How to use the panorama camera on your iPhone

The Camera app on the iPhone and iPad lets you capture panoramas — much wider, much higher megapixel photos than are otherwise possible with the built in iSight lens. By taking a video-like stream of successive frames, the iPhone can stitch together a single photo greater than the sum of its parts. You can take a "pano" from either left to right or right to left, and you can even rotate your iPhone and take one from up to down or down to up.

The difference between wide angle and panorama

There's a fine line between what separates a photograph taken with a wide angle lens and a panoramic photograph. We're not going to get into the nitty-gritty details, so for the sake of simplicity, we'll say that a panoramic photo is one that has a wider field of view than the human eye, is at least twice as long as it is tall, and was created by using software (in this case, the Camera app) to stitch together multiple images.

How to take a panoramic photo with your iPhone or iPad

  1. Launch the Camera app on your iPhone — note that the iPhone 4s and newer support panorama mode.
  2. Swipe to the left to change modes. You'll need to do this two times to switch from normal camera mode to panorama mode.
  3. The iPhone defaults to portrait mode from panoramas so make sure you are holding your iPhone that way and not in landscape mode.
  4. By default, panoramas always start on the left and want you to pan to the right. You can change this by tapping the arrow to change directions.
  5. Tap the capture button to start taking a panoramic photo.
  6. Keep your feet firmly planted and make sure the arrow stays on the line as you pan from right to left.
  7. Once you're done taking your pano, simply tap the capture button again.

The Camera app doesn't currently support full 360º panoramas. You can take up to a 240º panorama in one shot, so keep that in mind. You obviously don't have to use the entire 240º if you don't want to.

How to switch directions for a panoramic photo

The Camera app defaults to taking a pano from left to right. If, for some reason, that doesn't work for the photo you want to take, you can easily switch directions.

  1. Tap the Arrow button.
    1. Tap the capture button to start taking a panoramic photo.
  2. Keep your feet firmly planted and make sure the arrow stays on the line as you pan from right to left.
  3. Once you're done taking your pano, simply tap the capture button again.

How to take a vertical panorama with your iPhone

While the Camera app technically is meant to take panoramas horizontally, sometimes rules are meant to be broken. If you ever come across a time where you want to get a photo of a particularly tall building, being a little creative with panos can help you capture a perfectly unique photo.

  1. Launch the Camera app on your iPhone — note that the iPhone 4s and newer support panorama mode.
  2. Swipe to the left to change modes. You'll need to do this two times to switch from normal camera mode to panorama mode.
  3. Once you're in panorama mode, hold your iPhone in landscape mode instead.
  4. Tap the capture button to start taking a panorama.
  5. This time instead of panning left to right, pan up and down instead.
  6. Hit the capture button again when you're done.

How to get more help with Camera for iPhone and iPad

Note: Originally published in October 2012, updated October 2014.