iPhone and iPad

Beginners Guide To Using The iPhone Camera

Bakari Chavanu 30-03-2013

using the iphone cameraIf 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 it includes enough features for average shooting situations to make it nearly unnecessary to need a separate and dedicated compact camera.


We have published a few articles about using the iPhone camera, including how to take self-portraits 5 Apps For Snapping Self-Portraits On Your Mobile/Tablet [iOS] Taking a self-portrait with your iPhone or other camera-supported iOS device is probably one of the easiest ways to capture yourself in a photo. Tap the little camera icon in the upper-right side of the... Read More with it, as well as reviews of third-party camera apps 10 Powerful & Useful iPhone Camera Apps To Help You Take Better Pictures Read More that are better than the iPhone camera. But we have yet to cover the basic and newer features in the iOS 5 and 6 version of the Camera. If you don’t have the time or inclination to learn advance camera apps such as 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 , the default Camera app will suffice. For many iPhone users, it’s the only camera you may need for family photos and videos. You don’t need to know anything about aperture or shutter speed, or other camera mode settings. It is helpful, however, to know something about photo composition and focusing shots, both of which I describe in this article.

Using the iPhone Camera

The iPhone camera is always ready to shoot with a simple tap. Simply tap open the Camera app on your iPhone, and you’re ready to go. If you’re going to be taking lots of vacation shots, or snapping photos at a party or event, you might want to put the Camera in the iPhone Dock or on the homepage for quick access.

using the iphone camera

When the iPhone is in lock screen mode, you can also quickly launch the camera by sliding up the camera icon at the bottom-right of the locked screen.

using iphone camera


Holding the Phone

Snapping a photo is as simple as tapping the camera icon of the app, but you need to hold the phone steady with both hands. If you’re shooting in landscape position, you will probably want to use your thumb to tap the shutter button (camera icon.)

using iphone camera

If you’re shooting in portrait position, it’s still best to hold the phone with two hands and press the shutter button, but in this case use your index finger.

using iphone camera


Compose Shots

A big part of taking good photos is composing your shots and filling the frame. The iPhone camera includes a photo guide to help you compose shots. It is based on what is called the Rule of Thirds The Basics of Photo Cropping That You Should Understand Read More . The idea is to place the subject of your photo into one of the quartiles of the grid, instead of smack in the middle.

iphone camera tips

Tip: you can press and hold on the shutter button, continue to compose your shot, and then lift your finger to activate the shutter. This may help get a more steady shot in some shooting situations.

Focus Lock

There is, of courseno focusing ring on the iPhone or focus button in the Camera app, but the app does include a focus feature. When you point the phone/camera on a subject, the camera will try to lock and focus on the subject that it thinks you’re trying to snap a photo of.


iphone camera tips

You can also tap on any part of the camera frame/screen to lock the focus where you want it to be. You will actually find that the iPhone camera takes sharp photos, even for micro shots, if you hold the camera steady and use the focus feature.

Using the Flash

The on-camera flash on any camera is never that good, and I avoid using it. But if you’re shooting in a low light situation, you can tap the flash icon, and select Auto, On, or Off. With Auto, of course, the camera will determine if it needs the flash in order to get enough focus and light to take the shot.

iphone camera tips


Reviewing Your Photos

As you take photos, you can quickly review them while the camera app is open, by swiping your finger across the screen, which will open the Camera Roll, where all your photos are saved. Note, you can also open the Photos app in your iPhone to access the Camera Roll, and another feature called Photo Stream Managing & Processing iPhone Photos: Problems & Solutions In the release of iOS 5, Apple introduced Photo Stream as a possible solution to managing and sharing iOS camera photos between Apple mobile and computer devices. Indeed, Photo Stream has been helpful, but in... Read More .

Also notice the other available menu items for deleting images, sharing photos (to Twitter, Facebook, email, etc), starting a slide show, and showing photos via AppleTV.

IPhone camera 50

To get back to camera mode, tap on the screen and then tap the blue and white camera icon on the bottom-left of the app.

IPhone camera 49

Video Camera

The Camera app also has a video camera that is useful for average shooting situations. As you probably notice, you can activate the video feature by sliding the button to the tiny video icon.

IPhone video 1

What you probably don’t know, however, is that you can actually take photos while you shoot video, as long as you keep the iPhone steady, and the subjects you’re shooting are not moving too fast. As you’re shooting video, all you need to do is tap the camera icon on the screen, and it will snap a photo, without interrupting the video recording.

using the iphone camera

What I have described above are the basic features of the iPhone Camera app. In a follow-up article, I will share advance features (e.g., taking Panorama and HDR images) that you might find useful for different shooting situations.

If you’re a new or inexperienced user of the iPhone camera, let us know if this guide was helpful. Also let us know what questions you still have about using the iPhone camera.

Related topics: Digital Camera, iPhoneography, Smartphone Photography.

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  1. Leonne
    March 20, 2017 at 4:25 pm

    Excellent info for beginners. Thank you!

  2. Richard
    July 21, 2016 at 1:55 am

    I give up. Where can I get the cell phone app?
    Richard in Charlotte

  3. Ashish C
    June 25, 2013 at 9:26 am

    I have tested both this and lumia 920 and i prefer Lumia for its good camera and best low light imaging !!

  4. Adhari Mahendra
    April 3, 2013 at 11:04 am

    Nice article, can't wait review other camera apps review :)

  5. Peter Stewart
    April 1, 2013 at 8:20 pm

    Hi - thanks for excellent article. Just one question:
    In some of the images above a grid of 3 down and 3 across is shown. Is this available in the app or were these inserted for this article?

    • Bakari Chavanu
      April 1, 2013 at 8:23 pm

      Yep, Peter, the grid is built into the camera app, but you have to turn it on. Tap on the Option button when the camera is open, and then enable Grid.

  6. Malcaluffin
    April 1, 2013 at 5:53 pm

    Can we take stills while recording video in iPhone 4S?

    • Bakari Chavanu
      April 1, 2013 at 10:22 pm

      Mmm, Malcaluffin, I'm not sure. I don't have the 4S. Hopefully someone reading this article can address that question.

  7. Matt Mar
    April 1, 2013 at 5:36 pm

    Thank you for sharing the article, its always good to discover new features of iOS camera specially for newbie users (:

    • Bakari Chavanu
      April 1, 2013 at 8:24 pm

      Matt, thanks for your feedback. It's good to know when readers find the articles useful.

  8. Rolando
    March 31, 2013 at 2:10 pm

    Thanks! I didn't know you could take a still while videoing!

    • Bakari Chavanu
      April 1, 2013 at 8:25 pm

      Yep, I had been using the app for while before I realized it.

  9. Victor Ong
    March 31, 2013 at 2:08 am

    You can also use the volume up button to take the photo. It makes it feel more like a real camera.

    • Bakari Chavanu
      March 31, 2013 at 2:48 am

      You're right, Victor, I should have pointed out that feature. I rally use it, but I'll include it in the follow up article I do about advance features. Thanks.

  10. NotoriousZeus
    March 30, 2013 at 4:46 pm

    Good one

    • Bakari Chavanu
      March 30, 2013 at 6:48 pm

      Thanks, Notorious. Appreciate the feedback.

    • Don
      April 12, 2013 at 1:58 pm

      Great article. Is your article on HDR available yet? Keep up the good work.

  11. sonnylim
    March 30, 2013 at 3:50 am

    Thank you for this article. Provided me with more understanding on the iPhone camera features. Looking forward to your next article.

    • Bakari Chavanu
      March 30, 2013 at 6:48 pm

      Sonnylim, thanks for the feedback. Always great to hear when my articles are useful to readers.

    • Don
      April 12, 2013 at 1:57 pm

      Great article. Is your article on HDR available yet? Keep up the good work.