The iPhone 7 Plus is loaded with a 12-megapixel camera with not just one but two lenses: wide-angle and telephoto.
A 2x optical zoom backs up the 10x digital zoom, and that’s not all. Image stabilization makes up for shaky fingers, a quad-LED flash illuminates nighttime shots, and autofocus clears up your subject in an instant.
In short, the camera on the newest iPhones rivals professional digital cameras. If you don’t believe us, just ask the professionals themselves. Photographers with the Hollywood Reporter shot official celebrity portraits at the Toronto Film Festival with their iPhone 7s. Sports photographer Landon Nordeman captured historic images at the 2016 U.S. Open armed with nothing but a brand new iPhone 7.
The quality of the iPhone camera explains about half of the reason someone you know is always posting star-quality selfies and semi-pro doggie pics. The iPhone is the right tool for the job, but to get the most out of it, you have to know how to use it. Here are the tricks that those in the know use to make the most of their iPhone cameras.
1. Focus on faces by watching the yellow boxes zero in.
The newest iPhone cameras tell you clearly when they’re focused on multiple faces within the frame.
When the camera is ready to shoot crystal-clear portraits, the curved corners of yellow boxes appear over the faces in the image. That’s when you’re ready to shoot.
2. Lower the exposure for dramatic sunrise (and sunset) shots.
Shooting into the sun has been a problem for photographers since the days of the daguerreotype. Apple engineers built a solution into the latest iPhone cameras. To capture a glorious sunset, aim your phone and tap the screen. The camera will begin to focus, but with the strong backlight, an additional feature will pop up.
Look for the yellow box with a cartoon sun next to it. Swipe slowly downwards to lower the exposure, preventing glare and white-out shots. Take the picture and check it out; if it’s still washed out, lower the exposure even further and try again. That’s the glory of digital photography.
3. Remember the Rule of Thirds.
Just because we all carry professional-grade digital cameras in our pockets these days doesn’t mean that tradition has nothing to teach. Everyone who’s ever taken Photography 101 has heard about the Rule of Thirds, and for good reason: When you mentally divide the frame into an equal grid of 9 boxes, then align your subject along the intersecting lines, you’ve got composition down pat.
Since we live in the future, though, you don’t have to eyeball it. Go to your phones Settings, select Photos & Camera, and turn on the Grid function. It’ll bring the Rule of Thirds to life, ensuring that your compositions will all be worthy of an A+.
4. For selfies, hug the center.
The iPhone wide angle lens has a hard time keeping subjects in focus unless they’re right in the center of the frame. Remember this when you’re taking the 100th selfie of the day.
Position your face in the center of the frame. If you need a bit more time to get into place, try using the timer feature. That way, you’ll always show up clean and clear, in beautiful high definition.
5. Perfect your shots with Portrait Mode.
The iPhone 7 Plus includes a feature never before seen on cell phone cameras. Portrait Mode creates a high-depth image, with the subject perfectly defined in the foreground and the background artfully blurred.
This is how photographers make their subjects pop, and you can do the same thing without the MFA (and the loans that come with it).
6. Take the low-angle shot.
Here’s another tip from the olden days of photography. Shooting from face-level is rarely as interesting as an image shot from below. This is why you always see photojournalists kneeling in awkward postures.
Next time you want to capture a moment, try taking a knee first. Odds are, the resulting pic will be twice as interesting.
7. Position your subject no more than eight feet from your lens when you’re in Portrait Mode.
This is an oddity of the iPhone 7 dual-lens system. When you’re in Portrait Mode, make sure you shoot the photo of your special person (or flower, horse, or interesting pile of trash) from no more than eight feet away.
At this distance, the two lenses work together to create a shallow depth of field that really makes the subject pop.
8. Master lens flare by adjusting exposure.
Street lights make every nighttime scene more vital. Unfortunately, they also tend to ruin your pictures with lens flare. Next time you’re capturing the Tokyo nightlife with your iPhone, start by making sure your flash is off.
With the flash disabled, lock the focus feature. Then hold your lens up to the lights and adjust exposure until you see the flare disappear. Then you’re ready for the photo.
9. Know when to use HDR.
The iPhone camera system includes a function called High Dynamic Range, or HDR. This digital imaging feature takes a series of photos with slightly different exposures, measures the contrast between light and darkness, and spits out a single image with a dramatic range of color.
HDR is awesome when you’re shooting backlit subjects, as it adds to the drama of deep contrast. Remember: Black blacks and white whites are what make a photograph great.
10. You can also use HDR to conquer image washout.
If you’ve ever tried to snap a picture of your partner’s face drenched in sunlight, you’ve probably been disappointed by the effect of foreground lighting. When the brightest light in the frame comes from behind the camera, shining brightly on the subject, cameras tend to produce washed-out images.
Your iPhone’s HDR function can help solve this problem. Frame your bright subject, turn on HDR, and lock your focus. Then swipe slowly down to lower the exposure to the point that offers the greatest detail. Foreground light is no longer a problem!
11. The magic number for close-ups is four.
As in, four inches between lens and subject. Go any closer and your camera’s autofocus may have a hard time discerning the relevant image.
Back up, and you’ll no longer have a nice, clear close-up. Four inches is just about ideal.
12. Create a dramatic silhouette image.
Rule Instagram with your sunset silhouettes. Start by shooting into the setting sun, with your friends standing artfully against the sky.
Lock focus. Then lower your exposure until you’ve got the perfect mix of black shadows and golden back-lighting. Get ready for more followers than you can handle!
13. Banish hand-shadow with the optical zoom feature.
How many times have you tried to shoot directly down onto a table, just to have your hand ruin the image with a big ugly shadow? Newer iPhones let you sidestep this annoying problem.
Just click the 1x button to enable optical zoom, and raise your arm until your shadow disappears. You might have to end up climbing a chair or two, but it’s totally worth it for shadow-free top-down photographs.
14. Capture the action with Burst Mode.
The latest iPhones include a feature called Burst Mode. You can probably guess just what that does. Next time you’re going for awesome skateboarding images, turn on burst mode by holding down the white shutter button for a few seconds. (Pro tip: The side volume button and the headphone volume button accomplish the same thing.)
Burst Mode will take many images very quickly. When your buddy lands the trick, go through your photo album to pick out the winning image. It’s that simple.