Your iPhone and iPad have excellent cameras. These tips and hints, for the most part, work with both devices. Let’s focus on the iPhone, though, because that’s what most people use as their camera.
This month, I’ll talk about the native camera app included with iOS. Next time, we’ll talk cool third-party apps for taking photos, adjusting them and then sharing them with your friends.
The first generation iPhone has a fixed-focus 2.0 megapixel camera on the back for still digital photos; it has no optical zoom, flash or autofocus and does not support video recording. Fast-forward to the iPhone 4 that introduced a 5.0 megapixel camera, also located on the back, which is equipped with a backside illuminated sensor, capable of capturing pictures in low-light conditions, as well as an LED flash capable of staying lit for video recording at 720p resolution. iPhone 4 is the first iPhone that has the high dynamic range photography feature – more about this below. In addition, the iPhone 4 has a second camera on the front, allowing you to capture VGA photos and SD video recording.
The camera on the iPhone 4S is capable of shooting 8MP stills and recording 1080p videos. The camera can be accessed directly from the lock screen and the volume up button can be used as a shutter trigger. The built-in gyroscope helps to stabilize the camera while recording video.
The iPhone 5 and iPhone 4S, running iOS 6 or later, have the ability to take panoramas using the built-in camera app, and the iPhone 5 also has the ability to take still photos while recording video.
For this article, I’ll talk about taking photographs with the iPhone 4S and iPhone 5.
The built in camera on the back of your iPhone, in general, gives excellent results. The front camera is pretty decent but not as good as the one on the back; remember that when you use it for self-portraits of you and your friends.
Two Bonus Hints: Hint 1 – I have to tell you that the most important thing you can do to improve the quality of your photographs is clean the camera lens! Your iPhone sits in pockets, briefcases and in general, in dusty and dirty places. Because there is no lens cover, it is really easy for the cameras on both the front and back to get filthy. So take a cloth, your shirt or a tissue and clean and polish the little lens on your iPhone whenever you shoot. It will make a huge difference in your picture quality.
Hint 2 – when you take photos or videos with your iPhone, tried to be extra steady and, if you can, hold your breath as you take the picture. I try to stay still for half a second after the shot to reduce the chance of movement that can blur the photograph. And in low light conditions, I find a wall or tree to hold my phone against to minimize camera shake.
The quickest way to start the native camera app on your iPhone is to swipe up on the camera icon when you turn your iPhone on. It’s to the right of the “slide to unlock” slider on your lock screen. Simply slide that camera icon up and the camera opens, ready to shoot. The camera opens, even if you have a passcode turned on.
You can also tap the camera icon on your screen.
Once the camera is open, you can quickly take a photo with the rear camera by tapping the camera icon at the bottom of the screen or pressing one if the volume keys; those keys work in both portrait and landscape. At the top of the screen, you have the option of turning on the flash with the left icon and selecting the front or rear camera with the right icon. You can focus the camera by tapping your subject on the screen. And at the lower right, you can select photograph or video mode.
At the top middle, there is an ‘options’ icon where you can select to turn on a grid to help you align your photos as you compose them. You also can turn on HDR (high dynamic range) and panoramic mode; both are only usable with the rear facing camera.
HDR takes a series of three images, each with a different exposure from darkest the lightest. HDR combines the best parts of the three overexposed, underexposed and balanced shots to create a dramatic image with beautiful shadowing and highlights. It works great with landscapes and closeups and in dim lighting without flash. Don’t use it for moving objects (or when you’re moving), in bright, sunlit conditions or when you want quick, successive photos. HDR saves the middle-exposed and HDR photos in your camera roll; you’ll see the little HDR overlay in the upper corner of the combined image. Of course, there are several decent HDR apps in the AppStore that give you more control. Give the iPhone HDR feature a try and have some fun with it.
With iOS 6, iPhone can take panoramic photos with the rear-facing Camera. A panoramic photo is a great way to share a sweeping shot of landscapes, a total look at a room, or to capture a huge group of friends at a table. The iPhone panorama mode is only available on the iPhone 5 and iPhone 4S so older iPhone users will need to rely on the many third-party panorama apps available in the AppStore. Here’s how to shoot a pano: Tap on the Options button in the middle top of the screen and tap on Panorama. Line up the camera and press the shutter. There is no need to hold it down.
Move the iPhone slowly and smoothly, keeping the arrow on the line (you can tap the arrow before you start so the panned photo goes the other way). This allows the iPhone to capture a collection of photos at the same level. The result a single image that’s pretty cool. Hint: Pano performance seems to work best when starting in the brightest area and moving to the darkest; while in Panorama mode the iPhone doesn’t account for changes in brightness well, so areas may be darker or brighter than expected.
The built in camera is pretty robust so get creative and give the features a try. Next month we will review some third-party apps that can help you shoot, edit and share your photographs.