iPhone and iPad

A Beginners Guide to Advanced iPhone Camera Features

Bakari Chavanu 10-04-2013

A few weeks ago, we published a Beginners Guide To Using the iPhone Camera Beginners Guide To Using The iPhone Camera If you haven't used the iPhone Camera app much, or if you’re a new user of the device, you may not realize just how close the app is to literally being a point-and-shoot camera, and... Read More , which explains how to use the default features of the camera app, including the how to frame, expose and focus a shot, as well as how to use the flash, review your photos after taking them, and even how to snap a photo while shooting video.


While there are lots of third-party photography apps 10 Powerful & Useful iPhone Camera Apps To Help You Take Better Pictures Read More for the iPhone, for many users the iPhone camera app is about as advanced as they want to get. To Apple’s credit, it provides just enough features in the camera app to make it useful for those who simply want a bonafide point-and-shoot camera without lots of bells and whistles.

So this follow-up article explains a few advanced iPhone camera features that again don’t require prior knowledge of photography. You simply need to know that the features exist for when they may come in handy.

The Volume Shutter Button

I explained in the last article how to hold the iPhone and tap the shutter button in the camera app, but there’s also another way you can snap a photo, which makes the iPhone feel a little more like a real camera. With the iPhone 4S and 5, you can use the volume up button to snap a photo. No configuration is needed. You just need to know that it’s there.

advanced iphone camera

Why might you use the volume button to activate the shutter? Well, because it might help you take a more steady shot, especially since you should always snap photos by holding the iPhone with both hands.


advanced iphone camera settings

Basic Cropping

Most iPhone camera users will rarely go beyond point-and-shoot with their shots. What’s important to them is that they freeze and capture a moment in time to make a memorable photo. But the iPhone camera app does include a few basic editing features for enhancing your photos.

First off, you can quickly crop photos by simply tapping the Edit button at the top-right of an opened photo. Next, tap the Crop button icon on the bottom-right (not shown in the screenshot below), and adjust the handles to crop out whatever you don’t want in the photo. For example, in this shot, I wanted to crop out the distracting light pole that I didn’t notice was there when I took the shot. Lastly, tap the yellow Crop button to apply the crop.

advanced iphone camera settings


Notice also you can select the Constrain button which allows you to constrain your crop to a certain dimension for printing purposes. I cover basic cropping for photos in more detail in this article The Basics of Photo Cropping That You Should Understand Read More .

The thing to remember when using the editing features in the camera app is that it applies the edits to the original photo. So if you’re concerned about messing up the original, you should make a copy of the photo first. This is done by tapping the Share button on the bottom-left of a photo, and then tapping the Copy button.

Basis Enhancement Feature

Another quick editing feature is the Auto-Enhance feature which essentially applies a little contrast and sharpening to your images. All you have to do is tap the Edit button, followed by the magic wand icon, and tap the Save button if you like the enhancement it makes.

advanced iphone camera settings


HDR Photography

The iOS 6 version of the iPhone camera also includes an HDR feature. HDR stands for High Dynamic Range, which is a photo technique that combines a range of photo exposures to produce a more, well, dynamic photo. Now don’t let the techie word scare you off. When enabled, this feature simply takes two or more photos at different exposure settings. It happens so quickly that you may think it’s only taking a single shot like normal.

To enable the feature, you tap the Options button in the camera app, and turn on HDR. When the HDR is enabled, you simply snap photos as you normally do. Notice in this original photo that there is some loss in detail in the foreground subject.

iphone camera features

But when I took the shot, the HDR feature quickly snapped another shot at a different exposure setting, and in that shot you can see that it exposed for highlights in the foreground subject. HDR is most useful for still subjects like scenic shots. It doesn’t work with moving subjects.


Also, you can open the Settings > Photos & Camera, and select to have the HDR either keep the first normal photo it takes, in addition to HDR version, or disable it and save only the HDR version.

iphone camera features

Admittedly, the HDR feature is more for the photo hobbyist, but it’s a feature you should know how to use especially when your shots don’t look quite right. If you want to find out more about HDR photography, check out James Sherar’s HDRI Photography: An Essential Skills & Workflow Primer HDRI Photography: An Essential Skills And Workflow Primer This guide outlines concepts involved in HDR photography followed by a logical progression of steps in the production of high dynamic range images. Read More .

Panorama Shots

One other “advanced” feature in the iPhone camera is the ability to take panorama shots. There will be occasions when you want to take scenic shots but are not able to fit as much of the scene in the frame as you would like. So in order to take a panorama shot, tap on the Option button, and then tap the Panorama button.

advanced iphone camera

A composition guide will pop up on the screen. Use it to frame your shot as you normally would. Next, after you snap the shutter button, slowly move the iPhone continuously across the scene you want to capture. Keep the subject in the frame. Tap Done when you come to the end of the shot. Again, be sure to hold the camera with two hands, and keep it steady.

Apple made the Panorama feature as about simple as it can be, but there are other third-party iPhone apps, such as DMD Panorama, that you might try if you’re looking for more advanced features.

Well, this pretty much covers it for the basic and advanced iPhone camera features. Practicing what you learn in this and the other beginners articles should help you take advantage of all the features the iPhone camera has to offer. But remember, if you get bitten by the photo bug, there are many more camera apps in the iTunes App Store you should try, starting with ProCamera From The Default iPhone Camera To The Better ProCamera For Serious Shutterbugs For the last several weeks, I've downloaded over a dozen camera and video apps for the iPhone, and though each has something unique to offer, I was particularly interested in finding the most practical camera... Read More .

Let us know what you think of this beginners guide and if it is helpful to you as an iPhone user. Also, what other advanced tips do you have for the iPhone camera?

Related topics: Digital Camera, iPhoneography, Smartphone Photography.

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  1. null
    April 15, 2013 at 5:58 am

    i have done those, except for the volume button... tnx, it was a great article ^_^

  2. Rene Bernal
    April 11, 2013 at 1:09 am

    done that

  3. Chris Marcoe
    April 10, 2013 at 7:27 pm

    Using any phone, you can take macro photos. Surprised you didn't mention this. Of course, you have to do some hardware work, not just software, for this. But the good part is, its not hardware work on the actual phone.

    Great article.

    • Bakari Chavanu
      April 10, 2013 at 9:43 pm

      Good point, Chris, thanks for pointing that out. And thanks for your feedback.

  4. Anish P
    April 10, 2013 at 6:20 pm

    If I'm not mistaken, HDR was included in iOS 5 for iPhone 4 and 4S.

    • Bakari Chavanu
      April 10, 2013 at 9:42 pm

      Okay, thanks for that clarification.