5 essential iPhone camera tips for beginners and non-photographers

Some people can take the most amazing photos with their iPhone camera. They know just the right settings to use, how to focus properly, and are familiar with every camera option for perfect pictures every time.

But if you’re like me, a non-photographer who just likes to grab moments when they happen and doesn’t spend time experimenting with camera settings, you will get the shot but not as beautifully as you could.

To help you take better photos, here’s a list of tips for beginners just getting used to the iPhone camera and others who don’t take the time to master the settings. With a few simple tweaks, you can have sharper photos, better-lit images, and a happier outcome with every picture you capture.

iPhone camera tips

1. Forget the shutter button, use a volume button

It doesn’t matter if you’re taking a selfie or a picture of something in front of you. The on-screen shutter button in the Camera app isn’t always easily accessible. Luckily, you have another option – a volume button.

When you have your shot in view and are ready to capture the image, you can press either of your iPhone volume buttons to snap the picture.

This a more comfortable option when taking a selfie because one of your fingers is already near those buttons as your holding your phone. No more blurry selfies! And if you’re taking a landscape photo, using a volume button allows you to use your iPhone like a physical camera. This makes it feel more natural.

Hold iPhone 12 in Landscape - Pixabay

This isn’t a new feature by any means. The ability to use your iPhone volume buttons to capture photos has been around since at least iOS 7. But that doesn’t mean it’s an option you knew about, so keep it in mind!

2. Never miss a shot, capture burst photos

When you’re trying (and the keyword here is “trying”) to snap a photo of a wiggling baby, child, or pet, it can be tough when they’re moving about. You think you have the perfect shot and then…they move. To make sure you always get the best photo possible in this situation, use burst mode for photos.

With burst mode, your camera quickly takes numerous pictures as if you’re tapping the capture button rapidly. When it finishes, you have a bunch of photos that you can review. Then, keep the ones you want. There is almost certainly at least one photo in that burst that turned out perfectly.

To capture burst photos, simply hold down the shutter button (instead of tapping it) and drag it to the left. You’ll see the number of photos you’re capturing briefly replace the shutter button. Release when you feel you’ve captured enough.

iPhone Camera Take Burst

If you want to incorporate our first tip for using a volume button instead of the shutter, you can do this with burst photos too! Here’s how to enable and use it.

1) Open Settings and select Camera.

2) Near the top, enable the toggle for Use Volume Up for Burst.

3) When you want to use burst mode, press and hold the Volume Up button on your iPhone. You’ll see the number of photos you’re capturing and simply release your finger when you finish.

Settings Camera Use Volume Up for Burst

For more on this topic, check out our articles for what is burst mode and how do you use it along with how to review burst photos on Mac from your iPhone.

3. Prepare for your picture, set a selfie timer

You’re probably already familiar with your camera timer. This lets you set up the perfect shot and capture it when the timer goes off. But did you know you could use the timer for selfies too? This is a terrific way to make sure you’re ready for the picture. Want to prop up the camera and step back to capture the background? Need to include something in the shot you have to pick up or hold? The timer helps you do it!

What’s nice about the timer in the iPhone camera is that once you enable it, it’s ready and waiting on the screen. So you can quickly and easily set the timer for any photo you want, including a selfie. To enable and use the timer, do the following:

1) Open the Camera on your iPhone and access the timer. You can do this by swiping up slightly from above the shutter button or tapping the arrow at the top of the screen.

2) Tap the timer icon and choose the amount of time from either three or 10 seconds.

3) You’ll see the timer icon display on the top right of the screen. When you want to use it, just tap it. You’ll a countdown in the bottom right corner.

iPhone Selfie Timer

You can then reverse the camera using the button on the bottom right, tap the timer to start it, and get ready for that stellar selfie! For more, take a look at how to capture mirrored selfies.

4. Eliminate the photobomb, try portrait mode

Portrait Mode in the iPhone Camera is also not a new feature. But it’s one that’s often overlooked. With Portrait Mode, you can more easily focus on your subject and blur the background at the same time.

This is an excellent option when you’re taking a photo of a friend in a crowded place, family member in an unattractive background, or when you fear a photobomber may ruin the shot.

To enable and use Portrait Mode, follow these steps.

1) Open the Camera and swipe to Portrait which is to the right of Photo at the bottom.

2) You can immediately snap the photo or instead, take advantage of a lighting option. Slide across the bottom to choose from natural, studio, or contour light. Or get creative with stage light mono or high-key light mono for black and white.

3) If you choose a lighting option, just leave it selected and then capture your picture as you normally would.

iPhone Camera Portrait Mode

When you view the photo, you’ll see the subject in clear focus with the surroundings a bit blurred. This is a wonderful effect to try out!

5. Worry less about lighting, use Night mode

If you use an iPhone 11 or iPhone 12 model, check out Night mode for snapping shots in low light. Night mode automatically turns on when you’re in a low light environment. So while you can certainly adjust the exposure setting instead, non-photogs can still capture great photos without worry using Night mode.

When you open the Camera to take a picture and it detects low lighting, you’ll see the Night mode icon light up in yellow on the top left of the screen. You may see a number, depending on how dark the lighting is, which indicates how long it’ll take to capture the picture. You can also control the timing yourself, if you prefer, by tapping the icon and using the slider that displays at the bottom.

iPhone Camera Night Mode

Night mode works with regular photos, selfies, Portrait mode, and time-lapse videos as well. But when in Night mode, Live Photos and flash aren’t active. So, if you prefer to use one of those two options, turn them on manually and Night mode will deactivate.

Wrapping it up

Many of us wish we were wonderful photographers, or at least a little better at taking great pictures. But hopefully with these helpful iPhone camera tips, your pictures will improve!

Do you have additional tips for those new to the iPhone camera or simply not experts at the camera settings? Please share your tips below or hit us up on Twitter!