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Here’s a quick overview of how all the iPhone camera modes work, detailing what they do, what they’re for, and when you should use them…



The camera on your iPhone is a powerful tool, capable of producing stunning images that can rival those of professional cameras. Apple has massively improved the iPhone’s camera quality over the years, most notably on its Pro and Pro Max models.

One of the secrets behind its versatility is the array of different camera modes that Apple provides. If you’re a beginner, you might be slightly confused by all the different options.

Whether you’re shooting a panoramic landscape, a bustling city at night, or a quiet portrait, there’s a mode to help you capture the moment with clarity and style. And this guide will provide a brief explanation of what each camera does on your iPhone.

Once you understand all the modes, you can then start delving into more complex and nuanced iPhone camera tricks and tips.

iPhone Camera Modes

iPhone Camera Modes: A Beginner's Guide [2023 Edition]Pin

Here’s a breakdown of the various iPhone camera modes and how you can make the most of them.

Photo Mode

The standard mode for capturing still images. It automatically adjusts settings like exposure, white balance, and focus to help you take great photos in most situations.

  • Setup: No setup required. This is the default camera mode.
  • How to use: Simply open the Camera app and snap a photo by tapping the shutter button or pressing either volume button.
  • Supported on: All iPhone models.

Portrait Mode

Creates a depth-of-field effect, keeping your subject sharp while blurring the background. This mode simulates the look of professional camera lenses.

  • Setup: Open the Camera app and swipe to Portrait mode. Ensure you’re within 2-8 feet of your subject.
  • How to use: Frame your subject and wait for the “Natural Light” or “Depth Effect” banner to appear. Tap the shutter button to capture the photo.
  • Supported on: All models (after iPhone 7 Plus)

Pano Mode

Allows you to capture wide, panoramic images by stitching together multiple shots as you pan your iPhone across a scene.

  • Setup: Open the Camera app and swipe to Pano mode.
  • How to use: Tap the shutter button and slowly move your iPhone in the direction of the arrow, keeping the arrow centered on the line. Tap the shutter button again to stop capturing.
  • Supported on: All iPhone models.

Square Mode

Allows you to capture wide, panoramic images by stitching together multiple shots as you pan your iPhone across a scene.

  • Setup: Open the Camera app and swipe to Square mode.
  • How to use: Frame your shot and tap the shutter button.
  • Supported on: All iPhone models.

Video Mode

Records moving images in various resolutions and frame rates. You can capture regular video, slow-motion video, or fast-forward video (time-lapse).

  • Setup: Open the Camera app and swipe to Video mode. Tap the resolution and frame rate at the top of the screen to adjust settings.
  • How to use: Tap the record button to start and stop recording.
  • Supported on: All iPhone models.

Night Mode

Uses advanced algorithms to capture brighter, clearer photos in low-light conditions by taking multiple images over a longer exposure time.

  • Setup: No setup required. Night mode automatically activates in low-light conditions.
  • How to use: If Night mode is suggested, tap the Night mode icon and adjust the exposure time using the slider. Tap the shutter button and hold your iPhone steady for the duration of the exposure.
  • Supported on: All iPhone models (from iPhone 11 onwards).

Time-Lapse Mode

Automatically captures images at dynamic intervals and stitches them together into a short, sped-up video that shows motion over an extended period.

  • Setup: Open the Camera app and swipe to Time-Lapse mode.
  • How to use: Tap the record button to start and stop recording. Keep your iPhone steady or use a tripod for best results.
  • Supported on: All iPhone models.

Burst Mode

Captures multiple photos in rapid succession, allowing you to choose the best shots from a fast-moving subject or action scene.

  • Setup: No setup required.
  • How to use: In Photo mode, hold down the shutter button to take a burst of photos. Release the button to stop.
  • Supported on: All iPhone models.

Live Photo Mode

Records a 1.5-second moving image (with sound) along with your still photo, bringing your memories to life. You can apply various effects to your Live Photos.

  • Setup: In Photo mode, ensure the Live Photo icon (concentric circles) is yellow. Tap it to turn Live Photos on or off.
  • How to use: Tap the shutter button to capture a Live Photo. To apply effects, open the photo in the Photos app, swipe up, and choose Loop, Bounce, or Long Exposure.
  • Supported on: iPhone 6s and later.

ProRAW Mode

Captures images in a high-quality RAW format, which retains more data from the camera sensor. This allows for more advanced editing capabilities in post-processing.

  • Setup: Go to Settings > Camera > Formats and turn on Apple ProRAW. In the Camera app, tap the RAW icon to enable ProRAW for the next capture.
  • How to use: Frame your shot and tap the shutter button. ProRAW photos are saved in the Photos app alongside your standard photos.
  • Supported on: All Pro / Pro Max models from iPhone 12 Pro onwards

How To Improve iPhone Photography

iPhone Photo Academy ReviewPin

If you’d like a broader overview of getting started with iPhone photography, check out our dedicated iPhone Camera Features and Settings Tutorial – it covers all the basics in lots of detail.

Or to 10x your iPhone photo skills, check out this epic online course – it’s got 84% off at the moment.

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