Before you go forth on an adventure with the best smartphone cameras (for now), we’ve got a couple of tips and tricks that’ll help because the Camera app’s changed a little bit. Some things have moved around and there are a few hidden settings you may not be aware of.
1. Go ultra wide
Both the iPhone 11 and 11 Pro have new ultra-wide cameras on the back. The 12-megapixel (f/2.2) camera is equivalent to a 13mm DSLR lens and has a 120-degree field of view, which is capable of fitting A LOT more in a shot.
Check it out:
Shooting with the ultra-wide lens is easy: on iPhone 11, tap the 1x button to switch to the 0.5x ultra-wide lens and on iPhone 11 Pro, just hit the 0.5x button.
2. Ultra-wide panoramas
The ultra-wide camera also works for panoramas. Ultra-wide panoramas are way more distorted than with the wide lens, but, hey, if you want to do it, you can.
3. Smarter selfies
The iPhone 11 and 11 Pro both come with 12-megapixel front-facing cameras. However, you don’t always get 12 megapixels for every selfie.
By default, if you hold your iPhone 11 vertically, the image sensor zooms in to take a 7-megapixel selfie. Tap the expand button on the screen to zoom out for the full 12-megapixel camera.
Rotate your iPhone 11 for a horizontal selfie, though, and the camera automatically zooms out for 12-megapixel selfies because it assumes you might want to fit other people or more of the background into the shot. You can also zoom back in to get a 7-megapixel shot if you want that instead.
4. Change the aspect ratio to 16:9
On earlier iPhones, you have two aspect ratios to choose from: 4:3 (rectangle) or 1:1 (square), both of which are their own shooting modes.
With the new Camera app on iPhone 11 and 11 Pro, aspect ratio settings are grouped into a single mode, and there’s a new 16:9 aspect ratio. To change the aspect ratio, swipe up on the screen to bring up a new row of camera settings.
5. Record video while taking a photo
On iPhones released before the iPhone 11 and 11 Pro, you can record video and, essentially, take screenshots at the same time by tapping the smaller shutter button in the corner.
On the new iPhone 11 and 11 Pro, there’s a new QuickTake feature, which lets you record a video within photo mode by holding down the shutter button. If you’ve used Instagram Stories or Snapchat Stories before, it works exactly the same.
QuickTake works on all of the front and rear cameras. One thing to be mindful of is the aspect ratio. If your photos are set to 4:3, QuickTake videos will also be that aspect ratio. For 16:9 videos, you’ll need to set the photo aspect ratio accordingly.
6. Burst shooting is now a swipe
Wait, if holding down the shutter button now records QuickTake videos, how do you shoot a burst of photos?
For vertical photos, simply swipe left from the shutter button, and for horizontal photos, swipe down instead.
Unfortunately, there’s no way to change the default setting for the shutter button. Apple, if you’re reading this, please give us a setting for this.
7. Using the volume buttons as shutter
And speaking of shutter button behaviors that have changed: A single press on either volume button still takes a photo, but holding down either volume button doesn’t shoot a burst of photos anymore and instead records a QuickTake video. There’s no way to change this (I looked and it’s not in the Settings app).
8. Controlling Night mode
The iPhone 11 and 11 Pro both have a Night mode function. Unlike on Android phones, where the mode is one you can select, Night mode on the iPhone 11 and 11 Pro kicks in automatically when the scene is dark.
A Night mode icon appears next to the flash icon and shows you how long you need to hold still for. Tap the shutter button and a meter will appear and count down from the recommended exposure time.
If you want to override the automatic Night mode exposure to turn it off or increase the exposure time to the maximum, you can tap the Night mode icon to do so.
Night mode is excellent. See for yourself:
Without Night mode
With Night mode
9. Use a tripod to improve Night mode
Night mode is great for long exposures that last only a few seconds. But if you really want to create the longest exposures, you’re going to want to mount your iPhone 11 or 11 Pro to a tripod. The gyroscope detects whether the phone’s perfectly still and then dials up the exposure time to as long as 30 seconds.
10. Recompose photos and videos
Within the Settings app under Camera, there’s a section called “Composition” which lets you turn on “Photos Capture Outside the Frame” and “Videos Capture Outside the Frame.”
Turn either on and you can edit a photo or video to bring something back into the frame using the editing tools in the Photos app.
For example, if you use the wide camera to shoot a photo, but a person on the edge of the frame wasn’t captured, you can edit the photo and zoom out to get a wider shot with the person in it.
With the composition setting turned on, shooting with the wide camera lets you recover a slightly wider field of view because when you press the shutter, it’s actually also capturing an image from the ultra-wide camera.
If you shoot a photo with the 2x telephoto lens, you can recover the full zoomed-out wide camera image. There’s no way to recompose a wider shot when shooting with the ultra-wide camera because there’s no other camera to get additional pixels from.
Note: If you turn on the composition modes, you automatically switch from “most compatible” (photos save as .jpg and videos as .mov) to “high efficiency” (photos save as .HEIF and videos as .HEVC) and you will likely need to use an app like iMazing’s HEIC Converter to convert the files to standard files.
11. Two kinds of portrait mode for the iPhone 11 Pro
Previously, you could only use the 2x telephoto camera to take a portrait mode photo on the iPhone 7 Plus, 8 Plus, X, XS, and XS Max. And on iPhone XR, the single rear wide camera takes portrait mode photos, but the focal length is wider.
On the iPhone 11 Pro, you can choose to use the wide or telephoto lens for portrait mode shots. Each one produces a different effect. The wide camera also takes better portrait photos in low light due to its faster f/1.8 aperture.
12. Portrait mode with wide camera works on objects and pets
Unlike portrait mode photos taken with the telephoto lens, which use a depth map from it and the wide camera to blur out the background, the wide camera creates a blurry background using machine learning.
On the iPhone XR, the machine learning only recognizes faces, so portrait mode with the wide camera only works when it identifies a person. However, with the wide camera on the iPhone 11 and 11 Pro, the machine learning now recognizes pets and objects.
It’s nice, but as I said in our iPhone 11 and 11 Pro reviews, the results are hit or miss:
Portrait mode on pets
Portrait mode on objects
13. Don’t have an iPhone 11 or iPhone 11 Pro?
You won’t get all of the cool new camera features highlighted above if you’re sticking with an older iPhone, but if you update to iOS 13, you’ll get a few powerful editing features in the redesigned Photos app.
For photos, you get new adjustment settings for sharpness, definition, noise reduction, and vignette.
The best part is all of the photo editing tweaks work on video. You can change the aspect ratio, adjust the skew, rotate a video (finally), and color correct video entirely in the Photos app instead of having to import it into a separate app like iMovie.