How to Get Pro Photos From Apple’s Cheapest iPhone SE

How to Get Pro Photos From Apple’s Cheapest iPhone SE

The 2022 iPhone SE is the cheapest iPhone you can buy from Apple, and while it doesn’t have the high-end camera setup of the top-end iPhone 14 Pro, its single camera is still capable of taking some stunning photos that will family, friends and Instagram will enchant followers. It is capable of taking beautifully exposed photos with excellent looking colors with very little effort on your part.

But if you want to take things a little further and come away with more impressive works of photographic art, rather than just everyday photos, there are some great things you can do to enhance your images.

Being the generous kind of man that I am — and a professional photographer — I’ve compiled my best tips here.

Nail your composition

To achieve its lower price tag, the iPhone SE ditched the multi-camera array of its more expensive sibling. While this is easier on the wallet, it obviously limits the shooting options you’ll have when you’re out and about. You won’t be able to switch to the ultra-wide lens to capture everything in front of you, nor can you zoom in on specific details with the telephoto lens.

Because of this, you will need to really concentrate on how you compose your images when you take them. My advice is to go to the camera settings in the main settings menu and turn on the grid. This will give you a 3×3 overlay when you take images that will make it easier to align your images according to the photography rule of thirds, which can help you get a more visually appealing composition when you’re shooting to shoot

Look for foreground lines, such as a path or a wall that draw the viewer’s eye into the scene, or interesting foreground objects (such as a patch of flowers, or a large piece of driftwood) to enhance your seascapes.

Use your feet and move around the scene you’re in to find the best angles. No, you don’t have a built-in wide-angle lens, but maybe you can just stand back a few steps to get that steeple in frame. Remember that you can improve a lot of bad lighting or colors in editing, but you can’t save bad composition, so try not to chop off the top of someone’s head when taking their portrait.


By choosing my time of day just right I was able to get beautiful sunset colors over this beautiful part of Edinburgh.

Andrew Lanxon/CNET

Go into the light

The iPhone SE doesn’t have a dedicated night mode or the Deep Fusion processing that the iPhone 14 series uses to reduce image noise and enhance details in low light. As a result, the iPhone SE can take good photos in low light, but your best results will be taken in the daytime.

If you are planning a photography session, try to time it so that you give the phone the best opportunity to succeed. Avoid the middle of the day when the overhead sun will create harsh light and deep shadows and avoid the night where the phone will struggle even more. Late afternoon, as the sun is setting, is probably when you’ll be able to get some great landscapes with bold colors and satisfying contrast.


Using the long exposure tool faded this raging water into a smooth, ethereal flow.

Andrew Lanxon/CNET

Use Live Photos to create dreamy long exposures

Live Photos don’t just make your images come alive with a few seconds of video – they have a hidden feature that can completely transform many of your images. By swiping on an image in your gallery to bring up the Effects panel, then swiping over to Long Exposure, the phone can blur any movement in the scene to give the same effect as a real long exposure photo over ‘ take a few seconds.

The best subject to use for this is running water, be it a stream, the sea lapping at the shore, or a waterfall cascading over rocks. I love long exposure images of waterfalls as they turn the rushing water into a silky blur, while the static rocks remain razor sharp. Getting the same shot on a DSLR requires a tripod and usually some expensive filters, so it’s amazing to be able to get an almost identical effect, handheld, with just the phone.

You can apply the long exposure effect to any Live Photo you’ve taken at any time, so make sure the Live Photo icon is active on the camera screen when you take your images.

macro moment galaxy s10

Moment’s lenses can add wide-angle views, or let you get up close with macro shots. It’s pictured here on a Samsung Galaxy S10, but the case and lenses are now available for the iPhone SE.

Andrew Lanxon/CNET

Add some accessories

The iPhone SE may seem limited with its single camera, but there are accessories available that can greatly increase its functionality. Accessory maker Moment produces a line of extremely high-quality lenses that attach to phone-specific cases and has a version that supports the iPhone SE.

Moment’s lenses include telephoto options as well as wide-angle, so using them could help bring the SE’s single camera more in line with other iPhones with multiple lenses. Moment also makes several filters, including circular polarizers, which can be great for reducing glare and reflections in images, giving your photos a more professional look.

If you want to go even further into the professional realm, you might even consider getting a Profoto B10 studio flashlight, which lets you take the kind of product or portrait shots you’d normally only be able to take with professional cameras. At nearly $1,700, this one accessory is several times the price of the iPhone SE, so it’s probably not an option for most of you, but if you’re a photographer who already owns a B10 for their professional work use, keep in mind that you can now also use it with your iPhone.


Using burst mode, I was able to select the shot of myself just when I’m at the height of my jump.

Katie Collins/CNET

Capture the action with burst mode

The iPhone SE can take 10 photos per second using burst mode, making it ideal for capturing that split-second action. But the feature is a bit more hidden than it used to be.

Instead of pressing and holding the shutter button (as was the case before, but it now triggers video recording), you have to drag the shutter button to the left, if you’re holding it in portrait orientation, or drag it down if you’re in landscape is. Hold it down and it will take hundreds of images in super quick succession.

This is a great tool to keep in mind for any fast-paced subjects, whether it’s your child swinging a bat or a dog jumping for a treat. You’ll have to try to predict when the action is going to happen and make sure you start the burst mode in time to capture the moment. Once you’ve taken the series of photos, you can view the stack in your gallery, print Choose to go through each image to choose the exact shot that captures the action the way you want it.


By converting this shot to black and white and making some exposure and contrast adjustments, this scene was transformed into a moody seascape.

Andrew Lanxon/CNET

Edit for impact

If you really want your images to pop off the screen, you’ll want to consider giving them some tweaks in an editing app. My favorite is Adobe Lightroom Mobile, which gives granular control over exposure and color settings in much the same way as the desktop version of Lightroom. Snapseed offers similar features and is free in the App Store.

You can get more creative with apps like PicsArt, Photoshop Camera or Prisma, which allow you to apply a variety of bizarre creative effects to your images, add new skies or other elements or merge multiple images to create unique works of art.

Remember, there’s no limit to what you can do with your images in the myriad of editing programs available, so my advice is to make a cup of tea, sit down in a comfortable chair and see what you can achieve . Be sure to check out my roundup of my top photo editing apps on iPhone.

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