How to Take Great Photos With Apple’s iPhone 11 Pro
You can snap tons of cool pictures with the iPhone 11 Pro’s powerful camera and telephoto lens, while taking advantage of features like Night Mode and QuickTake. Give your photography skills a boost with these features.
Updated February 24, 2020
Apple’s iPhones take high-quality snapshots and selfies out of the box, but there are a slew of advanced features and picture-taking tricks on Apple’s high-end smartphones.
The iPhone XS boasted rear dual 12-megapixel wide-angle and telephoto lenses, and with the iPhone 11 Pro and Pro Max, Apple adds a third rear lens and 12MP TrueDepth camera with 4K video recording up to 60fps, among other perks. Below we’ll highlight some of the top features you should check out on Apple’s newest iPhone. Some tricks also work on older iPhones, which we’ll note where applicable.
Open the Camera app, and you’ll see several options for photos and videos, like Time-Lapse, Slow-Mo, Video, Photo, Portrait, and Pano. By default, the app opens in Photo; scroll back and forth through the different modes.
- Time-Lapse lets you shoot videos that speed up the action when you play them back. Capture storm clouds rolling in, your progress as you get your hair done, or a drive on a winding road, for example. On the rear-facing camera, tap 0.5 for an ultra-wide view or 2 to zoom in.
- Slow-Mo, meanwhile, slows down the action and also supports ultra-wide view and 2x zoom. Use the front-facing camera to take a “Slofie.”
- Pano lets you capture a panoramic picture by slowly moving your phone along a wide scene at 0.5x, 1x, or 2x. Everything is then compiled into one extended photo.
- Up top, tap the upward-facing arrow to turn the flash and Live Photos on or off, set a timer, add filters, or change the aspect ratio (iPhone 11 now supports 16:9).
The iPhone 11 line comes with a new camera feature called QuickTake. While in Camera mode, press and hold the shutter (or volume) button to instantly start taking video. To free up your finger without stopping the video, slide the shutter button to the right, then release it. In video mode, you can also use the shutter button to take still images while recording video. To take a burst shot, open photo mode, and slide the shutter to the left; a counter will tell you how many shots your phone captured.
Adjust Resolution and Frame Rate
To adjust the resolution and frame rate of a video on iPhone 11, tap the options on the top right to toggle between HD or 4K and 24, 30, or 60 frames per second. Or open Settings > Camera > Record Video, where you can opt to shoot 720p, 1080p, or 4K video at various frames per second. The settings show you how big a file you get with each minute of video at different qualities.
If you’re recording video at 30fps, you get an extra option of Auto Low Light FPS, which automatically slows the frame rate to 24 frames in low-light conditions. On iPhone 11, you can also turn on Lock Camera so your phone doesn’t switch between the different camera lenses while you’re shooting video.
You can also select Record Slo-mo to change frame rates for slow motion video—either 120 or 240fps at 1080p.
Ready for Your Close-Up?
On the front-facing camera, switch between a standard shot and a wide-angle shot by pressing the button with the outward/inward-facing arrows. The rear-facing camera will be set to 1x zoom with the standard wide angle lens by default. You can pinch to zoom in or out, or tap 0.5x for the ultra wide angle lens and 2x to zoom in. If these default settings aren’t enough for you, press and hold one of the preset zoom icons to access the wheel zoom tool. Here, you can manually zoom by dragging your finger anywhere between 0.5x and 10x on the dial.
Portrait mode allows you to take studio-quality portraits on iPhone 7 Plus, 8 Plus, X, XS Max, XS, XR, and the iPhone 11 lineup. It does this by taking a highly detailed image of your subject in the foreground while keeping the background softer and out of focus. As you line up your shot, the app will offer guidelines and suggestions to help you better frame the subject.
Once you have your subject in view, swipe through the different lighting effects to preview them. These images can be further adjusted by tapping on the light and depth icons in the top-right corner and manually adjusting the slider. Snapping Portrait shots with the wide (1x) lens is the big upgrade on the iPhone 11 Pro. The iPhone XR could do it with its single lens, but only with people. The 11 Pro will snap wide Portrait shots of inanimate objects too.
You can take a picture in Portrait mode, then apply a different effect to the photo in the Photos app. Choose a picture from your camera library. The photo will display the word Portrait at the top to indicate that you shot it in Portrait mode. Tap Edit. Tap the lighting effect icon in the top left to browse through the effects again and choose something different. You can also tap the depth icon to change the the focus of the background.
The iPhone 11 introduces a new feature called Night mode, which allows the device to take high-quality photos in low-light conditions. You don’t even have to do anything to activate Night mode; if the iPhone detects low light, a moon-shaped icon will appear on the screen indicating that Night mode is on.
To take pictures in low-light situations, the phone extends the shutter for several seconds longer than normal. This ensures that the lens brings in the right amount of light to get a better image. The number next to the icon indicates how long you need to hold the phone in place before the camera takes the picture.
The one thing you can adjust with Night mode is how long the shutter will stay open. Tap the Night mode icon and you can manually set the time in seconds on the slider. Scroll all the way to zero if you want to turn Night mode off entirely.
Live Photos adds motion to your otherwise-still images, and is supported on iPhone 6s and above. After taking a photo, though, you can determine how that motion will be used. In your Camera Roll, find the Live Photo you want to adjust, and swipe up to select your desired effect. Loop will allow the video to loop endlessly, Bounce takes a page from Instagram’s Boomerang to bounce back and forth, while Long Exposure adds SLR-like effects to photos.
To edit a Live Photo, open the image in your camera roll and tap Edit. Choose the Live icon (which looks like a bull’s eye) and use the slider to choose a start and end point. When you find your desired frame, tap Make Key Photo and that will become your still image. Edits are nondestructive, so you can go back and give a photo a completely different look if you end up not liking your first take. Just tap into the photo in question and select “Revert.”
Live Photos do eat into your phone storage, however. To turn them off, tap the Live Photos icon in the top-right corner of the Camera app.
The Photos app has always provided basic features and functionality, but iOS 13 adds new and improved ways to work with your photos and videos. To edit a photo, tap the Edit link in the upper right. The Adjustment option will be selected by default, which is the first icon on the bottom toolbar. Tap the Auto button in the center to automatically adjust your photo’s exposure, brilliance, and other attributes. You can then adjust everything at once by moving the slider bar to the right or left.
If you prefer to adjust each attribute separately, tap the appropriate icon to edit exposure, brilliance, highlights, shadows, contrast, brightness, black point, saturation, vibrancy, warmth, tint, sharpness, definition, noise reduction, and vignette. When you pick an attribute, move the slider bar left or right to make adjustments.
To crop, tap the last option on the bottom toolbar, and drag the highlighted corners until only what you want to keep is visible. Directly below the image are three icons with a slider bar underneath. Tap the first icon to tilt the image, the second to change the vertical perspective, and the last icon to change the horizontal perspective. After making a selection, drag the slider bar to the left or right.To change an image orientation, tap the first icon in the top-left corner to flip the image horizontally; tap the second icon to rotate the image. The square icon in the top-left corner controls the aspect ratio of the image, which you can choose below the image.
Add or Remove Filters
With iPhone, you can apply a filter before or after you snap a photo on devices going back several generations. To pick one before you take a photo, tap the filter icon on the top right (it looks like three overlapping circles) and scroll through the various options. To apply a filter after you take a photo, open it up, tap Edit, and select the Filter icon. You can then select a different filter, edit the intensity, or remove it entirely. You could, for example, shoot a photo in black and white and switch to color while editing.
If you find yourself applying and reapplying the same filters, aspect ratios, or light and depth settings, these presets can be locked. Go to Settings > Camera > Preserve Settings and turn on the switch next to Creative Control.
Deep Fusion vs. Smart HDR
With the HDR (high dynamic range) feature, your iPhone takes multiple photos in rapid succession at different exposures and blends them together to add more highlight and shadow detail to your photos. This can make for nicer photos, but like Live Photos, it takes up room on your device. To control it manually, go to Settings > Camera > Smart HDR and toggle it off (on iPhone XS, XS Max, XR, and 11). On iPhone X, iPhone 8, and iPhone 8 Plus, go to Settings > Camera > Auto HDR. You can then turn it on from the Camera app manually when needed.
Deep Fusion, meanwhile, takes nine images before you tap the shutter button and stitches them together with the iPhone’s neural engine. It’s available on iPhone 11 devices with iOS 13.2+ installed, and you don’t have to do anything to activate it. Though, as iMore.com notes, it won’t work if you have the “Capture Outside the Frame” setting turned on. This feature captures content outside of your camera’s frame, but appears when you use the crop, straighten, and perspective tools while editing in the Photos app.
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Surviving a long and varied career in publishing, advertising, and IT, Lance Whitney now wears a few different technology hats. By day, he’s a journalist, software trainer, and sometime Web developer. By night, he’s asleep. These days, he writes news stories, columns, and reviews for CNET and other technology sites and publications. He’s written two books for Wiley & Sons: Windows 8 Five Minutes at a Time in 2012, and Teach Yourself VISUALLY LinkedIn in 2014. Contact Lance via Facebook, Twitter, or LinkedIn.
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