I’ve been traveling frequently this year, and an iPhone is always in my pocket. I wasn’t a fan of Apple’s camera system until the iPhone 14 series, and I’ve recently become more conscious of some of the settings and features.
With the iPhone 15 Pro, Apple has added more flexibility and versatility to the three-sensor system. These have changed the way I click photos – or at least how they end up looking. I’m not a photographer and would consider myself a beginner, so this is not a guide for professionals. It is for beginners who can get better photos with a few seconds of adjustment with some settings.
Here are seven iPhone camera settings you should know about to get the most from your camera system.
Play with photographic styles
iPhones have stuck to a specific, warm color tone for years, but that changed a few years ago. Apple now lets you choose from four styles that let you adjust the vibrancy, contrast, and overall tone of your photos.
It’s called Photographic Styles, and I started using it when I went to Kashmir recently. I noticed that the greenery wasn’t saturated enough in Normal mode, so I switched to the Rich Contrast style, and that made my photos look much better. I also like the Vibrant style for its bright and vivid colors – this comes in handy when you’re shooting flowers or wall art. When I’m shooting nature I default to Rich Contrast for deeper shadows and better contrast, but it’s not the best for every shot. For example, for darker skin tones, Standard will give you a better look than Rich Contrast.
As you can see from the gallery above, each style has its own look and feel. The standard photographic style is great for the most part, but sometimes when I’m at the beach I prefer Vibrant Cool to get better blues on the seawater. But if you don’t want extra vibrancy, you can go for a cool photographic style.
I suggest you play around with these styles to find one you like. To configure photographic styles, swipe up above the shutter button and tap the fourth icon from the left that looks like three frames one behind the other. You can then swipe horizontally to choose your favorite style.
Understanding Live Photos
Main photo on click
Made main photo with live photo
Live Photo is a feature that lets you record up to 1.5 seconds before and 1.5 seconds after you click the shutter button. You need to understand whether your use case requires capturing Live Photos or not.
For example, if you’re short on storage and only want to post photos to social media, it’s a good idea to turn off this feature as Live Photos can take up a lot of space once they pile up. Most of them are double the size of a normal photo. However, if you’re someone who makes TikToks or Reels, Live Photos can be a great way to capture unexpected candid moments. These can add flavor to your video in a way that framed shots typically don’t.
I’m glad I took most of my photos in live mode on my recent trip to Vienna. This allowed me to add those clips to my first travel reel on Instagram. As you can see from the video below, the portrait shots in Reels don’t feel the same as moving clips. These short videos matter a lot when you’re creating content on social media.
Live Photo also gives you the option to be more creative by playing with other settings, including loop, bounce and long exposure, or by exporting it as a short video. These can add perspective that a normal photo can’t. I mostly use it to capture frames from walking shots to get that perfect, realistic click that makes it look like the person is not deliberately posing, but is actually walking.
use grid lines
Grid lines help frame the shot better
Grid lines help frame the shot better
Grid lines can be an excellent way to frame compositions. I take a lot of photos of architecture and sunsets, and if you’re like me, you’ll want to turn on the grid on your camera screen. Although these lines help with the rule of thirds – something I learned from my friends who are interested in photography, I mostly use grid lines for three reasons.
First, they help me keep the horizon level while capturing the sunset. Second, they allow me to keep lines straight in architectural photographs. Third, I am able to click symmetrical photos which are usually not possible without grid lines. You can turn on this feature by going to Settings > Camera > Grid > toggle toggle on.
It is important to keep the settings safe
The iPhone Camera app is notorious for reverting to default settings if you don’t have the Preserve Settings option enabled. For example, if you chose the Rich Contrast photography style in an app and closed it, you’ll default to the Standard style when you open the app again. But Apple allows you to save the last camera mode, Live Photo, lighting, filters, and more, so that they don’t revert to the defaults the next time you open the Camera app.
This is one of the first settings I change before every vacation, especially when I need Live Photos for short videos. After all, I don’t want to turn on this feature every time I click a photo – by the time I turn it on, the random moment will have passed. you can go Settings > Camera > Protect Settings To turn it on for preferred settings.
Enable geolocation to organize photos
I didn’t have geolocation turned on before, but with frequent travel this year, I’ve found that turning it on was one of the best decisions I’ve made. This feature embeds your location data into the photo, and is perfect for all travelers.
Personally, it helps me organize my photos by location, helping me create backups of thousands of images in folders named according to locations. This helps a lot when I take over 1,000 photos in just a few days of a trip. To enable it, go to Settings > Privacy & Security > Location Services > On Camera > While Using the App,
Adjust focal length on iPhone 15 Pro
iPhone 15 Pro 1x (24mm)
iPhone 15 Pro 1.2x (28mm)
iPhone 15 Pro 1.5x (35mm)
Apple added more focal lengths to the iPhone 15 Pro’s camera app. With a few taps on 1x, you can now toggle between the main camera’s standard 24mm:28mm (1.2x) and 35mm (1.5x). While Apple says, “It’s like having seven pro lenses in your pocket,” these are not optical zooms but digital crops. However, because these are output in 24MP, you retain most of the detail you get in 24mm (1x) shots.
You might be wondering what the use of these new focal lengths is. These can be used when a photographer needs a narrower focal length to change the way they frame their photos. Plus, with the new iPhone 15 Auto Portrait feature, new settings give you more flexibility with portrait shots.
If you prefer one over the other, you can choose your preferred focal length from among the three on the primary camera as the default. To do this, you must Go to Settings > Camera > Main camera > Select focal length (28mm or 35mm if the standard is 1x) you want as default.
Level setting is a lifesaver
You can place grid lines on the preview but still can’t click the photo directly. This happens to me, and I have to straighten the image in editing. However, with iOS 17, you can now switch to a Levels setting that displays a horizontal line to help you capture an upright image.
When you hold the iPhone horizontally or vertically, you get a white line in the middle of the viewfinder that rotates as you level your iPhone. It turns yellow when the device is upright. This also works with video. This helps structure your shot. Its purpose is to help you take a level, straight image. For example, when shooting architecture, you can use it to frame and match building lines, so that the resulting image is on axis.
The Levels setting is automatically enabled in the Camera app on iPhones running iOS 17. But if it is not enabled on your iPhone, you can go here Settings > Camera > Levels (Below composition section).
Some Easy Ways to Improve Your iPhone Photos
These are some camera settings that have helped me recently. You don’t need to be a professional photographer to click good looking pictures from your iPhone for your social media. Just a few toggles can go a long way and make you stand out from the crowd.
With Apple introducing more features to help you better frame shots, it’s the best time to explore the camera settings on your iPhone.