This iPhone Camera Tweak Makes All the Difference for Photo Sharing

Jason Hiner/ZDNET

We all know that Apple likes to do its own thing to keep users inside its walled garden ecosystem, even if it only benefits the owner. Photos are no exception.

How many times have you shared a photo with a non-Apple family member, friend, or colleague, but when the photo was perfectly clear to you, they received a pixelated portrait? Or, even worse, they couldn’t even open the image file!

The reason is actually very simple: HEIF (also known as High Efficiency Image Files) is Apple’s secret image format which is optimized for its proprietary products and nothing else.

By default, your iPhone or iPad’s camera setting has the “High Efficiency” option enabled. This means that with family reunions and the holiday season on the horizon, problems with image sharing are inevitable. To avoid such problems, and so Grandma can get all her photos and videos with peace of mind, here’s how to change the default camera format on your iPhone (or iPad) from HEIF to all-inclusive JPEG.

Also: Which iPhone is best for you and how do the different models compare?

How to set the default image format to JPEG

On your iPhone or iPad, open the settings menu and scroll down to Camera tongue.

Press on Sizes at the very top of the camera settings list. You will see a blue checkmark next to your device’s default camera capture format. For most users, “High Efficiency” will be selected. If so, tap the option below, “Most compatible”, instead. This will change the iPhone or iPad image output from HEIF to JPEG and video output from HEVC to H.264.

Note that 4K video at 60 frames per second (fps), 1080p at 240fps, and HDR video must be rendered in High Efficiency format. Your device will do this regardless of the format option you set.

Changing the aspect ratio in the camera settings.

Screenshot by Christina Darby/ZDNET

Also: The Only Super Simple But Overlooked Way To Improve Your iPhone Photos

How to automatically transfer photos in a compatible format

To ensure that when you need to transfer photos and videos to your Mac or PC, they are optimized and automatically converted to the most compatible file types (JPEG/H.264), go to the Photos tab in your settings.

Scroll down to “Transfer to Mac or PC” and select the “Automatic” option if it is not already selected.

Automatic transfer of photo settings

Screenshot by Christina Darby/ZDNET

Also: How to transfer photos from your iPhone to your Windows PC


What is HEIC (or HEIF)?

HEIC (or HEIF) is Apple’s patented High Efficiency Image File. Although compatible with other Apple devices, HEIC files are not as user-friendly on other devices, including Android and Windows.

Is HEIC better than JPEG?

Apple created HEIC files to provide better file compression without compromising image quality. So when it comes to saving images in a smaller file size and maintaining quality, yes they are better than JPEG. When it comes to cross-platform compatibility and sharing, however, the standard JPEG format is the best bet.

Why are my iPhone photos grainy on an Android phone?

By default, iPhone photos are automatically saved in a HEIC file format instead of a (standard) JPEG file format. Therefore, the files are not ideal for viewing if you are using a non-Apple device.