6 Tips for Better iPhone Photos by

6 Tips for Better iPhone Photos


Whether you are taking vacation/travel pictures, capturing a moment for social media, or taking photos to promote your business, follow these 6 tips for better iPhone photos and make your photos shine!

As a graphic designer, I do most of my work in a Mac environment, so the following tips apply to the iPhone camera system. The images below are from the iPhone 14 Pro, but most of the settings mentioned go back quite a few models on the iPhone and should still be valid on most newer iPhones.


1. Adjust Your General Settings

As a default, newer iPhones are set up to take higher resolution, quality photos right out of the box. But there are a few tricks to help you create better images.

Format: High Efficiency vs Most Compatible: I use Most Compatible. Either one should work fine, but I have found the Most Compatible setting creates sharper images, plus it works cross-platform (Mac and PC) a little easier.

Grid: You may also find it helpful to turn on the Grid setting (a little further down the main menu) to keep your photos clean and straight.

Grid Settings on iphone

Camera Settings

From the Home Screen, go to:

Settings → Camera → Formats → Most Compatible

Settings → Camera → Grid


2. Use the Correct Camera Modes

Photo, Portrait, and Pano

iphone camera modes for photos

Photo: Photo is the standard mode that you see when you open Camera. Use Photo mode to take still photos and Live Photos.

Portrait: You don’t have to be photographing a person to use Portrait mode; it works great for food and product shots as well! This mode applies a depth-of-field effect to your photos. (Drag the Portrait Lighting control to choose a lighting effect)

  • Natural Light: The face is in sharp focus against a blurred background.
  • Studio Light: The face is brightly lit, and the photo has an overall clean look.
  • Contour Light: The face has dramatic shadows with highlights and lowlights.
  • Stage Light: The face is spotlit against a deep black background.
  • Stage Light Mono: The effect is similar to Stage Light, but the photo is in classic black and white.
  • High-Key Light Mono: Creates a grayscale subject on a white background (available on iPhone XS, iPhone XR, and later).

Pano: Capture a panoramic landscape or other scene. Start by hitting the Shutter button, then slowly move the camera in the direction of the arrow, keeping it on the center line. To finish, tap the Shutter button again.


3. Utilize Live Photo Mode

Live mode icon

A Live Photo captures what happens just before and after you take your photo. You take a Live Photo just like you do a normal one, trying to keep your hand steady for a few seconds after the photo is taken. Turn Live Photo on and off on the main Photo screen in the upper right-hand corner, looking for the icons shown above. There are quite a few fun tricks you can try using the Live Photo mode.


Add Effects to a Live Photo:

Open a Live Photo from the Photos App, tap Live in the top-left corner, then choose one of the following:

  • Live: Applies the Live video playback feature.
  • Loop: Repeats the action in a continuous looping video.
  • Bounce: Rewinds the action backward and forward.
  • Long Exposure: Simulates a DSLR-like long exposure effect by blurring motion.
  • Off: Turns off the Live video playback feature or applied effect.


Live Photo to Long Exposure Before and After Sample

Open up the Live drop down menu, change setting from Live to Long Exposure, and voilà, you have a professional-looking, frame-worthy photograph!


4. Fine-Tune and Edit Your Photo With Adjustments and Preset Filters

Not every photo you take is going to come out perfect, but the iPhone has a built-in photo editor that does a pretty good job of making the needed adjustments.

Adjustments and preset filters

Open the desired photo from the Photos App and find the “Edit” button near the top right (Sample 1). You will then have a few options to make adjustments. Under the “Filters” (Sample 2), scroll through the various options and find one that suits your needs. Or if you want to further fine-tune your image manually, look to the “Adjust” button (Sample 3). Here, you can find quite a few adjustment options by scrolling to the right. One that I like to use is the “Vibrance” button. Edging that meter to the right a bit will brighten up the most dull or washed-out photos. There is an “Un-Do” button on the top left if you go too far in one direction or another. To see the before/after adjustments, press and hold your finger on the screen for a few seconds to reveal the changes. The updates will be saved once you hit the “Done” button. Don’t worry, there is always a “Revert to Original” option if you reopen the “Edit” field.

There are also quite a few 3rd-party photo editor apps out there. I have had good results with both Snapseed and Lightroom, although both have a bit of a learning curve to find the all the buttons and features.

Snapseed and Lightroom icon

Snapseed – Free

Lightroom – Free Trial


5. Plan the Final Composition of the Photograph

  • As mentioned above, turn on the “Grid” feature in settings. It keeps the subject horizontally and vertically square in the picture frame.
  • When taking a photo, tap the screen on the item you want as the main focus. A yellow focus square with a sun on the right will appear. You can change the main focus of the photo by tapping on other objects in the picture field. You can also adjust the photo from lighter to darker if you drag the “Sun” icon up and down.
  • Leave a little extra space around the subject matter in the photo. It is easy enough to crop the photo later if needed, but impossible to back out further once the photo is taken.
  • A photo is usually more interesting when the subject is somewhat off-center (Rule of Thirds).
  • Find an interesting lead-in – something for the eye to follow to the subject, like a path, road, or line of trees.

Composition of iphone photo

6. Determine the End Use of the Photo

The iPhone is an excellent source for most photographic applications. The resolution and clarity of the photos will be perfect for websites, social media posts, wall photos, and most commercial printing (brochures, flyers, postcards, posters, etc.). The one thing that may become an issue is if you are using iPhone photography for large format images (environmental graphics, trade show booths, popup banners), where the resolution starts to become problematic. With commercial printing, the goal is to always send photographs at 300 dpi or better. Large format projects can go as low as 100-150 dpi depending on how far away the viewer is from the graphic. A standard iPhone photo sent at its “Actual Size” can go as large as 32″ x 24″ and still be 125 dpi, so it’s still possible depending on how large the final image will be. If you have questions whether your photograph will work for certain projects, reach out to your printer and they can give you the tips and help you need.

Bonus Tip: When emailing photos for online or commercial printing purposes, always choose the “Actual Size” option for best results, even if you have to email the photos one or two at a time.

Scale photos in emails

Compose email → Click on < Icon on the right to add attachments → Select photo icon → Select photo(s) you want to send → Pick “Actual Size” for the resolution.

People often think they need to have an expensive camera and tons of equipment to take great photos. When I take landscape photos, I bring my Canon Rebel T7i, and my iPhone, but I use the iPhone for a majority of my photography. However, the iPhone zoom feature really brings down the quality of the final photo, so if I need to zoom in on something more than 2x or 3x, I default to the DSLR Canon camera. And there are certain Pano shots and close-up photography I just can’t get with the Canon, so it’s good to have options. So get out there, have fun, and take LOTS of pictures! (Most people comment on how great my photos turn out, but little do they know that the five or six photos I share were dwindled down from 100 ☺)


Visit my photography portfolio at: https://toddduane.myportfolio.com/photography-1

or visit me on Instagram at: https://www.instagram.com/tzone007/