The iPhone camera has evolved over the years, and I’m quite impressed with it. I love it and use it all the time for photos and videos.
But, have you ever taken a photo with your iPhone camera, and you want people’s faces to show up well but either their faces come out too dark, almost as a silhouette, or peoples’ faces are too bright?
iPhone Manual Exposure Slider
When iPhone released its IOS8 app a while ago, along came this exposure slider feature, which I find extremely useful. This exposure slider feature allows you to manually adjust the brightness of your photo before you take the photo. I’m assuming you already know about the yellow box that shows when you tap to focus on a subject on your iPhone camera. Well, next to the yellow box is a sun icon. You can slide that sun icon up to brighten the scene or slide it down to darken the scene before you take a photo.
Let me back up a little and explain what the camera is doing when you’re taking a picture first. This applies to any camera you use in automatic mode. When you point and focus on a subject to take a photo, the camera is also calculating an ideal exposure setting based on the brightness of the scene you’re taking a photo of. This is called metering. To put it simply, the camera determines the how bright and dark the scene is and decides on an ISO, aperture and shutter speed for you.
Most of the time the iPhone camera does a great job of providing well exposed images without requiring manual adjustments. However, the iPhone can’t read your mind(yet), so this feature comes in handy when you want to make manual adjustments. More on metering.
Slide up the sun icon to brighten the subject
The main reason people may come out dark or almost as a silhouette is when the background is brighter than the subject. Most likely a bright light source such as the sun, a bright lamp, or a bright window might be behind the subject.
The camera sees that the background is bright, and therefore, gives you a setting it believes to be an ideal exposure setting. However, the camera doesn’t know you’re taking a photo of people so they come out dark. As technology improves, many cameras including the iPhone camera now have face detection, which is incredible. The camera detects faces, and adjusts accordingly. It works well, but there are times when it fails.
So, I often find myself using the slider to brighten up the subject when a bright light source is behind the subject. Simply tap on the dark part of the subject you want brighter, then slide the sun icon up.
Slide down the sun icon to darken the subject
On the other hand, when the subject is too bright it may be because the light source (i.e. the sun, lamp, spotlight, window light, etc.) may be too strong.
So the other times I find myself using the slider feature is when the subject is too bright. I typically tap on the brightest spot on the subject and slide down the sun icon a bit to adjust the brightness.
Just as a note, another time you may want to use the slider to lower the brightness is when the camera is detecting that the scene needs to be brighter than it really does. This could happen if the subject’s color is dark, such as black, brown, dark clothing, dark skin, anything in a dark shade or color. As the camera detects a dark shade during the metering process, the camera thinks the scene needs to be brighter. I’ve explained more about this topic in the “Metering” article.
You may also slide down the sun icon to to intensify the sky color either during midday, during sunset or to intentionally enhance silhouette photos. Silhouettes are created when the main light source is behind the subject.
I hope this helps and also encourages you to have more creative control over whatever you’re taking pictures of with your iPhone.
If you have a questions, feel free to leave a comment and I’ll do my best to answer your questions. Thanks!
Below is a short video I put together on the topic of using the iPhone manual exposure slider.