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The saying goes that the best camera is the one you have with you. For many of us, that means the camera on our iPhones. But if you find you images are lacking that special something, or you’d just like to learn a bit more about using your iPhone camera’s full potential, then read on!

Force HDR for Better Exposed Images

HDR stands for High Dynamic Range and it’s a technique that merges photo exposures to create better lit scenes. On the iPhone the camera app will often detect a wide dynamic range itself and enable HDR (if it is set to Automatic, which is the default). The camera app will automatically enable HDR itself in many scenarios, for instance if you were photographing someone in front of a window.

I often force HDR on anyway because the images are usually superior to single exposures. The iPhone then takes two shots – one that exposes for the bright parts (for instance a window) and one for the subject in the foreground – the two are then blended. If you’re worried about the resulting images you can always tell the iPhone to keep the source images alongside the HDR and then you have a fallback in case it doesn’t look the way you wanted.

Zoom With Your Feet

Yes, the latest iPhones have a dual lens system that brings a kind of optical zoom to smartphones for the first time, but that doesn’t mean you should always use it. One of the best pieces of advice I got was to zoom with my feet.

It’s far better to work with a camera lens’s better focal range by moving towards the subject, rather than using its zoom. So if you can – simply get closer to your subject.

Of course that’s not always possible and if you have to use the zoom then beware you don’t push it too far and use the digital zoom. Digital zoom on your iPhone simply creates a blown-up version of the same shot you’d have got at default zoom and uses pixel interpolation to fill in the gaps – the results usually don’t look great. You’re far better off taking a regular size shot and simply cropping in to your subject – the resulting image will be far superior.

Force HDR on.
Zoom with your feet.
Force the focus.

Use a Tripod if you Can

Recent iPhones have world class image stabilisation technology built in that can bring an amazing degree of sharpness to photos and videos. However it’s not a perfect system and if you want the best possible image from your iPhone then you’re far better off using a tripod and the built-in timer.

You can pick up iPhone tripods for pocket change these days and it’s well worth having one to hand. Just put the phone in the tripod, line up your shot and then use the self-timer so that you don’t knock the phone as the shot’s being taken.

Panos – Switch Direction and Shoot Vertically

The panorama function is one of the coolest features in the camera app, but it has a couple of options you may not be aware of. Firstly, if you tap the on-screen arrow bar, it switches direction so you can shoot from right to left, rather than left to right. Secondly, don’t forget that you can shoot vertical panos. Just flip the phone into a landscape hold and slowly raise the phone up towards the sky. Thirdly, you even use the 2x zoom during a pano – just hit the zoom button prior to taking the shot.

Force the Focus

While the app does a great job of picking exposure focus, it’s not perfect. To ensure that the app sets focus on the object that you want long-hold your finger on subject and you’ll see AE/AF Lock appear on the screen. AE stands for Auto Exposure and AF stands for Auto Focus and switching to this mode enables you choose which parts of the image are sharpest and how high or low the exposure is. Once you see the yellow reticle appear on screen you can slide your finger up and down to choose whether the image is over or under exposed.

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