Type and press Enter.

How to Take Professional Photos with iPhone

Tourist taking photograph of a bridge with her iPhone

Reading Time: 6 minutes read

iPhone cameras have made incredible technical strides since 2007. iPhones are the most popular cameras on the photo-sharing website Flickr, and some news broadcasters have begun using them to shoot in the field.

While expensive DSLR cameras will continue to outpace smartphones, iPhone cameras have reached the level of offering professional-grade images. As a bonus, taking pictures with phones has never been easier or more economical.

With a little know-how, anyone who owns an iPhone can create some truly stunning photography.

Set HDR to auto

HDR stands for “high dynamic range.” When active, this mode takes three pictures for each press of the shutter button.

Why three? Because each image is taken at a different exposure to capture the distinctions between the light and dark. The software then blends the images together seamlessly, creating a single photo that displays vivid details throughout.

HDR is great for a diverse range of compositions—from landscapes to scenes backlit by a sunset—so we recommend keeping it on auto. You’ll want to turn it off, however, for movement and shots where you desire absent details, like silhouettes.

Turn off your flash

There is one area where taking pictures with phones hasn’t improved. The flash. This rinky-dink LED spills harsh light all over. It overexposes your image, adds noise, and does little else.

If you absolutely need a flash—some Halloween compositions spring to mind—consider securing an external flash. Not only are the bulbs of a higher quality, but their external nature allows you to use pro-photographer tricks such as directing the light off a nearby wall for more diffused light.

Burst into action

Because the three pictures aren’t taken instantly, HDR will do you no favors with action shots. But burst mode sure does. It takes a continuous stream of photos as you hold down the shutter button.

That way, you don’t have to stop the fun to coordinate the shot. Let the kids have fun in the pool, shoot the scene, and select the best image from your collection. Easy breezy.

Frame friends and family with Portrait mode

Another software shortcut is Portrait mode. This mode simulates a shallow depth-of-field effect, putting your subject in focus while blurring the background. The effect makes friends and family pop in the frame.

The mode recognizes faces very well, so it works best with people. Abstract and non-human subjects can be hit or miss, but nothing ventured no fabulous photos gained, right?

Pro iPhone photography tip: Take Portrait mode pictures in soft, diffused light. Good lighting helps the software differentiate between the subject and the background, allowing it to add the blurring effect judiciously.

Keep compositions simple

Details are like conversations. The more you add, the more people will have to keep track of. By simplifying your compositions, you direct the viewer’s focus to create a more pleasing experience.

One way to shave off some complexity is negative space (i.e., the space surrounding the subject). The cleaner and more uniform it is, the more definitive your subject. Portrait mode creates negative space with its blurred backgrounds. Environments brim with negative canvases, such as blue skies, brick walls, and fall forests.

The rule of thirds provides another method. This guideline asks you to place your subject where two equally spaced horizontal and vertical lines intersect along the composition. The result adds balance to the composition. You can turn on a guide in your iPhone’s camera settings for a visual aid.

Combining the rule of thirds with negative space reminds us that less is often more.

Explore unique angles

Our instinct is to take iPhone photos from eye level. It’s how we see the world after all. The results are decent enough, but finding a unique, flattering angle will make your subject come alive in completely new ways.

Consider high and low angles to see what they reveal. A low angle can present a symmetrical pattern in architecture missed by the casual passerby; meanwhile, a high angle can present a group of friends together closer than ever.

Angles also open fresh composition possibilities. The steam languidly drifting from a coffee cup. The shadows left by decorative balustrade. The leading lines of a jetty. You never know what you’ll find.

Don’t forget the exposure meter

Hemingway once wrote the only kind of writing is rewriting. Similarly, the only kind of photography is editing decent images into spectacular ones.

The iPhone’s camera software has some features to familiarize yourself with. The exposure meter allows you to darken or brighten your photos on the fly. The software also sports several filters, including some classy black-and-white options.

Pro iPhone Photography tip: Invest in learning a post-process editing software. There are many options, either on the App Store or for the laptop of your choice. Find one you feel comfortable using, and don’t be afraid to experiment.

Hold your iPhone steady

The iPhone’s design is great for many things. Stable camerawork isn’t one of them. The location of the shutter button makes it difficult to hold at certain angles, and the slightest movement can add motion blur.

Keep your iPhone steady when taking pictures. Hold it with two hands. Stabilize your back against a wall or your arms against a bench. Maybe invest in a tripod.

Pro iPhone Photography tip: While in the camera app, press the “Up” volume key to snap a picture. This can help you avoid those shutter button contortions that plague so many a selfie.

Explore third-party apps

Apple’s standard camera software lacks some pro features in order to create a user-friendly experience for photographers of all levels. Thankfully, developers have designed third-party apps to offer these quality-of-life upgrades.

These apps can allow you to adjust ISO, shutter speed, white balance, manual focus, and exposure compensation. Read reviews from professional photographers, download some to try, and see if you can find one that suits your needs. These apps can open whole new worlds of creative iPhone photography.

Download Motif’s iOS app

The final step to taking pictures like a pro is presenting them like one. Motif’s iOS app makes it easier than ever to create stunning photo books directly from your iPhone or iPad.

The iOS app grants access to all the resources of the macOS extension. It comes with Motif’s array of user-friendly tools, professional layouts, and attractive themes. It even supports Motif’s premier Autoflow option, which curates your photo collection to find the very best shots.

With Motif, your photos don’t simply end up in a photo book. They’re displayed in a photo book that expresses your style and vision, wherever your creativity takes you.

Latest posts by Pete (see all)