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Master the Camera app on iOS

Serenity Caldwell | April 8, 2013
This week's Macworld Video tip helps you get the most out of the Camera app on the iPhone, iPod touch, and iPad.

Both the iPhone and the iPod touch make for stellar pocket cameras, and the iPad and iPad mini aren't too bad in a pinch either. An iOS device isn't perfect for every photographic need. But it can serve awfully well in many situations where you might once have needed a digital camera.

The simplest way to shoot photos and video with your iPhone is to use Apple's built-in Camera app. The app launches by default in still-image mode; you can take a shot by tapping the Camera icon at the bottom of the screen or by pressing the Volume Up or Volume Down button. Switch between the front and back cameras by tapping the Camera icon (with the circular arrows) in the upper right corner; shoot video or photos by tapping the Photos/Video slider in the bottom right corner in portrait mode (or in the upper right corner in landscape mode).

Frame your subject

Photographers and artists alike adhere to the "rule of thirds," which says that photos look better when the subject is off-center, aligned about a third of the way from the right or left, or top or bottom (the same holds true for video--just look at TV shows and movies for proof). Imagine that the image area is divided by two equally spaced horizontal lines and two equally spaced vertical lines, According to the rule of thirds, the most visually interesting parts of the image should be positioned along any one of the lines, or at any point where the lines intersect.

While many seasoned photographers can imagine invisible grid lines when composing a shot, your iOS device makes it a bit easier: Just tap the Options button in the Camera app, and turn on the Grid feature. This overlays a three-by-three grid on your viewfinder, which allows you to abide by the rule of thirds with ease.

Set exposure and focus

The Camera app automatically sets exposure (how bright the image is) and focus (what part of the scene is sharp), but it doesn't always do so correctly. To manually set your exposure, tap once on the part of the image you'd like to source.

If you're taking a macro picture (one object in sharp focus, with the background blurred out), or if you're trying to keep your iPhone from focusing on a bright area and thereby washing out the rest of the picture, you can lock the exposure and focus on a specific point. Just tap and hold on that point until the blue focus box appears and pulsates, and then release; the words AE/AF Lock appear at the bottom of the app. To clear the lock and focus somewhere else, tap anywhere else on the screen. Keep in mind that the Camera app forces you to lock exposure and focus together; you can't set an exposure on one object and focus on something else. There are third-party apps that allow you to set each separately, however.

 

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