How To Get The Most Out Of Your iPhone Camera

As Apple continues to update its iOS and new iPhones are being released with better specs each year, iPhone photographers everywhere are celebrating their favorite device's camera's quality. They've got good reason to, as well: Professional photos and even entire movies (shoutout to Tangerine !) are being shot on iPhones. But even if you're not a pro photographer or filmmaker, it's worth learning how to get the most out of your iPhone camera, whether you're shooting stills, creating videos, or making something in between. Some of the "hidden" features of your camera may make all the difference between an amateur image and a professional-looking one.

The iPhone 6 and 6s boast eight-megapixel cameras, f/2.2 apertures (meaning you can shoot in pretty low light), image stabilization, and exposure control — all functions which were only available on professional cameras before smartphones stepped up their game. Now, the iPhone has such enhanced capabilities that it can compete with many professional digital cameras, hence the "shot on an iPhone 6" campaign, which has some truly beautiful images.

Let's take a look at some of the lesser known features hiding in your iPhone camera to step up your photography game and get the most out of your device.

1. Don't Forget You Have A Self-Timer

It's easy to forget that iPhones cameras come equipped with self-timers — the self-timer is located in the solid black strip on the top of your touchscreen when you have the camera app open (it's the second icon from the right). Its default position is off, but you can easily switch the setting to have it go off either three seconds or 10 seconds from the time the shutter is pressed. If you have a way to prop up your iPhone, it's the perfect solution to a group selfie with too many people.

2. Use HDR In High Or Low Light Situations

There's a little icon on top of your iPhone camera that says "HDR," which stands for "high dynamic range." Put simply, it combines information from an overexposed, underexposed, and properly exposed shot to create an image with vibrant shadows, highlights, and colors. If you're somewhere with too much sunlight, an unbalanced lighting situation (for example, inside a cafe where only half the chairs are lit by a setting sun and the other half are obscured by darkness), or low light, turn that HDR button on and compare it to a non-HDR photo of the same object. The HDR will show more detail and better balance the light.

3. Don't Forget To Activate AE/AF Lock For Longer Video

It's crucial to know how to activate AE/AF lock on your iPhone if you're shooting hyper lapse or regular video on your iPhone. Let's say you're filming clouds moving behind a cityscape in the middle of a day. Without activating AE/AF lock, your iPhone may re-expose the image halfway through and blow out the clouds or focus on a random building instead of the entire skyline. To avoid this, tap down on the part of your screen where your image appears and hold until a yellow bar that says AE/AF Lock appears on top of your screen. When you're finished, simply tap and hold the screen, and your focus and exposure functions will unlock.

4. If You Have An iPhone 6s, Try Live Photo

On the newest iPhone model, open up your camera and tap the three concentric circles on the top bar of your camera screen to try live photos. If you're still confused as to what this is (it took me a while to figure it out myself, so don't worry), a live photo captures one and a half seconds of video and audio before you tap the shutter to create a three second moving image that looks like a short GIF. To view it, go to your Photos app, find the live photo, and tap the image and hold the screen for a moment to watch it move.

5. Use The In-Camera Filters

Sick of Instagram filters? Tap the three-circle Venn diagram on the bottom right hand of your camera screen directly to the right of the shutter to activate Apple's own filters. Though there aren't as many options, the look they give your photos will differ from Instagram's filters.

Images: Jordan McQueen/Unsplash; Giphy