iPhone Camera Settings, Explained!

You want to become a better iPhone photographer, but you’re not sure where to start. There are many great iPhone Camera features hidden away in Settings. In this article, I’ll tell you about the essential iPhone Camera settings!

Preserve Camera Settings

Do you get tired of having to select your preferred settings every time you open Camera? There’s an easy fix for that!

Open Settings and tap Camera -> Preserve Settings. Turn on the switch next to Camera Mode. This will preserve the last Camera mode you used, such as Video, Pano, or Portrait.

preserve camera mode iphone

Next, turn on the switch next to Live Photo. This preserves the Live Photo setting in Camera, rather than resetting it to on every time you reopen the app.

Live Photos are neat, but they don’t have a lot of uses. Live Photos are also significantly larger files than regular photos, so they’ll eat up a lot of iPhone storage space.

preserve live photo settings on iphone

Set Video Quality

New iPhones are capable of recording movie-quality videos. However, in order to record the highest quality videos, you’ll have to preselect the video quality in Settings.

Open Settings and tap Camera -> Record Video. Select the video quality you’d like to record at. I have my iPhone 11 set to 4K at 60 frames per second (fps), the highest quality available.

Keep in mind that higher-quality videos will take up more space on your iPhone. For example, 1080p HD video at 60 fps is very high-quality, and those files will be less than 25% the size of a 4K video at 60 fps.

record video quality on iphone

Turn On Scan QR Codes

QR codes are a type of matrix bar code. They have a lot of different uses, but most of the time a website or app will open when you scan a QR code using your iPhone.

turn on scan qr codes

Add QR Code Scanner To Control Center

You can add a QR code scanner to Control Center to save a little time!

Open Settings and tap Control Center -> Customize Controls. Tap the green plus next to QR Code Reader to add it to Control Center.

add qr code reader to control center

Now that QR Code Reader has been added to Control Center, swipe down from the upper right-hand corner of the screen (iPhone X or newer) or swipe up from the very bottom of the screen (iPhone 8 and older). Tap the QR Code Reader icon and scan the code!

qr code reader icon control center

Turn On High Efficiency Camera Capture

Switching the Camera capture format to High Efficiency will help reduce the file size of the photos and videos you take with your iPhone.

Open Settings and tap Camera -> Formats. Tap on High Efficiency to select it. You’ll know High Efficiency has been selected when a small blue check appears to its right.

turn on high efficiency camera capture

Turn On Camera Grid

The camera grid is helpful for a couple different reasons. If you’re a casual photographer, the grid will help you center your photos and videos. For more advanced photographers, the grid will help you abide by the rule of thirds, a set of composition guidelines that will help make your photos more appealing.

Open Settings and tap Camera. Tap the switch next to Grid to turn on the camera grid. You’ll know the switch is on when it’s green.

turn on iphone camera grid

Turn On Camera Locations Services For Geotagging

Your iPhone can geotag your images and automatically create folders of images based on where you took them. All you have to do is let Camera access your location while using the app. This feature is especially handy when you’re on a family vacation!

Open Settings and tap Privacy. Then, tap Location Services -> Camera. Tap While Using the App to let Camera access your location when you’re using it.

turn on locations services for camera

Any photos you take using Camera will be automatically sorted in the Places album in Photos. If you tap on Places in Photos, you’ll see your pictures and videos sorted by location on a map.

places folder in photos

Turn On Smart HDR

Smart HDR (High Dynamic Range) is a newer iPhone feature that blends different parts of separate exposures to compose a single photo. Essentially, it’ll help you take better photos on your iPhone. This feature is only available on the iPhone XS, XS Max, XR, 11, 11 Pro, and 11 Pro Max.

Open Settings and tap Camera. Scroll down and turn on the switch next to Smart HDR. You’ll know it’s on when the switch is green.

turn on smart hdr

Turn On Every Composition Setting

Newer iPhones support three Composition settings that capture the area just outside the frame to help improve the overall composition of photos and videos. We recommend turning them all on, as they’ll help you take higher quality photos and videos.

Open Settings and tap Camera. Turn on the switches next to the three settings underneath Composition.

turn on iphone composition settings

Other iPhone Camera Tips

Now that you’ve set up Camera settings to take the best photos and videos possible, we want to share a few of our favorite iPhone Camera tips.

Take Photos Using The Volume Button

Did you know that you can use either volume button as a camera shutter? We prefer this method over tapping the virtual shutter button for a couple of reasons.

First, if you miss the virtual button, you may accidentally change the camera’s focus. This can result in blurry  photos and videos. Second, the volume buttons are easier to press, especially when you’re taking landscape photos.

Check out our YouTube video to see this tip in action!

Set The Timer On Your iPhone Camera

To set the timer on your iPhone, open Camera and swipe up from just above the virtual shutter button. Tap the Timer icon, then select 3 seconds or 10 seconds.

turn on iphone camera timer

When you tap the shutter button, it’ll delay three or ten seconds before taking the picture.

How To Lock Camera Focus

By default, the focus of the iPhone camera isn’t locked. Auto-focus will often readjust the focus of the camera, especially if someone or something within the frame moves.

To lock the focus, open Camera and press and hold on the screen. You’ll know the focus is locked when AE/AF Lock appears on the screen.

lock focus on iphone

The Best iPhone Camera

To really take your iPhone photography skills to the next level, you might want to consider getting a new iPhone. Apple marketed the iPhone 11 Pro and iPhone 11 Pro Max as phones capable of recording professional-quality movies.

They weren’t lying! Directors have already begun shooting films on iPhones.

These new iPhones are equipped with a third, Ultra Wide lens, which is really great when you’re trying to capture an image or video of a scenic landscape. They also support Night Mode, which helps you take better photos in dimly lit environments.

We put the iPhone 11 Pro camera to the test and were very happy with the results!

Lights, Camera, Action!

You’re now an iPhone Camera expert! We hope you’ll share this article on social media to teach your friends and family about these iPhone Camera settings. Leave a comment down below with any other questions about your iPhone.

About Author

David Lynch is an expert on cell phones, cell phone plans, and other tech. After using a flip phone into his early 20s, he learned the ropes about iPhones and Androids from a former Apple employee. Today, his articles and videos are read and viewed by millions, and he has been cited by major publications including Reader's Digest, Wired, CMSWire, Consumers Advocate, and more.

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