How to make awesome pictures with your iPhone

The built-in camera of the iPhone is evolving quickly, from the 2-megapixel camera with limited features in the first generation iPhone, to the advanced 8-megapixel camera we have now on the iPhone 4S. And who knows what the next generation iPhone will bring us.

Technical specifications of the iPhone 4S camera

The iPhone 4S, for example, has an eight-megapixel camera. That means the camera will capture an image of 3265 x 2448 pixels in size. That is more than enough to print a high quality picture on a full A4 paper.

The hardware is also equipped with a, infrared filter to produce more accurate colors and, in combination with the software, an optimized dynamic range and white-balance.

Phil Schiller presented the camera-hardware last year as an strongly enhanced version of the iPhone 4 camera: A 5-element lens, 30% more sharpness and an aperture of F/2.4.

These specs are all of reasonable quality, especially fitted to make snap-shots.

Different ways to access the camera

After the introduction of iOS 5, Apple made it easier and quicker to activate the camera-app, even if you have protected your iPhone with a password.


Different ways to access the camera

Quick access to the camera-app from standby-mode:

  • Click on the home-button, like you always do when you want to activate the iPhone
  • You can find the camera-button at the right of the slider. Slide it upwards!
  • That’s it! You can take a picture now, regardless of passwords or other protection.

Normal access to the camera-app:

  • Tap on the icon of the camera-app, somewhere on your home-screen.

How to take a picture

Taking a picture is quite simple. There are three ways to do this, depending on what you find handy to use.

  • In the touchscreen, tap on the big button with the camera-icon
  • The ‘volume up’ button can also be used as the camera-button
  • If you have a headset attached to your iPhone with a ‘volume-up’ button, you can use this to make pictures remotely!

Adding tags with GPS information

If you launch your camera app for the first time, a message box will appear asking you permission to use your location. If you agree, your iPhone will store the GPS-coordinates with every picture you take. This can be a great feature if you want to track all your holiday-pictures.

Adding tags with GPS information

Whatever you choose, you can always change this again in the settings app: Go to ‘settings’, Location Services and toggle the slider for the camera on or off.

The zoom & macro feature

The zoom function of the camera is not one of the best features, since it is a digital zoom. It significantly lowers your number of pixels! But if you really want to use it:

  • With your thumb and index finger on the screen, pinch them together to zoom in. Spread them apart to zoom out. A slider will appear on the lower part of the screen to give you information about this.

The zoom & macro feature

There is no specific macro-button. The camera-app will adjust this automatically. Just bring the iPhone close to the object and take the picture.

Auto-exposure and auto-focus

The camera has an automated focus, facial recognition and exposure. This ensures you to take the best picture possible, regarding the circumstances. The camera chooses a detected face or something else in the foreground to adjust the settings. If you want the camera to focus on another object:

  • Tap in the screen on the object you want to focus at.

The app will automatically refocus and re-balance the exposure for the new area.

Using the built-in flash

The build in flash is not the best there is, but it can surely be helpful when there are no other light sources. But the best pictures are taken in proper daylight!

To (de-)activate the flash in the live view screen:

  • Tap on the Flash button
  • Choose one of the options: On, Off or Auto.

The rule of thirds

To help you in the composition of your image, you can activate the grid: 4 lines that divide the screen in 9 equal parts. This will help you to use the rule of thirds.

The rule of thirds

The rule of thirds is based on the principle that a picture is more interesting if the main-element(s) of the image are placed on one of the gridlines or their intersections. In the example, I put the bottle of wine on the left vertical line.


The rule of thirds


Have a look at the results

Al the pictures you take, are stored in the camera-roll. There are two ways to access this:

  • From the Camera-app: tap on the thumbnail button on the left-lower side of the screen.
  • From the Photos-App: tap on the camera roll tab.


The built-in camera app is a good way to start, but there are some alternatives available in the App Store. They provide more and better features than the standard app. The most popular for this moment are Instagram and Camera+.

Search for them in the App Store and find out if those apps fit with your purposes.

Now you have a basic idea what it is all about. Go out and shoot lots of pictures. Do not hesitate to experiment with settings and compositions. Practice is the secret to success!


  1. Ed S says

    Another tip: if you want to edit a picture on your phone to email from your mac, use Preview app on your Mac to access. Connect your iPhone (usb cable) and access your camera roll from Preview. Under File menu, Import from “user’s named” iphone is available. I don’t like iPhoto cataloging nor iTunes for a quick and dirty edit (in Photoshop) to send off to someone. So I just connect, open Preview, find the image (I can import one or many, and even remove/delete) and save to desktop (or other folder) to edit.

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