15 Ways to Take Better iPhone Photos

Whether you're Annie Leibovitz or an amateur selfie-snapper, the one thing that unites us all is the small-but-mighty camera that sits in our pockets at all times. Your iPhone has a whole slew of features designed to give your photos an impossibly filtered finish, all you have to do is unleash them.

Below, you'll find 16 ways to up your 'Grams and polish your pics in seconds.

Get in focus with AE/AF lock 

The auto focus on the iPhone is a fickle mistress. If you're having trouble with auto focus jumping around, you can touch the screen until you see AE/AF lock in yellow letters (auto exposure/auto focus lock) and lock it in place.

Know your shutter

The touch-screen shutter button isn’t nearly as user-friendly as an actual camera’s shutter. For one thing, make sure you account for any glitchy software lag time, and always hold your phone in the same position a few seconds after taking your shot. Also, keep in mind that the photo doesn’t register when you press the shutter, and only captures once you release it. 

Stay on the grid

Many photographers ascribe to the rule of thirds -- putting your subject off-center to provide more visual interest. And while the iPhone’s grid function evenly divides your frame in thirds, it’s also a useful tool to make sure your image is straighter-looking and properly aligned. Turn it on in Settings > Photos & Camera.

Compose your images diagonally

Capturing a plane that goes off into the distance gives your photos depth, so place the subject of your snap along horizontal lines to give the final product more depth and perspective.

Expose yourself

The built-in exposure meter is a feature you might not know existed if you didn’t know where to look for it. Double tap the screen, and slide the yellow sun icon up and down to let in more or less light, which is particularly valuable in those tricky nighttime shots.

Don’t zoom

Ever. The final result will only look pixelated, since it’s not a real optical zoom. Instead, get closer to your subject or just crop the final image where you won’t lose as much resolution. 

Get low

We’re naturally inclined to take photos from chest level, but lowering your phone to belly-button height can lengthen your subject and provide a more dynamic-looking image. Provided you’re not so low you’re giving them a double chin.

Enable Burst mode for action shots

It’s as easy as holding your shutter button down for a few seconds. The Burst function will take multiple pics in rapid succession, ensuring you don’t miss the perfect shot.

Edit photos after the fact

Fake it ‘til you make it. Apps like Photoshop TouchSnapseed, and Darkroom are all great for touching up your pics after the fact, allowing you to correct color imbalances, straighten, etc.

Use the volume buttons as shutter buttons

One of the many downfalls of a screen-based shutter is stability, and it's further tested every time you jostle your phone to get the perfect shot. Use the volume controls on the side to snap your shots instead, and keep a tighter grip.

Test out HDR mode

Admittedly this can sometimes leave you with an image in Willy Wonka hues, but turning on High Dynamic Range will combine three different exposures into one image for situations with less-than-optimal lighting. 

Download apps that unlock your iPhone’s true potential 

Developers have been able to create a wealth of programs that use far more of your camera’s features than the standard app. Options like ProShotVSCO Cam, and Enlight allow you to adjust the flash level, white balance, 50x zoom, and other elements professional photogs pay careful attention to.

Only use flash when absolutely necessary

Despite the surprising firepower of the iPhone 6 and 6s camera, the flash is no good, and you’ll only wind up making all your friends look like overexposed, ghostly creatures. Whenever possible, shoot in good light, or use apps to increase the exposure later.

Attach an accessory

For true photography aficionados, there are dozens of external lenses on the market that can significantly improve photo quality, like olloclip or Moment, which essentially transform your phone into a proper DSLR.

Play around with panoramas

No matter how well you're composing a shot, sometimes you simply can't convey the sheer scope of something without an extra-wide shot, and the Pano mode makes it incredibly easy to capture just that. When you move the phone slowly in one direction in Pano mode, the camera automatically stitches together a striking panoramic view of up to 240 degrees.

Sign up here for our daily Thrillist email, and get your fix of the best in food/drink/fun.

Ali Drucker is a senior editor for Maxim. But first, let me take a selfie. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram.