Here’s how to get Pro photos from Apple’s cheapest iPhone SE

That 2022 iPhone SE is the cheapest iPhone you can buy from Apple, and while it lacks the high-end camera setup of the top-end iPhone 14 Pro, its single camera can still capture some beautiful photos to wow your family, friends, and Instagram become followers. It’s capable of capturing beautifully exposed shots with superb color that look great with very little effort on your part.

But if you want to go that little bit further and bring out more impressive photographic works of art than just everyday snaps, there are some solid things you can do to enhance your images.

Being a generous guy – and a professional photographer – I’ve compiled my top tips here.

Nail your composition

To match its lower price point, the iPhone SE ditched the multi-camera array of its more expensive sibling. This is easy on the wallet, but of course limits the recording options that you have on the go. You can’t 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.

Therefore, when shooting, you really need to focus on how you compose your images. My advice is to go into the camera settings in the main menu and turn on the grid. This gives you a 3×3 overlay when taking pictures, making it easier to align your images according to the “rule of thirds” of photography, which can help create a more visually pleasing composition when you’re on the go.

Look for guides, like a path or wall, to draw the viewer’s eye into the scene, or interesting foreground objects (like a flower bed 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 could just step back a few steps to get the steeple in the frame. Remember that you can improve a lot of bad lighting or colors when editing, but you can’t salvage a bad composition. So try not to chop off someone’s head when taking a portrait.


By timing my time right, I was able to capture beautiful sunset colors over this stunning 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 detail in low light. As a result, the iPhone SE can take good shots in low light, but your best results come during the day.

If you’re planning a photo session on the go, try to time it to give the phone the best opportunity to succeed. Avoid midday, when the sun above you creates glare and deep shadows, and avoid the night, when the phone struggles even more. In the late afternoon, as the sun approaches sunset, you’ll likely be able to see some great landscapes with rich colors and satisfying contrasts.


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

Andrew Lanxon/CNET

Use Live Photos to create dreamy long exposures

Live Photos don’t just bring your images to life with a few seconds of video — they have a hidden feature that can completely transform many of your images. By swiping up on an image in your gallery to bring up the Effects panel and then swiping to Long Exposure, the phone can blur any movement in the scene to create the same effect as you would taking a photo take a real long exposure over several seconds.

The best subject for this is flowing water, be it a stream, the ocean lapping at the shore, or a waterfall cascading over rocks. I love long exposures of waterfalls as they turn the rushing water into a silky smooth blur while the static rocks remain crisp. Capturing the same shot with a DSLR requires a tripod and usually some expensive filters. So it’s amazing to be able to get an almost identical effect by hand and just with the phone.

You can always apply the Long Exposure effect to any Live Photo you take. So make sure the Live Photo icon is active on the camera screen when taking your pictures.

macro moment galaxy s10

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

Andrew Lanxon/CNET

Add some accessories

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

Moment’s lenses include both telephoto and wide-angle options, so using these lenses can help bring the SE’s single camera more in line with other multi-lens iPhones. Moment also makes various filters, including circular polarizers, which are great for reducing glare and reflections in images, giving your shots a more professional look.

If you want to get even further into the professional field, you might even consider getting one Profoto B10 studio flash light, which allows you to capture the kind of product or portrait images that you can typically only capture with professional cameras. At nearly $1,700, this one accessory costs several times the iPhone SE, so it’s probably not an option for most of you, but if you’re a photographer who already uses a B10 for professional work, keep that in mind you can now use it with your iPhone too.


By using the burst mode, I was able to choose the shot of myself when I was at the height of my jump.

Katie Collins/CNET

Capture the action with Burst mode

The iPhone SE can capture 10 photos per second in burst mode, making it great for capturing those split seconds. But the feature is a little more hidden than it used to be.

Instead of holding down the shutter button (like before, but that now activates video recording), you have to drag the shutter button to the left if you’re holding it in portrait mode, or drag it down if you’re in landscape mode. Hold it down and hundreds of pictures will be taken in super-fast succession.

It’s a great tool to keep in mind for any fast-moving subject, whether it’s your kid about to swing a bat or a dog pouncing for a treat. You must try to anticipate when the action will take place and make sure you start the burst mode in time to capture the moment. Once you’ve taken the burst of shots, you can view the stack in your gallery, press Choose to step through each frame to select the exact shot that captures the action the way you want it.


Converting this shot to black and white and making some exposure and contrast adjustments transformed this scene into an atmospheric seascape.

Andrew Lanxon/CNET

Edit for effect

If you really want your images to disappear from the screen, consider tweaking them in an editing app. My favorite is Adobe Lightroom Mobile, which offers granular control over exposure and color settings, much like the desktop version of Lightroom. Snapseed offers similar functionality and is available for free on the App Store.

Get even more creative with apps like PicsArt, Photoshop Camera or Prisma, which let you apply a variety of bizarre creative effects to your images, add new skies or other elements, or blend different images together to create unique works of art.

Remember, with the plethora of editing apps available, there’s no limit to what you can do with your images. So my advice is to make yourself a cup of tea, settle into a comfortable chair and see what you can achieve. Be sure to stop by my roundup of my best photo editing apps on iPhone.