Even though your iPhone's Camera app is fast and easy to use, its default settings prevent you from immediately accessing any other shooting mode aside from "Photo" with "Live Photo" on and no filter applied. But there is a way to make the Camera app remember what you prefer the next time you open it up.
As someone who rarely uses Live Photos and enjoys shooting square-shaped images that are perfect for Instagram, I like the convenience of not having to scroll away from Photo mode every single time Camera is launched. Those extra seconds can make or break the opportunity to capture a moment how I want.
If you want your Camera app to remember your last settings, keep reading.
Open up the "Settings" app, then scroll down and tap on "Camera" to view its preferences. Next, tap on "Preserve Settings" at the top of the screen.
Three options are featured in the Preserve Settings menu: Camera Mode; Creative Controls or Filter & Lighting or just Filter; and Live Photo. Toggling any of these on will ensure that the stock Camera app will not resort to its respective defaults upon launch, instead, remembering your last used preferences.
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Before we explain each toggle's options, it's good to point out what settings are preserved while all of these toggles remain off.
First, there's the Retina Flash (for selfies) or True Tone flash (for the rear camera). If you turn either flash "Off" or to "Auto," your choice will be remembered the next time you open Camera, but the Retina Flash will end up as the True Tone flash since the selfie camera is not preserved. However, if you last used "On" for either, the app will switch it to "Auto" the next time for the rear camera only.
Second, there's HDR. No matter if you switch it to "Off" or "Auto," the app will remember your last used option when you go to take a picture later. However, if you last used "On," it will switch to "Auto" next time. Note that if you have "Smart HDR" or "Auto HDR" enabled, there will be no setting in the Camera app for HDR. Also, on newer iPhone models, you can only toggle HDR "On" and "Off" — there is no "Auto" option.
- Preserved: HDR preference (but "On" changes to "Auto"), flash preference (but "On" changes to "Auto")
- Not preserved: shooting mode preference, camera preference, filter preference, portrait lighting preference, depth preference, timer preference, panorama direction, zoom level, exposure and focus lock, Live Photo preference
The first option refers primarily to the type of capture: Time-lapse, Slo-mo, Video, Photo, Portrait, Square, and Pano (Panorama). So with the "Camera Mode" setting toggled on, the Camera app will always open with the last shooting mode you used. Apple's default choice is Photo using the rear wide-angle lens.
Also, it will remember what camera you used last, whether the front FaceTime HD or TrueDepth camera for selfies or the rear camera setup for everything else.
So, what doesn't get preserved with this setting enabled? For one, the timer will always be set to "Off" instead of its "3s" or "10s" options. Also, the direction in which you like to take Pano images will also be reset to left-to-right, its default position. Lastly, your optical or digital zoom will always reset to "1x" magnification, and the AE/AF Lock will no be set.
- Preserved: shooting mode preference, camera preference, HDR preference (see Option 1 above), flash preference (see Option 1 above)
- Not preserved: filter preference, portrait lighting preference, depth preference, timer preference, panorama direction, zoom level, exposure and focus lock, Live Photo preference
The second option is different depending on what model iPhone you have. It could either be called "Creative Controls" (for an iPhone XS, XS Max, or XR), "Filter & Lighting" (for an iPhone 8 Plus or X), or just "Filter" (for all other iPhone models).
Filter refers to the built-in color effects which can be applied to your still images. When a filter is activated, the corner icon with three overlapping circles is illuminated in red, green, and blue. The default is Original (no effect), but if you last used Vivid, Vivid Warm, Vivid Cool, Dramatic, Dramatic Warm, Dramatic Cool, Mono, Silvertone, or Noir, the app will remember so.
If you have an iPhone that supports Portrait lighting modes — Natural Light, Studio Light, Contour Light, Stage Light, and Stage Light Mono — then this will preserve those options too. For those of you with a new iPhone XS or higher model, the Depth ƒ/stop number you used will also be retained.
- Preserved: filter preference, portrait lighting preference, depth preference, HDR preference (see Option 1 above), flash preference (see Option 1 above)
- Not preserved: shooting mode preference, camera preference, timer preference, panorama direction, zoom level, exposure and focus lock, Live Photo preference
The last option refers to Apple's unique feature which allows the moments occurring just before and after an image to be captured as a GIF-like video. The key frame for a regular still image can be whatever you want from the Live Photo's timeline.
When this feature is activated, its icon (three nested circles) in the top/side center is illuminated yellow. Note that Live Photo can only be used in the standard Photo shooting mode. The default is to have Live Photo toggled on, but it will remember to keep it off if that was your last choice.
- Preserved: Live Photo preference, HDR preference (see Option 1 above), flash preference (see Option 1 above)
- Not preserved: shooting mode preference, camera preference, filter preference, portrait lighting preference, depth preference, timer preference, panorama direction, zoom level, exposure and focus lock
Since this feature preserves the last mode and not a "favorite," you can always scroll back to your favorite mode after using another feature inside the Camera app. For example, even though I usually take Square photos, sometimes I shoot videos. Hence, after shooting a video with "Camera Mode" enabled — but before closing the app — I scroll from Video to Square so that Square mode is ready for me when I next launch Camera.
Any shortcuts through 3D Touch or Control Center will take you to that specific mode in Camera still. For example, if you last left Camera on Square but use the 3D Touch shortcut to Record Video, the Camera app will launch directly to Video the next time — unless you switch back to Square before exiting the app.
Interestingly, the Camera app does account for accidental closure or brief app switching. So, even if all of the three Preserve Settings options are toggled off, your last-used options are preserved should the Camera app be relaunched within a minute; This applies to almost all of the settings available in Camera. Even the timer and zoom function will be retained temporarily, though, for zoom, it won't be remembered at all in either Photo or Square mode.
- Temporarily preserved: shooting mode preference, camera preference, flash preference, filter preference, portrait lighting preference, depth preference, time preference, zoom level (for most shooting modes), Live Photo preference, HDR preference
- Never preserved: zoom for Photo and Square mode, exposure and focus lock, panorama direction
Of course, if you prefer Apple's defaults options, any or all of these options can remain toggled off and you'll be able to jump into whatever it was you were shooting with your last-used settings as long as it's under a minute or so since you last used Camera. (Remember, certain flash and HDR settings are preserved no matter what.)