You may have seen that newer Samsung smartphones can capture fairly detailed photos of the moon, albeit with a bit of AI trickery. Phone cameras have always struggled the most in low light, and while great strides have been made, it's no wonder Apple has yet to advertise this type of feature for the iPhone.
You likely won't get a stunning, sharply detailed photo for now, but here are some tips for optimizing the iPhone's camera to get as best a shot of the moon as you can with current technology.
Adjusting Your iPhone Camera for an Ideal Moon Shot
There are three camera settings you'll need for improving the way your iPhone captures the moon: zoom, exposure, and Night mode.
If you long-press one of the zoom options in the Camera app, you can bring up a wheel that enables digital zoom to the highest amount your iPhone is capable of. Depending on your iPhone model, that could be 5x, 10x, 12x, or even 15x.
Optical zoom is better for quality, but digital zoom will get you farther. Unless you want to get more of your surroundings in the photo, use the highest setting you can. Tap the moon to refocus, then drag down on the yellow focus square to lower exposure.
This may be enough if you're taking your photo around sunset instead of in total darkness, but if not, turning on Night mode should help quite a bit. It activates automatically when sensing a dark environment.
Tap the dropdown arrow at the top, select the moon icon in the Camera menu, and drag the slider all the way to Max for the greatest effect. Then, hold your phone still and allow the camera to work its magic. You may even notice this mode can pull in stars and other details you can't even see with your own eyes. Again, don't expect pristine detail, but you should end up with something fairly usable.
Get Better Moon Shots on Newer iPhones
The camera system on iPhones gets better with each new generation, so for the best chance of getting a decent photo of the moon, you'll want the latest hardware. You can play around with settings all day, but an iPhone 14 will always take a better shot than an iPhone 11 or 12. Pro models are ideal because they come with a telephoto lens for distance.
Many cameras struggle with a photo of the moon largely due to zoom and contrast. The moon is a concentrated source of high brightness in the middle of complete darkness, so the lens trying to balance the two together while capturing light for the photo proves difficult.
Night mode is also only available on iPhone 11 and up, and it makes an enormous difference for photos like these. It overcompensates by taking in a ton more light than a standard daytime photo would need.
Optimizing Your iPhone's Camera for Moon Shots
Zoom, exposure, and Night mode will be your friends when taking a photo of the moon on your iPhone. Until we get even better technology that boosts what the iPhone's camera is capable of, these three features will go a long way in improving your moon shots.