7 iPhone photo editing tips and tricks you might not know you can

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Increasingly digital age, it’s amazing what our phones can do. Not only do these little gadgets have incredible capacity for all of our photos, texts, calls, and social media apps, the cameras are no joke either. In fact, the latest iPhones, the iPhone 13 Pro and 13 Pro Max, have a triple-camera 12-megapixel camera system all in the palm of your hand.

You no longer need a bulky Nikon or Canon camera to create stunning work.

However, if you don’t know where to start, you are definitely not alone. Just because you’ve got fancy cameras and settings hooked up to your iPhone doesn’t mean that understanding how they work and putting them into action is a piece of cake. Below are tips and tricks you can perform with one (or two) fingertip touch.

1. Turn on the grid in your viewfinder

According to Greg McMillan, a longtime “iPhoneographer” and host of “The iPhoneography Podcast”, the activated grid setting is one of the most important tools for creating a balanced photo.

“I always turned that on because it helps me keep the camera level so I don’t end up with a crooked photo,” McMillan said. “I firmly believe that my photos have a level horizon.”

This is an option that you need to enable in your iPhone’s Settings app. Scroll down to Camera, then turn on the Grid switch in the Composition section.

“The grid is a great tool to help with composition,” noted McMillan. Composition is essentially a fancy word for how you arrange the elements of the photo that your eye is drawn to. The grid option divides the camera view into thirds both vertically and horizontally.

Jane Goodrich, Director Picselloa brand for photography companies, recommended remembering the rule of thirds, which states that when a photo is evenly divided into horizontal and vertical thirds, subjects look best when placed at the intersection of the dividing lines.

“Every point where the lines intersect is where you want to place your subject within the frame,” McMillan said, noting that this ultimately creates a more aesthetically pleasing photo.

2. Tap to set (and also lock) focus and exposure

McMillan explained that focus and exposure levels are essential for a good photo.

“As you compose your image, tap the screen where you want your focus and a yellow square will appear to show you the focus point,” he said. “This also sets the exposure.”

Once you’ve set your focus, you can drag your finger up to increase exposure (to brighten the image) or down to decrease it (to darken it).

The focus of your image is the main subject. Whether you’re taking a photo of a sunset, a waterfall, or a person, you want to make sure the eye is naturally drawn to it. According to the rule of thirds above, you should place your focus anywhere near the bottom, top, left, or right third of your image.

McMillan pointed out that you can also lock your focus and exposure in the camera app, which is especially helpful for “those times when you’re trying to get things done [your] Focus and then move the camera to recompose your photo without worrying about refocusing.”

To do this, tap and hold on the focus point and the yellow square will blink a few times at the top of the screen. A yellow indicator will then appear with the words “AE/AF LOCK” to indicate that the focus and exposure are locked.

3. Look at the wide-angle lens

Maria Pereza Senior Video Producer at B&H Photo Video, has found through her experience that perspective and composition can really make or break a photo.

“Mobile cameras have so many great features that help with framing your composition,” she said.

On iPhone, the wide-angle lens (the 0.5x perspective option you see every time you open your camera) can help you capture a subject super wide.

Portrait mode, which you can find by swiping once for the photo option at the bottom of the camera app, allows you to take photos with a sharp focus on the subject and a blurred background.

These two built-in composition options help change perspective and depth of field.

Goodrich also noted that it’s important not to capture too many things in your photo. “Leave blank or negative space around your subject,” she said. “Give your subject space in the photo.”

4. Use burst mode for group photos (and live mode too)

Aside from the relatively obvious portrait and movie modes available in the camera app, McMillan suggested playing around with other options like burst mode or Live Photos.

Burst mode was originally developed to help users capture action photos by capturing a multiple sequence of a scene. However, McMillan noted that it’s also a great tool for taking group photos. He advised turning on the feature that lets you use burst mode by pressing your phone’s volume up button, which makes it easier for you to access burst mode at the moment.

“This needs to be enabled in the same camera settings app. go to settings, [then] camera and turn on “volume up for burst,” he said. With this option enabled, you can take burst photos just by clicking the volume up button on the left side of your iPhone.

Live photos are another fun camera feature. They capture everything that happens 1.5 seconds before and after the shot.

There are three ways to edit Live Photos, McMillan explained:

  • Looping: “Your Live Photo plays like a video for 3 seconds and then loops continuously.”
  • Bounce: It “plays the video, but at the end of the three seconds it goes backwards to the beginning and repeats the process.”
  • Long Exposure: This is “the most popular choice, and [is] Commonly used when taking a Live Photo [things like] flowing water because it gives it that smooth, hazy look that a lot of photographers like when photographing waterfalls.”

5. Use the Magic Wand Tool

There are many different adjustments available in the photo editing suite. The Auto magic wand tool in particular is a good place to start, as it uses artificial intelligence to figure out the best settings for the image.

“As soon as you tap the wand, you see where some of the icons have been adjusted,” McMillan said. “If their respective features have been decreased, the circle will show how far it has been moved, and if the feature has been increased, the circle and the number within it will turn yellow.”

He also noted that these default settings are a good way to play around with iPhone editing.

“You can experiment with each adjustment by selecting it and moving your finger back and forth while looking at the photo to see how it changes the look,” he explained. “[If you] Go through them all to find your favorite adjustments, you’ll be able to step through an edit pretty quickly.”

6. If you don’t succeed at first, use the straighten function

The straighten tool sits next to two options that allow you to adjust horizontal and vertical perspectives.

Even with the grid function enabled when taking a photo, it can be difficult to get a perfectly straight image. Good thing there’s a setting for that!

Within the adjustments located below your image after you click edit, you can straighten your image by tapping on the third setting (the box with arrows around it). From there, you can swipe left or right to shift perspective in a specific way. The other two options within the Orientation adjustment allow you to skew the photo either vertically or horizontally.

“This is effective when you’re taking pictures of buildings or tall trees that you want to look less distorted,” McMillan said.

7. Adjust exposure, highlights and shadows

While there are pre-made filters that can be used in the Photos app, Perez has found that “it’s best to use the various switches provided to really customize the look you want”. She realized that one filter doesn’t work for everything because not all photos are the same.

To increase or decrease exposure, slide to the second available setting under the adjustment tool. Depending on where you start your photo, you can lighten or darken it a bit, but avoid adjusting it to a lot of. “That’s because it can lower the quality of your photo and make it grainy,” Perez said.

Meanwhile, the highlights are the fourth switch on the setting bar. The highlights in an image are the lightest colors, and increasing the range of highlights and shadows (the darkest parts) can make a photo look more dynamic. You can darken the highlights by sliding to the left, or lighten them by sliding to the right.

Finally, shadows, which are literally the areas where there is no light, can contribute to greater contrast in your photo. To play around with this feature, slide to the fifth setting on the toolbar. As with the Highlights option, slide left to darken your shadows or right to lighten them.

“Exposure, highlights, and shadows are what really bring out the best in your photo, no matter what you’re using,” Perez said.

Conclusion: Experiment, get to know your technique and take lots of pictures.

Aside from using any editing or camera tool available on the iPhone, the best way to capture great images is to experiment.

“Take lots of photos,” McMillan recommended. “You can always delete the ones you don’t like – in the digital age we don’t have to worry about using a limited supply of film [like in] the old days The more you shoot, the better you get.”

McMillan also advised using social media and photo sharing sites like Flickr, Unsplash, and Glass as sources of inspiration.

“Perhaps you are drawn to a certain style of photography [you can] Follow these photographers and ask them how they shot or edited them,” he said. “The mobile photography community is full of people who want to learn more and people who love to teach and help.”

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