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iPhone camera keeps refocusing? Here's how you can try to fix it

Good composition may be your salvation here.
By

Published onNovember 6, 2023

If an iPhone’s camera is constantly refocusing, that tends to be a critical issue. It makes photos and videos difficult, if not impossible, which is unsustainable in an era when many people rely on their phones for everything from capturing memories to scanning QR codes and documents. Mercifully, there are a variety of tactics you can try to break out of a refocusing loop.

QUICK ANSWER

To stop an iPhone from constantly refocusing, you may need to improve your subject's lighting or get closer. You can also try tapping on different focal points in the Camera app, as well as cleaning off lenses and sensors. If none of that helps, flipping between camera modes may be your best bet.


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Why does my iPhone camera keep refocusing?

Apple iPhone 15 Pro Portrait (3)

In a majority of cases, there’s probably too little contrast within a scene, and that in turn probably means the lighting is too dim. Even an iPhone 15 may have a hard time locking onto a subject in a dark room. Pro iPhones (from the iPhone 12 Pro onwards) can get around this by using their LIDAR sensor, but even that’s limited by laser range. They might have no problem locking onto a friend a few feet away in a nightclub, for instance, but struggle to focus on a mountain against a night sky.

Otherwise, you’re most likely dealing with dirty lenses and/or sensors, or some sort of temporary software glitch. There could potentially be a hardware defect, but we’d rule out every other cause before coming to that conclusion.

How to stop your iPhone camera from refocusing

Run through these troubleshooting steps and you’ll probably solve the issue. If none of these steps produce results, though, it’s time to contact Apple Support, preferably making an appointment at an Apple Store (or authorized repair shop) so you can demonstrate the flaw in person.

  1. If a scene is dim, find a way of improving subject lighting. Often this can be as simple as flipping on a light switch or changing angles, but you may need to move to a better-lit place if you’re shooting something that’s able to follow you.
  2. Get closer to your subject if you can. Mostly this is about subject contrast, since the more pixels a subject takes up, the easier it is to separate from the background. But with Pro iPhones, this also allows gives LIDAR a better chance at locking on.
  3. Pick a different focal point. Try tapping on different parts of a subject, since some may be easier to lock onto than others. There’s only so far this can go with portraits however — with few exceptions, eyes need to be in focus for a portrait to look correct. If you’re shooting a person or animal, limit yourself to different parts of their face.
  4. Clean off the appropriate lenses and sensors. Use a microfiber (lint-free) cloth for this. If you need liquid help, say if you’re trying to scrub off fingerprints, make sure you use dedicated screen cleaning fluid, or at least plain water. Regular soap cleaners may leave residue.
  5. Try toggling camera modes. In rare scenarios, it could be that some sort of software glitch is wreaking havoc. Try toggling between the front and rear cameras, switching from Photo to Video mode, or vice versa. Afterward, you may still need to tap on your subject to set a new focal point.
  6. Force-quit the Camera app, then restart it. On iPhones without a home button, follow these instructions to force-quit the Camera app. To restart it, just tap its icon on the homescreen.
  7. Check for iOS updates. If the issue is persistent, it may be something that Apple has already fixed on its end. Follow our guide to updating iOS.
  8. Restart your iPhone. A restart might hypothetically fix any temporary glitches affecting camera software. We wouldn’t count on it, but it’s worth a go before having to suffer the tribulations of tech support.