Pro mode


iPhone stock camera


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Graphic design, user interface design, logic design, prototyping, etc.


4 weeks


App optimazation



Is iPhone the best phone in 2020? That depends. But is the image quality that comes out of iPhone the best 2020? That might be true. 


On October 13, 2020, Apple announced its new iPhones. The revolutionary improvement made iPhone the best phone camera in the world again. Apple also released an update for creators who want to have more control over photos - Apple ProRAW. Apple ProRAW is a raw format photo like what professional cameras have. With Apple ProRAW, creators have higher flexibility to manipulate photos than the normal ones. From this action, we can foresee that Apple intends to pay attention to professional creators


I am a professional photographer and I know cameras. We as creators always want to know what setting we have in a photo. iPhone’s stock camera app is great. It definitely gave us more choice after the Apple ProRAW release. 


But is that enough for us? Should the stock camera app give us more professional settings? What can the app improve?

Quick guide

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“As photographers, we tend to have to think a lot about things like ISO, subject motion, et cetera,” McCormack said “And Apple wants to take that away to allow people to stay in the moment, take a great photo, and get back to what they’re doing.”


                                                                             - Jon McCormack


Creators voice

Here are 3 content creators. All of them own multiple professional cameras and have been shooting photos and videos for years. Recently, they have deeply tested the new camera app on the iPhone 12 Pro Max. Let’s hear what they have to say.


Matti Haapoja

Youtuber and filmmaker at Toronto, Canada

"When I shot photos of Kay with the backlit, the HDR Kicked in and worked well. But I tried to exposed Kay’s face correctly (brighter) by increasing the exposure, the HDR didn’t work. There is no indication for users to see when HDR kicks in  It’s better to have more control on the HDR."

- from iPhone 12 VS 12 Pro // Camera Comparison Review

              With HDR                          Without HDR (the sky blown out)


Andy Zhong

Freelance photographer at San Francisco, California

"I love to use prime lenses on my cameras. So I always want to have a shallow depth of field (it means the background blurs) for my photos. The only way for this is to use the portrait mode. The portrait mode is good for random shots. But I can’t use the night mode on the telescope lens and I don’t have ProRaw for portrait mode. I am not even sure if the Smart HDR and deep fusion kicks in. Too much constrains." 

Shallow depth of field background (blur background, sharp foreground)

image (1).jpeg

Marc Slomo

Studio photographer at New York

I know that the live photo can create a long exposure effect for me. And I know iPhone is stable enough for me to take photos with a few seconds shutter speed. If there is a way that I can take a longer exposure in the day time with raw, that would be fantastic because it takes a lot for professional cameras to do that.

Long exposure photo creates light-lines like this

Screen Shot 2020-12-30 at 1.26.28 AM.png
Screen Shot 2020-12-30 at 1.26.18 AM.png


Although the stock camera app is good enough for most people, there are limitations that creators don’t like. In this section, we will be discussing 5 features that the stock camera has. If you don’t understand those terms, I have put a simple explanation for you. 

Deep Fusion

iPhone compose 9 images to sharpen details. There is no indication when it kicks in.


High dynamic range. With HDR, your face won’t be dark and the sky won’t be blown out. There is no indication when it kicks in.

Night mode

When the light condition is not optimized, Night mode kicks in with a longer exposure. This makes images cleaner and more clear. But Night mode can not be used in day time.


Apple’s special RAW file. Unlike the normal Raw file, it contains the result of the computation, including the 3 features above. User can't use them in portrait mode.

Long exposure

The only way to do long exposure is when the Night mode trigger is triggered. The waterfall photo below is a long exposure effect. Normally it take a lot of professional gears to take. It's not convenience to take such photo during day time.

Here is a comparison on the Normal photo mode and portrait mode. The purpose of this chart is to conclude the 5 feature limitations that the stock camera app has.

To conclude, ProRAW is not working on the portrait mode, therefore, we can’t get a raw file with a shallow depth of field. Other features have constrains on different lenses and we can't fully control.


App comparisons

Why don’t we just use the 3rd party app to gain full control of the camera? The chart reflects the reason.

As we can see, the 3 major computational technology on the stock camera app are not supported by the 3rd party apps.


Those killer features helped most people to shot beautiful photos without further editing. Even manual control is the ultimate feature we want, but we are giving up the benefit that we had in the stock camera app.


Design concept

The new design intends to give users more control options so that users can get their desire result. Meanwhile, users shouldn’t worry too much about the setting. In case users miss important moments.

The design principle might be the most important part of this project. Without rules, the design won’t make sense. There are 3 principles I will follow with the new design.


No Manuel control

As you can see, I didn’t mention terms like aperture, iso, and shutter speed because most users don’t understand that.


This principle has confirmed in the interview of Jon McCormack - Vice President, Camera Software Engineering at Apple.

He explained that while more serious photographers want to take a photo and then go through a process in editing to make it their own, Apple is doing what it can to compress that process down into a single action of capturing a frame, all with the goal of removing the distractions that could possibly take a person out of the moment.


Follow the original design

The design will be focusing on new features. I will follow the up-to-date camera design style, such as font and graphics. I will try to follow the Apple Human Interface Guidelines and make use of a similar icon style.


Easy to use

Although the new design of the professional mode is for a small portion of people, anyone can understand how to use it by simply play around with the app.


New design


RAW → PRO mode

Originally, users can activate the ProRAW button in the setting, here we change the “RAW” to “PRO.”

Touch the animation to zoom in


RAW switch

The ProRAW can be active in the pull-up menu. The reserve setting for the ProRAW is off. Anyone who needs more data for post-editing can activate it.


HDR switch

Users can choose to force start the HDR or turn it off. The reserve setting for HDR is Auto. Tap "HDR" to see options.

Long exposure


Long exposure is available. There are 2 ways of long exposure. Knowing these 2 ways helped us to set stops of the long exposure mode. But users don’t have to know. 

Learn more about those 2 ways.

1. When the light condition is good enough, the iPhone takes multiple images and stack them together. It’s not typical long exposure but has a very similar effect.


There will be 4 stops at this situation: Off, 1s, 3s, Max.


Max exposure time depends on whether the camera is on a tripod (iPhone has the algorithm for this, it’s been using on the Night mode), it could be 5s or 10s. The reason why set the max as 10s is because the massive image data computation costs a lot of battery life. 30s would be too long.


2. When the light condition is not optimal, Night mode will replace the long exposure. Instead of the original 3 stops: Off, Auto, and Max, I will put one more stop: Long, between Auto and Max. The range of auto is normally 1-2 seconds. “Long” will the 2-5 seconds. Max works the same as before.


Adjust aperture

There will be an option for users to adjust the aperture to get the effect like portrait mode.


Removing options

Since we have 3 more options in the pull-up menu, we may want to remove some of the irrelevant options such as "Aspect ratio" and "Filter." These 2 options can be used in the post-editing process and don’t affect the photo shoot.


About Deep Fusion

We don’t know when Deep Fusion will be activated. Since this is a good algorithm for most photos, we will leave the decision to the system.




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