• Rich Engelbrecht

Cell Phone Cameras


It’s time to talk about cell phone cameras.


I am not trading in my DSLR for a cell phone, nor do I expect to anytime soon. However, for everyday photography your cell phone can take amazing pictures.

I recently upgraded my old cell phone to a new iPhone 7 plus and have found that it takes amazing images that are perfect for sharing on social media, email and even prints. Like any other camera though, you need to explore it’s capabilities, understand it’s limitations, and be able to make it do what you want it to do.

The built in camera app is versatile and has a number of modes.

There are three ways to open the camera:

  1. From the lock screen, swipe left

  2. From the main screen, tap the camera icon

  3. From the Control center, by swiping up from the bottom of the screen

Turn on the grid (two horizontal and two vertical lines that divide the screen into nine equal parts) to help you compose your image and keep things aligned vertically and horizontally. To turn on the grid, go to the Settings app, scroll down to Photos & Camera, and make sure the Grid option is turned on.

Shoot in burst mode. Burst mode is one of the most useful shooting features inside the iPhone’s camera app. It allows you to take ten photos in just one second, making it easy to capture the perfect action shot with minimal blur. Just delete the ones you don’t want. To activate burst mode, simply hold down the shutter button for half a second or longer, and the iPhone will start taking photos one after another. It’s worth using burst mode whenever there’s any movement or unpredictability inside the scene.

Set focus & exposure. If you don’t set focus and exposure, the iPhone will do it for you. Most of the time it does a fairly good job. After all, that’s how most iPhone users take all their photos. There are times, though, when auto focus fails – or when you want to focus on something other than the most obvious subject. That’s when you’ll want to set focus manually. This is very easy to do – just tap the spot on the screen where you’d like to set focus and the camera handles the rest. When you tap to set focus, check the screen to see if the brightness of the image looks good. If it looks too bright or too dark, you can adjust exposure before taking the photo. After you’ve tapped on the screen to set focus and exposure, the exposure slider with a sun icon appears. Swipe up to make the image brighter or down to make the image darker.

Take HDR photos. HDR, which stands for High Dynamic Range, is another great photography tool that’s built into the camera of your iPhone. HDR photography with the iPhone combines three different exposures of the same photo to create one properly exposed image. It’s great for high contrast scenes with bright and dark areas as it allows you to capture more detail in both the shadows and the highlights. You can find the HDR setting on the left side of the camera app. Tapping on HDR gives you three options: Auto, On or Off. In general, it’s best to use HDR for landscape photos and scenes where the sky takes up a large part of the image.

It’s also important to mention that non-HDR photos will sometimes look better than HDR ones, which is why it’s a good idea to save both versions of the photo. To make sure that both versions are saved, go to Settings > Photos & Camera, and make sure that Keep Normal Photo is turned on in the HDR section.

Shoot live photos. Live Photos is an camera feature that brings your photos to life by creating a moving image. Rather than freezing a moment in time with a still photo, a Live Photo captures the moments just before and after you take the picture. This creates a short 3-second video, complete with movement and sound.

Live Photos work particularly well when photographing moving subjects, children, or fun moments such as someone jumping into the air. It’s also great for scenes where the sound would add an extra sensory element to the image, such as birdsong or the sound of water when you’re shooting out in nature.

Live Photos is only available on the iPhone 6s/6s Plus or newer. On these phones you’ll notice a round icon next to the HDR option. To shoot a Live Photo, tap

the round icon so that it appears yellow. The camera app will now start recording video, and when you press the shutter button to take a photo, the 1.5 seconds of video before and after you took the shot will be saved – resulting in a 3-second Live Photo with movement and sound.