The Best iPhone Camera App for Photographers

by Jan 15, 2024Photography Blog

Robin Whalley Landscape Photographer

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The Best iPhone Camera App for Photographers

If you’ve been following Lenscraft for a few months, you may know I’ve become a huge fan of iPhone photography. I’m quite amazed at how much detail even a basic iPhone like my 2nd generation iPhone SE can capture. Because of this, I’ve begun to investigate some of the camera apps that are available for the iPhone. While there are many, I’ve found that one app has continually captured excellent photos. It’s done this in a wide range of situations and without me needing to fiddle around with settings.

What is it?

The Standard iPhone Camera App

This is the standard camera app that Apple includes for free with the iPhone. Depending on your iPhone model, you may find that it has different features and capabilities from those mentioned in this article. But as I have the simplest of iPhones, the iPhone SE, I’m sure most of you will see the features that I do.

What I like most about the standard Camera app on the iPhone is the ease of use. By this, I mean that you can take a photograph with it in most situations, and it allows you to concentrate on the photo, not the settings. It will also produce a good, often great, result when other camera apps won’t. You just point and shoot; the software takes care of the rest.

I learned this lesson well on a recent trip to Dubai, where I tried to shoot using an advanced camera app to capture this scene.

iPhone SE Camera App example photo of Dubai at night. Arguably the best camera app for the iPhone
I quickly found that I struggled to capture an acceptable image using my other camera apps. Most were blurry due to camera shake, and I struggled to find the settings I wanted to use. But with the standard iPhone Camera app, every shot was usable. I would point the camera, compose the photo, and take the shot. The software and iPhone did the rest. I didn’t need to think about anything.

What About Image Quality?

Now, you might be wondering about the quality of a photo like the one above. The settings, after all, are a shutter speed of 1/25 second at f/1.8 and ISO640. Well, I’ve already mentioned that the image isn’t blurry, so 1/25 second is clearly enough. Depth of field certainly isn’t an issue either, despite the aperture being only f/1.8. Everything in this scene is focused at infinity.

Although the noise was reasonably controlled by the iPhone, despite the ISO640 setting, I also ran the image through my Topaz Photo AI software.  This produced an excellent, clean image, which I could also enlarge for printing if I wanted to.

Topaz AI is difficult to beat if you want to make large prints of your iPhone photos, as I explained in a recent article. And if you are wondering just how large a print you can make from an iPhone image, read this article where I make some huge iPhone enlargements.

Other iPhone Camera App Features

So far, I’ve talked generally about the Photo mode on the iPhone Camera App, but there are other modes as well. You will find these modes at the bottom of the interface when you open the app. You can see them indicated in the following screenshot.

Photography modes on the iPhone Camera App
The Photo mode is a general mode that works well for most subjects. Then to the right is the Portrait mode. This is excellent for photos of people and allows you to blur away any distracting background. Finally, to the right of the Portrait mode, we see the Pano mode.

You can use the Pano mode to capture a wide or tall scene beyond the camera’s field of view. Press the shutter once to start the capture. You can then pan the iPhone from left to right or bottom to top. As you do this, the iPhone takes photos and stitches them together to produce a panorama like the one below.

Panoramic photo produced by the Standard iPhone Camera App
Despite this being something that many photographers take for granted, it isn’t a feature you find on every camera app for the iPhone. If you like photographing panoramas as I do, the standard iPhone Camera app is hard to beat.

“Hidden” iPhone Camera App Features

Now, not every feature of the iPhone Camera app is easy to find. It has some great features tucked away to simplify the process of taking photos. One “hidden” feature that I particularly like is shooting in monochrome. Here’s an example which I captured using my favourite Noir setting.

The iPhone Camera App can produce excellent black and white photos
The Noir filter is one of three monochrome settings on my iPhone, which produce amazing black-and-white photos.

To access this feature, click the small upward-pointing chevron at the centre top of the app display. You can see this indicated in the following left screenshot of my iPhone.

Features of the iPhone standard camera app
This reveals a set of controls many users miss, which can be seen in the right image of the two. To the far right of these is an icon showing three overlapping circles. Click this to display the filters you can apply to the camera app, including the Noir filter used for the previous image. The display for the camera app then uses and captures photos with that filter.

More “Hidden” Features

Now, let’s go back to the row of icons you can see in the screenshot above. Running from left to right, the icons are:

  • Flash mode.
  • Live mode.
  • Aspect ratio
  • Exposure
  • Delayed shutter release.
  • Filters

You will also find that switching the camera app to the Portrait mode rather than the standard Photo mode will show different icons.

If you look at the screenshot of my iPhone Camera App, you will see that the Live Mode option is set. This means that when I take a photograph with my iPhone, the Camera App begins recording before I press the shutter button.

If your iPhone has this feature turned on, you may have noticed images seem to move for a split second when you first view them. Most photographers view this as a gimmick, but it can be useful when editing. Here’s an example.

Long Exposures image captured with the iPhone Camera App

Compare the waterfall in the two images. The one on the left is frozen, as you would expect when taking a photo with an iPhone. But look at the one on the right. It’s blurred, like you would see in a long exposure.

This is possible because the image was captured using Live Mode. It captured approximately 1.5 seconds before and after the shutter button was pressed. These images can then be combined to produce the long exposure effect you see in the second image.

Summary of The Best iPhone Camera App

I hope I’ve demonstrated in this short article that the humble iPhone Camera App is one to be used. It shouldn’t be discarded just because it comes free with your iPhone. It’s certainly capable of producing some impressive photography.

Now, one question you may have left is, “How on earth did he produce the long exposure image?”. To answer that you need to read this next article about Long Exposure Photography on the iPhone.

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