How to Manually Control Your iPhone Camera (And Why You’d Want To)

How to Manually Control Your iPhone Camera (And Why You’d Want To)


One point we often return to at How-To Geek is that to take better pictures, you need to understand how to manually control your camera—even if you don’t do it for every setting or shot. Your iPhone is no exception. Unfortunately, iOS doesn’t offer manual controls in the default Camera app so we’ll need to go with a third-party app.

Apple (chasing Google) has continued to innovate and add software features to the Camera app—things like Smart HDR and Portrait Mode. These are great, but they don’t replace manual controls. For example, if you want to take photos out the window of a moving vehicle you need to set your shutter speed manually; your iPhone’s camera will almost always set it too slow to avoid motion blur. Similarly, you’ll probably want to manually control your camera at least some of the time when you’re shooting at night or when there’s a lot of contrast.

My iPhone’s camera doing its thing.

Even if you mainly let your iPhone do its thing—like me, to be honest—it’s still important to know how to control things manually to capture great pictures when you need to.

What You Can Control

Your iPhone doesn’t give you full manual control over every possible setting. In particular, the aperture and focal length of the lens are fixed to f/1.8, as well as to a full frame equivalent of 26mm (for the wide angle lens) and 51mm (for the telephoto lens). This means you have to control exposure using either shutter speed and ISO or exposure compensation.

With a good manual camera app you’ll be able to control:

You will also be able to take RAW photos, which gives you more options when you edit your images.

The Free Option: VSCO (Free)

Okay, so even though I’m “recommending” VSCO, I’m not actually recommending it unless you only need to use manual controls occasionally and don’t want to pay for that. It’s just that it’s the best free option available.

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