

Models: iPhone 7 and later

Having 4 LEDs instead of 2 LEDs, the Quad-LED True Tone flash is now 50% much brighter. It’s a unique built-in flash device for iPhone 7 and later models. 

Just like the True Tone flash, it corrects the color temperature in a room. The Quad-LED flash also has a flicker senors that prevent strobing from artificial lights in a scene. 

Moreover, it comes with Slow Sync flash, an effect where the True Tone and the image signal processor (ISP) slows down the shutter while igniting the flash. 

How does the iPhone’s Slow Sync Flash make a photo better?

a hand holding a card with a motion trail. - flash on iPhone camera
Capture awesome motion trails using the Slow Sync Flash.

When you fire the flash in the older iPhone models, the subject is often overexposed and its background underexposed. That leaves you with an uneven photo. 

However, with the Slow Sync Flash, you can now evenly expose the background as well. This is because the flash fires in intervals instead—allowing the ISP to expose the subject and its background separately. 

The result is an even and more detailed photo, even in a low-light or in a dark environment. 

Additionally, with the Slow Sync Flash, you can capture the movement of a subject. However, the subject won’t be in a blur and it will still remain in focus. 

When to use your iPhone’s flash?

vegetables photographed in a studio.
If you don’t like deep shadows, then the flash is your friend.
  1. Night scenes. When the sun is out, and if you have no stronger light source available, you can rely on your iPhone’s flash. If you do want a portable secondary light source to carry in your nightly walks, you can get a clip-on spotlight for your iPhone.
  2. Low-light areas. Even the sun is still shining, not all rooms can be adequately filled with natural lighting for a nice photo. You can use your flash to solve this problem. 
  3. To eliminate dark shadows. If you’re taking a portrait and the complex lighting is not showing your subject’s best features, you can use the flash to highlight their asses.

You can use your flash in many creative ways, which we will discuss below. But first, you must learn how to…

How to turn on your iPhone’s flash 

  1. Open your Camera app. 
  2. Select the Flash button (the one that looks like a thunderbolt).
  3. Tap until it says “On”. 
  4. If you want your iPhone to detect if it’s okay to use the flash, you can tap it until it says “Auto”.

How to use flash with iPhone camera: Tips and tricks

Below, we’ll provide some tips and tricks on how to use the flash in your photography projects. 

1. Use flash with paper and/or tissue for a softer appearance.

white studio and softboxes.
You don’t need a studio softbox, do you? Follow our tips here to create your own.

This is the oldest trick you can use in your photography! 

Most of the time, you will get harsh glares and oily faces in photos if you can’t tone down your flash. This is especially true when you’re taking photos at night. 

Even though your iPhone has a color-correcting feature, you might still get flat, harshly exposed subjects in your photo—especially if the background is dark. 

So, to avoid those effects, use a white sheet of paper when you’re taking photos with flash. Alternatively, use a professional but portable softbox if you want better results.

If you don’t have budget for a professional softbox yet, here are easy ways to use paper and other tools to soften your iPhone’s flash: 

Tape a napkin over your flash. 

tissue paper in pink plastic container.
Even your humble pocket tissue can help you take soft-light photos.
  1. You can create your own softbox by using a tissue to cover your flash. 
  2. First, cut a small piece of a napkin that’s big enough to cover your iPhone’s flash/flash devices.
  3. Tape it over your flash. 

Create a bounce card. 

guy in polo holding an index card.
The index card is a good bounce card material.
  1. Cut a small square piece of an index card or white A4 paper. 
  2. Since your iPhone’s flash or flash devices are built-in, you have to fold the piece once. This way, you can tape one end on your iPhone and the other end will be positioned under the flash.
  3. Tape one end of the square piece of paper on your iPhone. 
  4. You can also use a white sticky note if you don’t have a tape.

Related: iPhone Photo Settings: The Essential Guide for Beginners

2. Use it to eliminate unwanted shadows. 

portrait of a shadowy woman.
Eliminate unneeded deep shadows by using your flash.

In photography, using a fill flash is a technique that brightens unnecessary and deep shadows in a portrait. This is especially effective if you can’t get rid of a light source behind your subjects. 

So, even if it’s daytime, you can use your iPhone’s flash device to eliminate your subject’s unwanted shadows. 

For example, you can use it when you’re out on the beach taking pictures with your friend. Use your flash to expose your friend’s face better.if the sun is shining brightly behind them, which creates an unnecessary silhouette. 

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

3. Bring out a subject in your sunset/sunrise photos.

silhouette of a kid holding a sword and a shield.
You don’t always need to make your subject into a silhouette. Use your flash to expose them properly!

Who doesn’t love beautiful sunset or sunrise photos? The only issue here is the tangerine skies creating a silhouette of your subject. 

So, the next time you wake up too early or walk in the park around 4 pm, use our no. 1 tip. Use a piece of tissue as a softbox, so you can take evenly exposed photos. 

The softened light from your flash will expose the subject minus the harsh highlights. 

Related: iPhone Camera Settings for Sunrises: 11 Tips for Great Pics

4. Capture a subject’s motion with the Slow Sync Flash (SSF). 

guy in festival mask.
Party hard: Capture fun lights and motion trails using the Slow Sync Flash.

Want to take a badass photo of a biker, a fire dancer spitting gasoline and blowing fire, or an eagle flying in a zoo show?

If your iPhone has SSF, you can use it to capture the motion of a subject.

Your iPhone’s shutter will slow down while its flash will fire quickly. And since the shutter stays open for a longer time, that means you can capture more movement and your camera takes in more light. 

The result will be an evenly exposed photo of a subject and its movement.

Related: iPhone Photos in Low Light: Practical Tips and Brilliant Hacks

5. Take better group photos during the day using your iPhone flash. 

group photo of male and female caucasians.
Expose the beautiful scenery and your friends with the help of flash devices.

Even seasoned photographers know that group photos are tricky. Everyone has to look great and you should make the photo well-lit and coherent. 

Also, since there are many subjects, you will also need to fill many shadows—even if it’s daytime.

Now, using the three-point lighting system, you can take better group photos! The three-point lighting system consists of a backlight, key light, and a fill light. 

The good news is you don’t need three expensive off-camera flash devices to create one. You can even create your own using natural light and two light sources (two smartphones and their flashlights, if you don’t have off-camera flash devices). 

Backlight. 

Use the sun as your backlight. The sun should be behind your subjects.

Key light. 

This is your primary light source. Since this is a group photo, you can just borrow another smartphone and use its flashlight as your key light. Position the smartphone at 45 degrees from your subject, facing downward. 

Fill light. 

This will eliminate the dark shadows. Place it opposite the key light but at a different angle from the key light. 

NOTE: 

Remember to turn on your iPhone camera’s flash at your first try though. If you’re not satisfied with the result, you can turn it on and see if the photo gets better.

6. Turn on the light in a room. 

posh interior of a living room.
The ambient light is essential to a good portrait.

If you’re taking a photo of someone in a room, it might help if you can turn on the light. 

It’s always good to see how the photo turns out with the ambient light and your flash working together. 

The ambient light is the natural or artificial light already present in the scene. Ideally, the flash in your iPhone should complement the ambient light. 

The flash should serve as the fill light, which helps in eliminating the dark shadows in your subject. 

Other questions about using flash in your iPhone

Why is using flash in museums prohibited?

The Mona Lisa being photographed by onlookers.
Sadly, the Mona Lisa doesn’t smile for the camera flashes.

If you’re planning to drop by The Louvre this year, remember to turn off the flash on your iPhone camera. 

We know, you should never miss taking photos with the masterpieces. However, the light from cameras can damage light-sensitive paintings. 

Constant exposure to bright lights and heat quicken the degradation of paintings. Fluorescent light, especially, can contribute to the discoloration of artwork in museums.

Related: How to photograph artwork with your iPhone

What is the best external flash device for the iPhone?

flash device
This is the iBlazr LED Flash by Concepter.

You can find different types of flash devices for your iPhone with varying uses. 

Some are for professional use and there are even those for selfies. Some flash devices also have audio plugs while others have clips. 

However, we suggest looking for portable, wireless xenon flash for iPhones. These flash devices are powerful flash devices that can supply you with professional, studio-like lighting. 

Related: The Best iPhone Camera Settings for Selfies (And Why)

Final thoughts

Using your iPhone camera’s flash can be tricky. However, if you have an iPhone 7 Plus or a later model, you’ll have fewer concerns to tend.

And if you just follow our tips here, you will soon capture stunning, even-exposed night photos. 

What are your challenges in taking photos with the flash? Let us know!

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