How To Control The Focus And Exposure Of Your iPhone Camera

Jul 07 2016

Want to take high quality, sharp photos using your iPhone? Here's how to master the exposure and focus on your iPhone camera in 3 easy steps. Read tutorial here >>

If you’ve been reading along with the iPhone Photography posts on my blog, you are going to love this one as it is the most crucial part of taking high quality iPhone photos. So let’s dive right into it. The two most important elements to taking crisp, high-quality iPhone photos are:

  1. Focus
  2. Exposure

So, what are Focus and Exposure?

Focus basically refers to the clear and sharply defined condition of a photo. If the subject is not clear and sharp, we say the photo is ‘out of focus’. One thing that’s difficult to reverse once the photo is taken is the Focus. The lighting, colors and most other things can be fixed with editing, but its really hard to fix a photo that is blurry and where the subject is not in focus.

Exposure is essentially the amount of light entering your camera. We usually refer to exposure in terms of how dark or light a photo is. Although it seems pretty straightforward to take a photo with the correct exposure, in reality it can be quite tricky to achieve.

Now that we understand these two terms well, lets talk about how we can adjust the exposure and focus using your iPhone camera in 3 easy steps to get high-quality photos:

Step 1: Focus on what you want to highlight

The iPhone camera has the ability to auto-focus. The iPhone camera sets the focus automatically based on what it thinks is more important in the scene and this works in most cases. However if you are serious about iPhone photography, I’d highly recommend setting the focus manually. And guess what? Its extremely easy to manually set the focus in your iPhone camera. First decide on which part of your photo you want the focus to be. For example in the photo below, I want to focus on the pink flower on the left. To set the focus, just tap on the screen in the part that you want to focus. So here I need to tap on the pink flower. When you do this, you can see a yellow box appear denoting the area that is now in focus which means that the focus is now set.

Want to take high quality, sharp photos using your iPhone? Here's how to master the exposure and focus on your iPhone camera in 3 easy steps. Read tutorial here >>

Step 2: Lock the focus

One thing to keep in mind is the iPhone resets the focus each time you take a photo or if there is any movement in the scene. To avoid this, you can lock the focus of your iPhone camera. To do this, tap and hold your finger on the area that you want to lock the focus on. When the focus is locked you will see a AE/AF LOCK message appear on the screen along with the yellow square. This means that the focus and exposure is locked in the yellow square area. If you want to unlock the focus at any time, just tap on any other part of the screen.

Want to take high quality, sharp photos using your iPhone? Here's how to master the exposure and focus on your iPhone camera in 3 easy steps. Read tutorial here >>

Step 3: Adjust the exposure using the exposure slider

As I said before the AE/AF lock sets the focus and exposure for your photo based on where you tap your finger in the scene. If you have iOS 8 or higher, you can manually control the exposure using the exposure sliders. As in the previous step, when you tap and hold to lock the exposure in the scene, you can see a little sun icon that appears on the yellow square. If you press on the sun icon and drag your finger up or down, you can increase or decrease the exposure in that area. So in the video below, you can see that as I drag my finger up on the sun icon slider, the exposure is increasing and the photo is getting lighter. And as I drag my finger down the sun icon slider, the exposure is decreasing and the photo is darker. You can play around with the slider until you find the sweet spot with the exposure.

Here’s the video demonstrating this: [View the video in HD mode by selecting 720p]

Step 4: Take the shot

Once you feel like you have the focus and exposure just right, click on the shutter icon to capture the photo.

Want to take high quality, sharp photos using your iPhone? Here's how to master the exposure and focus on your iPhone camera in 3 easy steps. Read tutorial here >>

If you haven’t updated your software to iOS 8, I highly recommend doing so as the exposure slider is a really powerful tool to have for your iPhone photography.

To update your iOS, go to Settings > General > Software Update and install the latest OS version. This will enable the exposure sliders for your iPhone camera.

Learning how to control the exposure and focus has been a huge step in my iPhone photography journey. I ‘ll be sharing more advanced techniques to control the exposure and focus in the coming weeks, so stay tuned. I hope you found this tutorial useful.

Do you use the exposure slider for your iPhone photography? Leave me a comment!

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  • These are amazing tips and so helpful! Thanks for sharing 🙂

    Anika |

    • So welcome Anika 🙂 Glad to hear that!

  • love this ! very interesting tips, unfortunately my iPhone is slightly old and not capable to do everythingXD

    xx from Brighton
    Cate ღ kate/idoscope

    • Ah! is it an iPhone 4 or 5? You can still take amazing photos with older iPhone versions too!
      Thanks for reading Kate!

      • an iphone5. yes they are still pretty decent but compared to an iPhone 6 or more the difference in quality is insaneXD

  • I use the exposure slider… love how it works.

    • 🙂 Yay! I agree Rajani – its a huge help!

  • Cathy

    Nice! Thank you for this! I didn’t know what the little sun was for.

    • You are welcome Cathy! Yes the sun icon is key to adjusting exposure – so helpful!

  • I didn’t know about the exposure slider! Great tip!

  • Karlene Arthur

    Oh, wow! Thank you!!! I knew how to tap and select the object for Focus, but did not know about holding it. And I sure didn’t know what that little sun was. Genius!

    • Hey Karlene 🙂 So happy you found this helpful – please let me know if you use this – i d love to see your results!

  • i always forget about being able to lock AE/AF! thanks 🙂

    • Its such a helpful feature, isnt it? 🙂 Welcome Kate!

  • Lea

    Thanks for the helpful tips!

    • Welcome Lea, stay tuned for more!

  • I have to say, your tips have been incredibly helpful to me! I am a single mom to a child with special needs, so my budget is tight. Until I can afford a good DSLR camera, I am stuck as an amateur iPhone photographer. Your iPhone photography tips have really helped me to upgrade my photos bigtime. Thank you!

    • Hey there 🙂 That is so sweeet, thanks for that! And you can shoot amazing photos with yout iPhone – keep going 🙂

  • Hi, thank you so much for these tips! I live in an apartment with quite a few great natural light so the exposure slider will help a lot ^_^

    • I am glad to hear that Agnes! Let me know how it goes 🙂

  • I really like the tip with the sun and slider. It can make such a huge difference to the photo. Thanks Chaitra 🙂