How to Adjust Exposure in the iPhone Camera App

* This post is part of iPhone Life's Tip of the Day newsletter. . *

The iPhone's camera is such a handy and versitile tool that I find myself favoring it even when I've got expensive photography equipment gathering dust in my office. Setting the exposure is as easy as tapping on the point in the image you want to meter, tapping the sun icon that appears next to that point to reveal the brightness slider, and then dragging the brightness slider up or down. That way you can make the darks a little darker or the lights a little lighter, and create the image you want every time. The Camera app doesn't give you exposure settings in f-stops, or let you adjust aperature or shutter speed directly. For that you'll need a third party app. However, it does let you adjust which part of the frame the auto-exposure meters quickly and easily. Here's how to do it.

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Related: Phone Photography Tips: How to Use Lighting to Take More Creative Pictures

How to Adjust Exposure in the iPhone Camera App:

  1. In the Camera app, frame up the shot you want to take.
  2. In the live camera view, tap the part of the frame you want to be most clearly visible. A yellow box will appear around the point you've selected. The camera will focus on that spot, and set its brightness to match.
  3. If you choose a light spot, the darks will get darker. If you chose a dark spot, the lights will get brighter. It's up to you what you think looks best.

    Light ExposureDark Exposure
  4. You can lock on to that spot by using a long press instead of a tap. The box will grow bigger and then blink twice and a yellow AE/AF LOCK (Auto Exposure/Auto Focus) will appear. Now the camera will keep the same focus and exposure even if the frame changes. Tap somewhere else to release the lock. 
  5. To tweak the exposure further, with the yellow box visible, tap the sun icon next to it. This to brings up the exposure adjustment slider.

    Long press and AE/AF LOCKBrightness slider
  6. Swipe carefully up or down on the slider to make the image brighter or darker. When it looks how you want, lift your finger.
  7. Take your photo. You can press a volume button or tap the shutter control on your screen. I recommend the shutter control, because applying pressure to the volume button can jostle the phone, changing your carefully selected framing.

Now you know how to adjust the exposure on your iPhone. If you're interested in more technical control of exposure, you might try the paid app ProShot, which will let you tweak shutter speed and gain (ISO) separately.

Top image credit: Aaron Amat /

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Author Details

Cullen Thomas's picture

Author Details

Cullen Thomas

Cullen Thomas is a Writer and Producer at iPhone Life, creating tips and guides to help users unlock the full potential of their iOS and iPhone. In addition to writing countless tip-of-the-day articles and many detailed guides, Cullen has spent nine years as an instructor in media and communications at Maharishi University, lecturing on technical and artistic subjects ranging from camera and audio hardware to story-plotting to how to manage a film crew. Cullen answers questions daily about iPhones and iOS as part of the Ask an Editor insider service, and designs curriculum for iPhone Life’s online classes. As a frequent contributor to iPhone Life magazine and occasional guest on the iPhone Life podcast, Cullen likes to talk about security and privacy news, tech, gadgets, and apps, even if nobody asked.

Cullen holds a master’s degree in Cinematic Arts from the David Lynch School of Cinematic Arts. Cullen also holds two Bachelor’s degrees from Maharishi University, one in literature with an emphasis in writing and the other in Communications and Media. Cullen’s short fiction has been featured in anthologies from Amphibian Press and TANSTAAFL, and Cullen co-owns a game design company, Thoughtspike games, which builds thought-provoking puzzle games. Cullen is a sci-fi author, a coffee connoisseur, and an iPhone expert.