Hands-down, the camera is probably the thing that matters most to you about your smartphone. You may not always think about it, but chances are it’s the device feature that you use the most, even if only tangentially.
Whether you’re using it for video chats, snapping a pic, or playing around with the latest AR experience, getting the most out of your camera starts with some simple tricks.
Keep Live Photos On
I’m gonna pause while you gasp and go “But my storage! My camera roll!”
Introduced with the iPhone 6s in 2015, Live Photos are a type of dynamic photo that includes a few seconds of video, capturing the moments just before and after a photo was taken. Prior to iOS 11, yes, that meant some extra file size.
Particularly after iOS 11, though, you should really make Live Photos your default setting for shooting. Thanks to some new image compression techniques in iOS and some damn good cameras on the latest iPhones, the storage space you sacrifice for quality is less of an issue.
They may feel like a gimmick the first couple times you shoot them. Perhaps not all of them will even be compelling, but one side benefit of Live Photos? They capture the emotion behind the moment—a loved one’s voice, the moment the dog did something funny.
It’s also the best format if, like me, you have a terrible habit of squinting, sneezing, or generally looking the exact wrong way (like an idiot) right before the shutter sound. Live Photos let you edit their key still photo, preserving this setting even if you disable the animation later from your camera roll.
Stop Using Snapchat as Your Camera (Seriously)
I get it, Snapchat has some cool stuff going for its camera—its parent company, Snap, even refers to itself as a camera company—but it’s awful as a camera when it matters.
That’s not entirely Snapchat’s fault—it’s meant to do a lot of things with your photos and video across both iOS and Android. Especially on Android, that means optimizing for a lot of variation in what cameras can do.
When you aren’t just posting something to your story, when you want a memory to matter, stick to a real camera app. The degree of manual control, the quality, the automatic settings that are available to you are worth it—even if you get a white “From Camera Roll” wrapper around your snap.
Bright Ideas About Flash
You’re in a low-light scenario, do you flash? Do you leave it on automatic? What do? Earlier than an iPhone 6, probably flash. Otherwise, have you tried playing with the exposure? Tap an area in the camera’s view to focus, now slide that sun icon up or down. Does it help? While low-light performance is always an area of improvement for new devices, it’s surprising how much a quick tweak can do.
On the iPhone 8, iPhone 8 Plus and iPhone X models, new slow-sync flash automatically makes adjustments to the flash speed and temperature in-time with the moment your photo is taken, hopefully eliminating some of those washed out bar shots.
Note that this does not apply to washing out those shots you had at the bar. You’ll still feel those the next day.
Shutter Buttons and Timers are Your Friends
Did you know the volume down button on your iPhone can be used to take a picture in Camera? Yep. Since iOS 5. Using the wired headphones that came with your iPhone? Yep, volume down works there, too.
That’s not to mention timers if you’re using a tripod or a selfie stick (…why?), but a really great pro-tip? Snapping the photo or starting the timer from your Apple Watch. Sure, it’s not for every day use, but when it comes to large groups or that low-angle photography shot? Trust me.
Instagram != Post-Production
Sometimes shots need something, more often than not, that first little something isn’t an Instagram filter. Did you know you can manually adjust things like white balance, color saturation and light levels inside Photos? You can. Tap once for a slider with a preview, tap again to get fine-grained controls.
Editing in Photos also means your original shot isn’t compromised. You read that right, you can revert to the original any time—edits are non-destructive.
Not digging it? Try running your photo through Snapseed, Halide, Pixelmator, or VSCO. Many great photo editors also expose their effects right in Photos through Photos extensions—tap the three dots left of “Done” on the edit screen.
Instagram’s filters are great, and they can make for an awesome effect, but really, they were designed to hide the tons of compression Instagram used to have to do on photos from cameras that look laughably bad today.
Don’t at me, you know deep down it’s true.