If you like getting snappy, the updated iPhone 8 and 8 Plus cameras pack a pretty awesome punch - especially the Plus, if you're properly keen. We've decoded the jargon to help you work out which model suits your photographic needs.

There were many reasons to gnaw on our fists with glee during this month’s Apple Event. The cellular Apple Watch; the 4K Apple TV; the iPhone X… But apart from these big headlines (and until we can get our hands on an X) it’s been the supercharged cameras of the iPhone 8 and 8 Plus that’s set our pulses racing.

We’ve been decoding some serious jargon to get to the bottom of these features, but whether you’re a serious smartphone auteur or just want low-maintenance, high-quality snaps it’s all great news. Here are the tastiest reasons for camera nuts to pick up an iPhone 8 or 8 Plus, unpacked:

What is… Portrait Mode?

It doesn’t take much slog to decode the name of this particular feature, and you’ll find the results just as easy to nail with your iPhone 8 Plus (you’ll find out why it’s Plus in a second).

Have you ever taken brilliant snaps with your phone at a wedding, then felt a bit deflated later when you saw what the professional photographer served up? This is often because the experts manipulate ‘depth of focus’, setting the camera to put essential bits of the photo into sharp focus and leave the backdrop fuzzy.

It creates a portrait where the viewer’s eye is immediately drawn to the subject, and not forced to take in useless background detail. It’s closer to how we take in visual information IRL. We can now get this effect in our photos without years of training (sorry, pros), thanks to the second camera we get on the back of the 7 Plus and 8 Plus models. One of its superpowers is the ability to measure depth.

When you use Portrait Mode on your Plus, the standard lens still takes the picture. However, that clever second lens works in the background to scan the whole scene at the same time, measuring how far everything is from you. Your phone’s processor then combines all of this info to blur out all of the non-essential bits of that image, leaving your subject (person or pet – don’t worry!) picked out with razor-sharp focus. Now, that’s teamwork.

What is… Portrait Lighting?

If you’re already enjoying Portrait Mode on your iPhone 7 Plus but want to take it to the next level, then you’ll need to upgrade to 8 Plus to snag Apple’s latest Portrait Lighting feature.

It uses that same clever depth mapping technology to help you apply one of five different lighting effects to your Portrait Mode photo.

You can soften your subject’s face with Natural Light, illuminate with Studio Light or Kardashian up those cheekbones with Contour Light; Stage Light plunges the whole background into darkness and Stage Light Mono does the same thing but in achingly artsy black and white. From now on, when you photograph family gatherings your Nan will have to address you as Maestro.

 

What is… Live Photo?

Granted, this feature has already been around for a couple of years but now boasts some nifty extra tricks thanks to the iOS 11 update. We all have moments in our lives that need more than a freeze-frame, and this is where the iPhone’s Live Photo setting comes in. While you’ll still press the shutter like you usually do, this mode means your phone will record the few seconds on either side, too.

The result is an image that’s halfway between a photo and a video clip, which you can edit just as you would a still image – cropping, rotating and applying filters. Anyhoo, now we have iOS 11, we can also trim clips to perfection, and make them loop and ‘bounce’ back and forwards. More movement for your memories? Lovely stuff.

What is… HEIF compression?

Friends, it’s time to get technical, and talk about file compression. All camera phones squish the photos they take into a smaller file, ready to unsquish when you want to open and view them. You might recognize the most popular format for this – the ubiquitous JPEG file. And while this means you can fit a decent amount of photos on your phone, there will always be a slight loss of quality as a result.

Feeling a little sad from reading this? Don’t. If you’re even on nodding terms with Apple it won’t surprise you to learn they’ve improved this situation – big time – for both the iPhone 8 and 8 Plus. The new iOS 11 operating system has replaced JPEGs with HEIFs. While the jury’s still out on how we’re supposed to pronounce this, it stands for High Efficiency Image Files.

This new format hangs squishes your images to half the size of the same JPEG so you can fit even more in your handset and on your iCloud, but with far greater image quality than you’d get with a JPEG. It even works on Live Photos! If you’re addicted to getting giant canvas prints of your little’uns, then get ready to order them extra, extra large.

What is… (gasp!) Quad-LED True Tone Flash with Slow Sync?

We’re going to end this list with the big daddy of all feature names. We’ll be honest, even we need to break this one down – but the payoff will be some of the most exquisite images an iPhone has ever produced, so bear with us.

If you own an iPhone 7 or 7 Plus, you’ll already have the Quad-LED True Tone part nailed. Stepping up from the 6’s 2 LED flash bulbs, the iPhone 7 put 4 of these bad boys on its back – giving you a greater range of illumination and more accurate colours.

It’s the addition of Slow Sync, however, that’s caught our eye on the iPhone 8 and 8 Plus. Say you’re photographing bae on a Thai beach, at sunset. It’s beautiful but the light is dimming fast, so there’s a good chance you’ll get one of those weird, grainy shots – you know, the ones that look like 00s-era Nokia pics.

Use a flash, and that stunning background will mysteriously turn black as, well, night – and your dramatically overlit subject may as well be in your back garden.

Slow Sync makes light work of such photographic conundrums. The camera will take a lovely slow shot to drink in all those dark background details, while the flash will pitch in separately with a shorter burst that’s just enough to light your subject. We can’t wait to take the iPhone 8 out for the night…