The best iPhone camera settings for Antelope Canyon

The best iPhone camera settings for Antelope Canyon

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vibrant warm-colored canyon rocks and cerulean sky. - iPhone camera antelope canyon
Capture the spiritual aesthetic of the two Canyons with your iPhone.

Antelope Canyon is one of the most breathtaking places in the USA. That’s why it’s crucial that you know the best iPhone camera settings for Antelope Canyon.

It would be a huge waste to take mediocre photos of this beauty!

Got your iPhone? Don’t rely on its quality alone, either. Sure, you can post-process later— but nothing beats the quality of an original photo.

Therefore, you have to know the right iPhone camera settings for this American wonder. Besides that, other elements, such as the time of the day, might also affect your photo’s quality. 

So, before you take a trip to Arizona, read our guidelines about the Antelope Canyon and the best iPhone camera settings for Antelope Canyon. 

Things to know about Antelope Canyon

The seemingly frozen land waves of Arizona leave any backpacker in awe. 

However, you must not have naive expectations. For instance, don’t expect that there are consistent or adequate lighting inside the Canyons. 

That’s why if you want to immortalize your experience wisely, you should get to know it better, first. 

1. It has two parts—the Upper Antelope & the Lower Antelope.

inverted V shape of Antelope Canyon with barely visible light beams. - iPhone camera antelope canyon
This photo is taken inside the Upper Canyon.

Which of the two are better? Well, photographers and tourists recommend visiting both. 

But if you’re wondering about where you can take those stunning photos of rocks and light beams, those were taken at the Upper Antelope. It’s shaped like an inverted V, hence the beautiful appearance of sun rays. 

It’s also easier to navigate than the Lower Antelope since it’s not that narrow. The only downside is you will probably encounter more people. 

Meanwhile, the Lower Antelope’s inside parts are brighter and more vibrant than the Upper Antelope’s. It’s shaped like a V, so more light comes in; however, that also means you only get fewer light beams. 

2. You must visit around noon, during the summer. 

large light beam between two auburn rock formations. - iPhone camera antelope canyon
It’s easy to capture the light beams if you take photos at noon during the summer months!

This one might be obvious, but don’t visit the two Antelopes during the winter months— unless you want cool, gloomy photos. 

If you want the light shafts and warm-colored rocks, then you should book a trip during the summer months. You should visit preferably in the middle of March. 

In particular, you can start setting up your equipment (if you’re bringing a tripod) as early as 9:30 AM. The light beams will start appearing around 10 AM until 1 PM. 

3. Prepare for many inconveniences. 

Canyon sand falls - iPhone camera antelope canyon
Sand falls and dusting are common in both canyons.

It can get cold…

…especially inside the Upper Canyon. So, you must pack clothes with thicker material or bring a jacket.

A deluge of tourists, hikers, guides, etc.

We mentioned that the Upper Antelope might be more trafficked than the Lower Antelope. However, both still get crowded. So, you have to be patient for that. 

Darkening inside the Canyons

Most of the time it dims, especially at the Upper Canyon. Remember to watch for your steps or bring your trusted flashlight. We suggest you get this travel LED flashlight by Lighting Everstore. It’s light and small, plus it already comes with three triple A batteries.

Flash floods in Arizona

Always, always check the weather before booking a trip. Make sure it won’t rain because there have been casualties in the area because of flash floods.

Restrictions 

Apparently, selfie sticks, GoPros, and backpacks are not allowed inside the Upper Canyon. Any other beverage except water is also prohibited!

Sand falls and dust everywhere!

When you descend, you should watch out for the sand falls because of the wind. 

Sometimes, the travel guides will also shower dust on purpose, so the photographers can capture the dust particles floating around the light beams. 

We suggest you don’t travel without your iPhone case or bring a rain sleeve and a portable air blower. If you want a sandproof iPhone case, get the Huakay iPhone case, which is also IP68 waterproof. You should also bring a battery-operated handheld fan to blow those sand grains off you.

The best iPhone camera settings for Antelope Canyon

purple wavy parts of the canyon. - iPhone camera antelope canyon
Make the best out of your time in the canyon with the right photography practices.

Now that you know some things about the Antelope Canyon, the next thing to do is to prepare your iPhone camera settings.

According to seasoned photographers, the insides of both Canyons have intricate details. That means you need to equip your iPhone camera with the right settings, so you can capture them all. 

Below, we listed some settings. You may not tweak all of them at the same time in your camera—and you may need to install other camera apps to get the right results—but each of these will help you capture the Canyons at their best. 

Tweak your iPhone camera with any of these settings:

1. Shoot in raw format. 

red, maroon, and purple tinted rock formation inside the canyon. - iPhone camera antelope canyon
To post-process your photo better, you have to shoot in raw format.

We recommend taking pictures in raw format, especially if you’re dealing with sights such as the Antelope Canyon. Otherwise, your photos will be compressed. This is one of the essential iPhone camera settings for Antelope Canyon.

For instance, if you just shoot in High-Efficiency Image File (HEIF) or in JPEG, the photos’ size will automatically decrease when you save them—and so will their quality. 

Now, by shooting in RAW format, you can save your photo without your camera’s algorithm touching it. That means you’ll retain more data in your photo, which you can edit later. 

More data means more stuff to work for you later when you do extensive post-processing. 

However, since you can’t shoot in raw on your iPhone, you have to install camera apps that offer this option. Some apps you can try are Lightroom CC, Camera+ 2, and Halide app. 

2. Live Photos Mode

detailed rock formation with horizontal lines, with purple, red, and auburn hues. - iPhone camera antelope canyon
If you want to capture movement better, turn on your Live Photos feature and apply the Long-Exposure effect to your photo.

In our previous blog post about capturing moving water on iPhone, we discussed the Live Photos mode.

And we’ll say it again: it’s a pretty good trick if you want to perform a long-exposure technique on your iPhone camera. 

If you want to capture movements of objects in your photos—such as the light beams, the people, or the sand falls—you can turn on the Live Photo and snap a photo. 

After that, you can apply the “Long Exposure” effect, which you can do on your Photos app. 

3. Slow your shutter speed

star-filled night sky between two rock formations, shot from a low angle inside the canyon - iPhone camera antelope canyon
If you go at night, you can use the long-exposure technique to shoot photos like this.

Since you will be descending into the inner parts of the Canyons, you should expect tricky lighting situations. That means you should tweak your shutter speed and make it slower. 

With a slow shutter speed, your sensor will be open for a longer time. That means more light will enter your camera’s sensors. We suggest adjusting it anywhere between 2 to 6 seconds.

However, again, you can’t adjust your iPhone camera’s shutter speed. To do that, you will have to install a camera app. Some camera apps today have Slow Shutter modes, which can help you capture great long-exposure photos even in low-light situations. We suggest you install the Slow Shutter Cam, Camera+ 2, and Moment. 

For better results with a slow shutter speed photo, you can buy the Xenvo Pro lens kit. It already comes with a macro and a wide-angle lens in one, which is compatible even with a dual-camera iPhone.

4. Smaller aperture

beautiful, smooth blend of pink, purple, and magenta tinted rock formation.
Capture more gorgeous light by making your aperture smaller.

The ISO, Shutter Speed, and Aperture go hand in hand in constituting a great long-exposure photo. 

That’s why if you’re slowing your shutter speed, you also have to minimize your aperture. Anywhere between f/11 to f/18 will already do. 

Unfortunately, iPhone cameras have large apertures and you can’t change them. The wide-angle lens and telephoto lens of the iPhone X, for instance, have f/1.8 and f/2.4 aperture, respectively. 

If you want to shoot with a smaller aperture, you can invest in clip-on iPhone lenses. You can consider the DxO ONE 20.2MP Digital Connected Camera. It has a 32 mm lens with f/1.8 – f/11 apertures. 

5. Turn on Smart HDR 

extremely dark part of the Antelope Canyon with a little fiery red light.
The Smart HDR effect will properly expose the darkest dark and the lightest light in your photos.

Inside the two Canyons, you’re going to encounter a very dynamic range. You will see a lot of changing shadows and highlights—we’re talking about extremely dark cave lit by blindingly bright sunbeams.

And the crowded, tight spaces won’t help you overcome those. You wouldn’t want to overexpose the bright areas but then miss the details of the shadowy corners, right? As a result, make sure to take advantage of your phone’s Smart HDR. 

The Smart HDR will evenly expose the Canyon’s inner parts. By turning it on, you will capture more details in all areas, even those the light from above can’t reach. 

Of course, don’t forget to use your tripod. The Smart HDR will work best with little to no movement. If you don’t have one yet, we suggest you invest in a good iPhone tripod like the UBeesize phone tripod, which already comes with a free Bluetooth remote shutter.

You can also check out our post about HDR photos and why they consume more storage space.

To sum it up

These are the best iPhone camera settings if you’re taking pictures of Antelope Canyon: 

  1. Raw format
  2. Live Photo Mode
  3. Slow shutter speed (2 to 6 seconds)
  4. A small aperture (F11 to F18)
  5. Turn on the HDR Mode

More photography tips for Antelope Canyon

1. Bring a tripod with an iPhone adapter.

Selfie sticks are not allowed inside the canyon. Interestingly, you can bring a tripod. Now, if you haven’t bought one yet, we suggest choosing a tripod that’s known for a secure grip. If you want a flexible tripod that can grip anything—like a tree branch or a narrow-shaped boulder—get the Xenvo SquidGrip tripod.

Remember, you will likely be with crowds of tourists and other photographers inside. And many of them might be first-timers, too. It’s inevitable to bump into enthusiastic people.

As a result, you should make it a contingency step and secure your things. Start with a tripod that has a secure iPhone adapter. 

2. Don’t waste time. 

light shaft between rock formations and other people taking pictures.
As you can see, it’s hard to take photos without including other tourists or photographers in it.

Inside the canyon, you don’t really get much time. Since you’re not the only tourist or photographer there, you will take turns with others in taking pictures. 

If you’re taking photos of the light shafts, for example, you will only be given no less than three to five minutes to capture it. 

Additionally, we suggest you mount your iPhone on your tripod even before you descend into the Canyons. This is because you might move several times to give way to others. 

3. Don’t stick to one angle. 

close-up photo of rock formation shot from a low-angle.
This is shot from a low angle.

Of course, you should vary your shots. Don’t be carried away by the beauty in front of you or what the others are doing.

Why not try taking photos from a worm’s eye angle or even from the entry of the Canyons? 

We suggest you explore different photos and videos of the Upper Canyon and Lower Canyon, so you can get ideas. 

Hey, this is not copying— basically, you will take pictures of the same tourist spot. The only difference lies in your perspective!

4. Don’t use the flash. 

We mentioned a while ago that it can get extremely dark inside the Canyon. 

However, no matter how much you think it would make sense, don’t ever use the flash!

It’s not allowed and your camera’s instant bright light would just upset everyone who’s already inside the Canyon. 

Other related questions

How to photograph Antelope Canyon without a tripod

person taking photo of the canyon's top area without a tripod
The Optical Image Stabilization will help you avoid blurry photos.

The two Canyons can get pitch-black dark, so it might be challenging if you don’t have a tripod. 

However, if you don’t have the budget yet, you don’t need to worry so much, especially if you have an iPhone 7 or later. 

The iPhone 7 and later models all have Optical Image Stabilization (OIS), which helps you take sharp, accurate photos even in low-light areas. This technology also helps your iPhone camera move together with your hand’s movements. 

With OIS, you’ll take fewer blurry photos, which is essential—especially inside the Canyon where you can’t retake shots because of the time restriction. 

What is the best white balance for Antelope Canyon?

blue green, purple, pink, and auburn tints on rock formation.
Want to capture a wide range of lights? Make sure to take photos with a camera app that allows you to save in raw format.

Sadly, your iPhone camera doesn’t have manual white balance settings since it saves your photos as HEIF or JPEG. 

Meanwhile, if you install an app that saves photos in RAW format, then you can also edit their white balance. 

By editing the white balance, you can avoid color casts. You can perfectly expose the various hues of the light when it falls inside the Canyons.

The Lower Canyon, especially, emits a beautiful mix of purple, orange, red, and yellow tints when light falls inside it. 

What is the best time to photograph Antelope Canyon?

It’s always better to take photos inside both Canyons in high noon. 

This way, you can still catch the light shafts in the Upper Canyon. You will also witness the vibrant colors inside the Lower Canyon. 

So, tell your guide to book you a photo tour anytime between 10 AM and 2 PM. If you go later than that, you might miss those special light effects.

In a nutshell

Taking photos of the Antelope Canyons is always daunting at first. But with ample preparation and practicality, you can minimize your hassles there when you take pictures. 

Just consider trying any of the iPhone camera settings we mentioned above. And don’t forget to follow our tips. 

Have you been to one or both of the Antelope Canyons? 

Let us know about your experience in the comments below!

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