How to Improve Your iPhone or iPad Camera

Get better iPhone and iPad photos with a new lens and settings

The iPad camera gets better with each new model. Still, it isn't a full-featured camera capable of taking every shot. While the device's huge screen can make it easier to snap a fantastic photo, the camera lags behind the one found in the iPhone. To take advantage of your mobile device without sacrificing quality, improve your camera and the photos you take with these suggestions.

Instructions in this article apply to iOS 12, iOS 11, iPadOS 14, and iPadOS 13.

Improve Your Photos Through Settings

Some newer iPads contain an Auto HDR or Smart HDR setting that you select to automatically take every photo with this feature. This setting tells the iPhone or iPad to snap multiple photos and merge them to create a high dynamic range (HDR) photograph. Turn Auto HDR or Smart HDR (depending on your iOS version) on or off in Settings > Camera.

iPad Camera settings showing Smart HDR setting

In older iPads, there isn't an automatic setting for HDR. Instead, you manually turn on HDR in the Camera app when you want to use it.

  1. Open the Camera app.

    Camera app on iPad home screen
  2. Tap HDR.

    iPad camera app with HDR highlighted
  3. When HDR is on, HDR appears at the top of the screen.

    iPad Camera app showing HDR indicator
  4. HDR automatically runs whenever you take a photo as long as HDR is displayed at the top of the screen. Use your camera as usual.

Edit Photos With the Camera App

The Camera app has built-in filters that can bring out the best in an image. After snapping a photo, a small thumbnail of the picture appears to the right or below the large circular snap button, depending on if the iPad is in landscape or portrait mode. Tap this thumbnail to view the photo full-screen, then tap the Edit button in the upper-right corner.

iPad Camera with editing controls highlighted

Use the editing tools to make changes and enhance a photo. Depending on your iPad model, these tools all appear on the right side of the image or are split to appear on both sides of the image.

  • The Magic Wand analyzes a photo and adjusts lighting and color contrast.
  • The Crop tool removes unwanted portions of a photo and can be used to rotate the image.
  • The Filters tools apply filters to a photo that change the brightness, saturation, and color contrast, which can have a dramatic effect on your photo. You can add third-party filters through the App Store.
  • The Dial tool gives you manual control over lighting and color.

When you finish making changes, tap Done to save the image.

Use Live Photos to Improve Your Photography

Live Photos are small video clips the phone captures when you take a photograph on a newer iPhone or iPad. Along with creating moving pictures, you can choose a main photograph from the video to fix defects like an awkward facial expression, a blink of the eyes, or a just-missed shot.

The Live Photos function is available on iPhones 6S and later and 9.7-inch iPad Pros and later, running iOS 9 or newer.

Here's how to choose a new image from a Live Photo:

  1. Take a Live Photo or select one from the Photos app and then tap Edit in the upper-right corner of the screen.

  2. When editing a Live Photo, the bottom of the screen shows every frame the camera captured. Tap individual slides to preview the image.

    iPad Camera app showing Live Photo frames
  3. Tap Make Key Photo to choose a frame.

    Key Photo selection in iPad Camera app
  4. Tap Done to finalize your choice.

Buy an External Lens

An external lens can do more than adjust the camera settings. It can increase magnification and take specialty shots such as wide-angle. A lens also boosts functionality on an older device by improving the camera without the extra cost of a new smartphone or tablet.

A good source for camera peripherals for iPad and iPhone is iOgrapher. This company makes lenses that work with a specially designed case that supports different interchangeable lenses to get the perfect shot. You can use the same lenses for both iPad and iPhone as long as both devices have an iOgrapher case.

Another good source for iPad camera lens and accessories is B&H Foto & Electronics, and an Amazon search yields several compatible lenses as well.

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