Skip to main content

The iPhone 13 Pro camera tips you need to know

A close up of the iPhone 13 Pro camera
(Image credit: Howard Boucheverea via Unsplash)

A few iPhone 13 Pro camera tips and iPhone 12 Pro camera tips can go a long way to help you get outstanding shots with Apple's most powerful smartphone. The iPhone 13 Pro packs one of the best cameras available on a phone – or rather four of the best, and the camera's one of the areas that has seen most improvement. On both the 13 Pro and the larger 13 Pro Max, you get three cameras on the back and one on the front. On the back, there's a 12MP wide.5, 12MP telephoto with 3x optical zoom and a 12MP ultrawide. On the front, you have a 12MP wide.

That's a lot of numbers, but what can you do with them? Well, with a few iPhone 13 Pro camera tips, you can create a range of pro-quality photography, from portraits to creative video, even in low light conditions. Portrait mode offers great flexibility and the new macro mode is also impressive for when it comes to taking detailed pictures of close-up things like food, bugs or plants. You can also shoot in ProRAW format, which is great if you do post-production work.

All in all, the iPhone 13 Pro has a lot of camera tools that can help you achieve fantastic shots, but you might not necessarily discover them if you simply take your phone out of its box and start shooting. In our guide below, we offer a handful of iPhone 13 Pro camera tips to help you get the best out of your device – and many of these will also as iPhone 12 Pro camera tips if you have the older iPhone. Not yet decided on which phone to buy? Then make sure you see our complete iPhone 13 Pro review and see our guide to the best camera phones for more options.

Top iPhone 13 Pro camera tips for better shots

The iPhone 13 offers a range of tools to improve your shots, from improved night mode, portrait mode and macro mode to photography styles that can allow you to find a signature look for your shots. Here are our tips to get the most out of the iPhone 13's cameras.

01. Get to know the iPhone 13 Pro lenses

iPhone 13 Pro camera lenses close up

The iPhone 13 Pro camera sports three lenses on the back (Image credit: StorresJayrMx via Unsplash)

The iPhone 13 Pro camera's big selling point is its multiple lenses, with a versatile threesome on the back. As we mentioned, you get a 12MP wide (f/1.5), a 12MP telephoto (f/2.8) with 3x optical zoom and a 12MP ultra-wide (120-degree f/1.8). The best iPhone 13 Pro camera tip we can give you is to get to know these lenses and what each one is good for.

For portraits, both the wide-angle lens and the telephoto lens can be useful (to switch between them tap on the Portrait option, and tap 1x or 3x in the bottom left corner). The 3x telephoto is also great for making an impressive object like a building stand out in a scene, isolating it from other, distracting elements (you may need to step back to fit your subject in the frame). 

The ultrawide, meanwhile has a macro focusing feature that can get great close-up detail shots as we'll see below. The ultra-wide camera and the front camera can create barrel distortion at the edges of images, so one iPhone Pro camera tip is to turn on lens correction. Go to Settings > Camera and turn on the Lens Correction toggle. See our smartphone photography tips for more pointers on shooting with a phone in general.

02. Shoot in ProRAW

iPhone 13 Pro camera app with ProRAW shooting enabled

Enable ProRAW shooting on iPhone 13 Pro, and a RAW toggle will appear in the top right of the camera view (Image credit: Future / Apple)

A great feature of the iPhone 13 Pro for professional and enthusiast photographers who do post-production editing is the ability to shoot in the ProRAW format. This mimics the look of a RAW picture, retaining a lot more detail than what you get with a compressed HEIC or JPEG image. ProRAW images will be BIG files – at around 25MB for each image, you may find your phone filling up fast, but they open up a lot more possibilities for editing your shots later in a programme like Photoshop or Lightroom.

While the iPhone offers editing options like its Auto edit magic wand and the usual editing options, they're not going to give you the flexibility you get with professional editing on high-resolution files that retain more detail in the shadows and highlights. The larger ProRAW files can allow you to rescue overexposed areas or bring back visibility in dark shadows. 

To enable ProRAW, go to Settings > Camera > Formats and under the new Photo Capture section, you'll find the toggle. Once enabled, you'll see a new RAW button at the top right, which will now allow you to quickly switch between ProRaw and JPEG. If you're not sure what programmes to use to edit your ProRAW images afterwards, see our guide to the best photo-editing software.

03. Find a signature look with Photographic Styles

Screenshot of the iPhone 13 Pro camera's Photographic Styles tool

Adjust your Photographic Style preferences and the iPhone 13 Pro will remember the settings for next time (Image credit: Future / Apple)

If you don't go in for post-production, you can still create a signature visual style with the iPhone 13 Pro camera. The new Photographic Styles feature allows you to define a style before you shoot, rather like a filter applied before rather than after taking a shot.

There are four preset Photographic Styles to choose from (Rich Contrast, Vibrant, Warm and Cool), and they can be adjusted to find the balance of tone and warmth you're looking for. To get started, open the Camera app in photo mode, swipe up from the bottom and tap on the icon with the three squares. You can then swipe through the Photographic Styles. Tone and Warmth sliders appear below the viewfinder when you select a style – the phone will remember any changes you make here, retaining them until you change them again. 

An extra iPhone Pro 13 camera tip here: if you find a style you like and want to adopt it as a signature, you can set it as default: Open your iPhone's Settings app, scroll down to Camera and find the Photographic Styles option. Tap to choose which style you want to shoot in and it will automatically be selected every time you open the camera.

04. Turn off automatic night mode

Night Mode on the iPhone 13 Pro is impressive and a massive improvement on previous versions, but for the best shots, you probably don't want it kicking in every time you're in a low light situation. Sometimes, it makes night shots look like they weren't taken at night at all, which often isn't what you want. It can also lead to blurry pictures if you're trying to shoot a subject that's moving.

You can turn off Night Mode each time while you're in the camera app, but that will soon get annoying if you find yourself having to do that each time you take a shot in the dark. Instead, we'd suggest turning off automatic Night Mode altogether so that you can simply enable it when you want it by tapping the Night Mode icon (a moon). Go to  Settings app > Camera > Preserve Settings and toggle the Night Mode switch.

05. Go in close

A close-up image of a cat taken using the iPhone 13 Pro Macro mode

The iPhone 13 Pro ultrawide camera's Macro mode allows you to get a lot closer to subjects (Image credit: Apple)

Another big advance offered by the iPhone 13 Pro's cameras is the introduction of macro focusing for fantastically detailed close-up shots. Macro focusing has been introduced on the ultrawide lens both in photo mode and in video, including slo-mo and time-lapse. You can put this to great use by playing with shots of flowers, bugs, textiles and anything else that would normally be too small to shoot using a phone. Put the main as close to the centre of your frame as possible and tap to select a specific focus point, then choose between x.5 and x1 magnification.

By default, you'll find that Macro Control is switched off and it will kick in automatically when you're within 14cm of a subject. If you want to switch off the automatic macro focusing to give you more control, head to Settings > Camera > Macro Control. A Macro symbol (a flower) will then appear in the bottom left corner to allow you to switch it on and off.

06. Shoot more flexible video with Cinematic mode

Screenshot of the iPhone 13 Pro camera in Cinematic mode

Cinematic mode lets you shift focus while you're shooting (Image credit: Future / Apple)

The iPhone 13's Cinematic mode is a delight for videographers, allowing you to change the focus in video while filming. You can shoot in Cinematic mode by opening video mode and choosing the Cinematic option at the bottom of the viewfinder above the shutter button. Swipe up on the viewfinder (or swipe right to left if you're holding your phone horizontally) and you can then adjust depth by tapping the 'f' and exposure by tapping on the circle marked + -.

Start recording and then tap a subject in the viewfinder to change focus as you record. You can double-tap to automatically track a subject or you can touch and hold to lock the focus at a specific distance. This is a great iPhone 13 Pro camera tip for content creators and YouTubers, allowing an easy application of creative effects like walking into focus or shifting focus between subjects.   

Another quick tip here. You may find parts of your subject out of focus with a shallow depth of field, so hit that f button and step up the depth to around 5.8, you'll likely find a close subject in focus while still getting some blur on the background.

Note that the iPhone 13 Pro can shoot in Dolby Vision up to 4K at 60fps but this isn't activated as default because of the amount of storage it uses. But if you want to shoot ing the highest quality video, go to Settings > Camera > Record Video and select 4K at 60fps. The same section also lets you turn on HDR. 

07. Adjust video depth of field after video recording

Cinematic mode also allows you to change depth of field and focus AFTER you've recorded a video. This is something of a gamechanger for post-production on the iPhone itself. To change the depth on a Cinematic video after you've shot it, select the video in the Photos app, select Edit and tap 'f' (note that the changes will apply to the whole video. 

You can also edit focus points after recording. As you scrub through a video, the focus point is indicated with a yellow square while other recognised potential subjects will have a white square around them – you can tap those white squares to change the focus point to that subject. You can also try tapping other objects in the frame. Like when recording, you can double-tap to set automatic focus tracking or touch and hold to lock the focus at a specific distance. Tap the focus button to swap back and forth between automatic focus tracking and your own selected focus points.

08. Use Live Photo to shoot long exposures

Screenshot of the iPhone 13 Pro Live Photo options

Save Live Photos are long exposures to create DSLR-like blurred effects (Image credit: Future / Apple)

A neat iPhone 13 Pro camera tip is that you can shoot quick videos in photo mode. There are actually two ways to do this. You can hit Live Photo in the top right (a target icon comprising three concentric circles) to record a motion photo. This then gives you options to loop or bounce (click Share and Save as video to save the resulting footage in a video format you can use elsewhere). 

But most interestingly you can also turn a Live Photo into a long exposure, which is a great alternative way to get impressive night shots with light streams or blurred movement in shots of moving subjects like waterfalls (we'd suggest using a small tripod to hold your camera steady). To edit a Live Photo, find and open it in the Live Photos album on your phone and hit the Live Photo icon. This will bring up options to loop, bounce or create a long exposure. 

You might not realise you can also shoot video in Photo mode on the iPhone 13 Pro by holding down the shutter button. Once shooting, you can slide your finger up to zoom in and down to zoom out, a feature that isn't actually enabled in video mode itself. If you want to shoot a longer video and don't want to keep holding down your finger, simply swipe the shutter button to the right. You can then remove your finger and the video will continue recording, allowing you to also tap the button to take still photos at the same time.

09. Create iPhone 13 Pro camera shortcuts

It doesn't take a huge amount of time to open your iPhone 13 Pro's camera app and start shooting, but the minor delay can still be long enough to miss a shot if something happens quickly, particularly if you're taking spontaneous street shots. The iPhone's programmable shortcuts can help here.

The Shortcuts settings allow you to combine several actions into a single command so, for example, you could set up your phone to open the camera app, start shooting video and save the video, when you double-tap on the back of the device. To set up a new shortcut, open the Shortcut app and tap the '+' symbol. You can also use Siri to control your camera.

10. Adjust Depth and Lighting in Portrait mode 

Screenshot of the iPhone 13 Pro camera's Portrait mode

(Image credit: Apple)

The iPhone 13 Pro is great for almost DSLR-like portrait shots, but to get the most out of Portrait mode, you'll need to do a little tinkering. Don't overlook the Depth Adjustment and Lighting Effects to enable truly stunning shots. When you're in Portrait mode and have your subject framed, you'll find the Depth Adjustment button ('f') in the top-right corner of the screen. Tap there, and a slider will appear below the frame (you can also fine-tune this after you've taken the shot).

As for Lighting Effects, you can adjust the position and intensity of each effect, for example, to brighten up eyes and facial features. Choose the Portrait mode and you should notice a carousel with six Lighting Effects at the bottom of the screen. Tap the icon (by default, it will be on Natural Light), and you'll be able to rotate the carousel to select the effect you want.

When you've chosen an effect, tap on Portrait Control button at the top of the screen to bring up the Portrait Lighting slider below the frame so you can fine-tune the effect. Again you can also adjust this after taking a shot. Studio Light will brighten up your subject, while Contour Light will create a more dramatic contrast between highlights and shadows.

11. Save your iPhone 13 Pro camera settings

Our final iPhone 13 Pro camera tip is to dave your preferred settings. Once you've found the settings you prefer and use more frequently, you can customise the iPhone 13 Pro camera to remember them to avoid you having to manually adjust them each time you launch the Camera app. Simply go to the Settings app > Camera > Preserve Camera and customise the settings all you want, from aspect ratio to Night mode settings or anything else. 

Of course, you might not want to use the same setting forever, but handily you can also set up your iPhone 13 Pro or Pro Max to retain the camera settings that you applied the last time you used the camera app. To do that, go to Settings > Camera > Preserve Camera and toggle on the settings you want to preserve. 

For more tips on iPhone photography in general, see our guide to how to take pro photos with iPhone. And to learn how to process your images after you shoot them, see our guide to how to edit photos.

Read more: 

Thank you for reading 5 articles this month* Join now for unlimited access

Enjoy your first month for just £1 / $1 / €1

*Read 5 free articles per month without a subscription

Join now for unlimited access

Try first month for just £1 / $1 / €1

Joe is a regular freelance journalist and editor at Creative Bloq. He's in charge of getting our product reviews up onto the website and keeps track of the best equipment for creatives, from monitors to office supplies. He's worked as a writer and translator for 20 years and also works as a project manager at a design and branding agency based in London and Buenos Aires, where he manages a team of designers, photographers and video editors.