The beauty of the iPhone camera is that it combines the ease of use of a point-and-shoot camera with the image quality of a DSLR. To take a picture, you simply open the Camera app, frame your shot, and tap the shutter button. Simple, but what’s happening behind the scenes is anything but. The iPhone captures multiple images at once, concentrating on variables such as exposure, focus, tone, highlights, shadows, and more. It then merges all that data to produce what it thinks is the best possible image. Impressively, all this computational photography happens in real-time with no perceptible delay. (That said, iOS 15 provides a Prioritize Faster Shooting option in Settings > Camera that adapts—and presumably reduces—the image quality when you rapidly press the shutter multiple times.)
Despite all this automation, Apple still provides numerous manual controls you can employ to take photos the way you want. These controls are hidden, though, so you’re excused if you haven’t noticed them or have been frustrated looking for them. (“Where is that dratted Timer button? It must be here somewhere!”)
First, you have to reveal the controls, which is easy, although you’d never guess how. When you’re in the Camera app, swipe up anywhere on the screen above the shutter button. If you swipe up on the horizontal row of camera mode labels, your swipe can be quite short. However, if you swipe up on the viewfinder image, the Camera app might interpret a short swipe as a tap-and-swipe and display the in-image exposure control instead. On the viewfinder, use a longer, more emphatic swipe ➊. Either way, the camera controls replace the camera modes underneath the viewfinder ➋.
Once you have the controls showing, tap a button to access its options, use a slider or button to adjust the settings ➌, tap the original button to hide the options, and swipe down in the same way you swiped up to hide all the controls. The really confusing bit is that not all the controls may fit on the screen, so if you’re looking for the Timer or Filter buttons on an iPhone 13 Pro, for instance, you may have to swipe left on the controls to bring those buttons into view.
Here’s the full set—note that all except Depth (the rightmost one below) are in Photo mode; some may also appear in other modes. (Not all controls appear on all iPhone models, and the Low Light button, for instance, shows up only in low-light situations.)
Now, let’s look at what the controls make possible:
Apart from Photographic Styles, which automatically remembers your setting from session to session, the Camera app generally resets any changes you make in the next session. That’s usually what you’d want, but if you would prefer to keep a setting until you change it manually, go to Settings > Camera > Preserve Settings. That screen provides switches that tell the Camera app to preserve specific settings. Pay particular attention to Creative Controls, Exposure Adjustment, Night Mode, and Live Photo—we often make a point of using Preserve Settings with Live Photo so we don’t waste a lot of space unless we actually want to shoot a Live Photo.
In the end, it’s nice that these controls are neither necessary nor cluttering your view most of the time, but they’re extremely useful on occasion. We hope that Apple comes up with a way of hinting at their existence in future versions of iOS.
(Featured image by iStock.com/Darkdiamond67)
Social Media: Want to use a timer when taking an iPhone photo or manually control the depth of field in Portrait mode? You’ll need to reveal the Camera app’s hidden controls. Read on to find out how to show them—and what they help you do.