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How to adjust your iPhone camera's settings

Lauren Crabbe | May 23, 2014
Unlike a compact camera or a DSLR, your iPhone doesn't let you adjust the most popular settings: aperture, lens length, shutter speed, and white balance. That said, several tools within the Camera app (and other third-party programs) can aid you in taking very attractive pictures.

When recording vivid colors: HDR mode can bring back colors in blown-out or dark areas. But when you are taking pictures of colorful subjects that are properly exposed, HDR mode desaturates colors. To avoid this, turn off HDR. For example, if you're shooting a horizon where the blue sky is the focus and you don't mind a dark foreground, turn off HDR and tap to focus on the sky so that you keep the vivid blues in your image.

When you need a flash: When HDR is on, the iPhone can't use the flash. To get both of them at once, you'll need to use an external light source.

Burst Mode

If you have an iPhone 5s, you can activate its Burst mode to take ten pictures a second: Tap and hold the shutter button, and your device will pick the least blurry shot of the bunch. Like the HDR mode, though, this tool sucks up storage. So as you save your favorites, take a moment to delete the rejects.


The flash has saved many a nighttime photo, but often at the expense of adding red-eye and blinding your subjects.

The iPhone flash illuminates subjects well up to about 6 feet away, so you'll want to use it in close quarters. In addition, the iPhone's LED flash often adds an odd blue glow, though you can correct this effect by using third-party editing apps.

Here are some cases where you should avoid using a flash.

At large events:When you are shooting in a large venue, such as at a concert, your flash is essentially useless. If you want your iPhone's camera to compensate for low-light conditions, use HDR instead.

Around glass:If a mirror, a window, or a TV or computer screen is situated nearby, your flash will bounce off of it and create a blurry ball of white light somewhere in your picture. Turn the flash off.

Square format

The square image has turned into the standard image format for social media. It looks good on any device, no matter how you're holding it.

In iOS 7, you can elect to shoot pictures in a square format. This option is ideal for Instagram addicts, as they don't have to capture shots using the third-party app just to get the proper framing for their image.

Live Filters

Can't wait to add a filter in your iPhone's digital darkroom? Since the advent of iOS 7, if you have an iPhone 4 or later, Apple has let you apply live filters as you're taking the photo. Effects range from dramatic monochrome to more-playful color filters.

Once you've chosen a filter, the camera stays in that mode until you disable it. Unfortunately, you can't use the live filter in Video or Panorama mode. And you can't turn off the effects once you've saved a photo; so for serious shots, it's best not to use a filter as you shoot, in case you want the original, unedited image later. You can still access the live filters in the Photos app if you decide to wait until later.


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