Getting the best from the iPhone camera

24 July 2013

Most iPhone users will already be familiar with some or all of these tricks and features for the Camera app. But those of you new to Apple smartphones – or just not particularly technologically intuitive (don’t worry, you’re not the only ones) – may find some helpful tips and advice in our list.

Tap-to-focus and locking the auto-focus

You might be aware of iPhone’s tap-to-focus feature. Although your phone’s camera will automatically focus on what it registers as the point of interest in the frame , you can tap the screen where you’d like the focal point to be. A small square will appear and your phone will adjust its focus.

If you want to lock the auto-focus and auto-exposure on a certain point, press the screen where you’d like the focus to be set until you see the auto-focus square enlarge and flash twice.

Once it’s locked in place, the words AE/AF Lock will appear at the bottom of the screen, leaving you free to re-compose your image and move the viewfinder without the focal point or exposure changing.

Taking photos from the lock screen

If you have iOS 5 or later as your phone’s operating system, you can take photos without having to unlock your phone and go to the Camera app.

When your phone is in Sleep mode, hit the Home button to illuminate the lock screen. You’ll notice a little Camera icon to the right of the swipe panel. Swipe this icon upwards to open your phone’s camera.

This is a great trick if you normally use a passcode to unlock your phone, as it’ll save you valuable seconds which could be the difference between getting that perfect shot and missing the moment completely.

Alternatives to tapping the onscreen shutter

Ever find hitting the onscreen Camera button and maintaining a perfect pose just too hard to do simultaneously? Not everyone is aware that you can actually use your phone’s Volume Up button (+), located on the side of your iPhone, to activate the camera shutter instead.

And if your official white Apple headphones are plugged in, you can also use the volume buttons to snap pictures as well; both + and – will work.

Zooming in and out

You can zoom in when taking photos with your iPhone, by using two fingers to do a reverse pinching gesture on the screen.

Move your fingers back to zoom out again. Be mindful that by zooming in, you’re actually losing detail and photo quality – photographers will always recommend you zoom with your feet where possible instead of relying on the camera itself.

Taking still photos while recording video

You can take still photographs while you’re recording video on the iPhone 5. As you record, hit the camera icon at the top right-hand corner of the screen to simultaneously take photos.

Doing this allows you to keep filming and won’t affect your video at all.

Panorama mode

If you have an iPhone 4S or 5, you can take sweeping landscape pictures using your camera app’s Panorama mode.

Tap Options, then Panorama. Tap the Camera icon and move your phone slowly and steadily in the direction of the arrow on the screen, then hit Done when you’re finished.

The trick to taking a great panoramic shot on the iPhone is keeping the onscreen arrow directly on top of the horizontal line as you pan your phone. Also, if you’d like to reverse the direction in which the photo is taken, just tap the onscreen arrow.

Photo Stream

Advanced iPhone users looking to show off their photography skills may be interested in Photo Stream. If your operating system is iOS6, you can use the Photo Stream feature to share your pictures with family and friends who own Apple devices.

To switch Photo Stream on, go to Settings, then tap Photos and Camera, and toggle the My Photo Stream and Shared Photo Streams options to On.

Once you open the Photos app, you’ll see an icon with a cloud that says Photo Stream. You can tap this icon and create your own Photo Stream albums to share by selecting the + button in the top left.

When scrolling through the photos in your camera roll or other album, select the icon in the bottom left to bring up a list of options – you can add the photo to your Photo Stream, send it by email or SMS, or publish it directly to social media such as Facebook.

Using Photo Stream makes it easy for you to copy photos to all your Apple devices without needing to sync your phone to iTunes. It also provides a backup for photos; your camera roll and Photo Stream are two separate things, even if they feature the same photos, so deleting a picture from your camera roll won’t affect the Photo Stream copy of the same photo, and vice versa.


If you’re really looking to zazz up your iPhone pics, you can try downloading an external app from the App Store. There are a multitude of photo enhancing, editing and sharing apps to choose from.

We like photo editing apps such as Camera+ and Snapseed – they allow you to use filters and effects to make your photos really stand out, as well as edit them easily and share with family and friends with a tap of the screen.

Overall, if you’re new to using your iPhone as a portable and convenient camera, you’ll be surprised how easy it to take quality photographs. With a little practice, even committed technophobes will find themselves navigating the Camera app like a teenage tech geek.

Check out the latest iPhone 5 plans here



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