How to Remotely Trigger Your iPhone’s Camera with Your Apple Watch

Your Apple Watch can perform all sorts of neat tricks, not the least of which is remotely triggering your iPhone camera–and allowing you to review the photos, too.

Why Would I Want To Do This?

There are two primary reasons why someone would want to use a remote trigger for a camera (any camera, not just the iPhone camera): to trigger the camera when they are not behind it, or to keep the camera perfectly still and fixed relative to the scene.

RELATED: How to Sync Photos to Your Apple Watch

In the first case, it’s handy any time it’s impractical or impossible for you to trigger the camera. Group photos that you want to be in require a remote trigger. If you want to photograph yourself against some sort of scenery (like a national monument or a sweeping landscape) in a fashion that an outstretched arm or selfie stick won’t accommodate, you need distance between you and the camera. A remote trigger is also really useful if you want to photograph something there you presence would change the outcome (like you want to capture something goofy your dog only does when you’re out of the room).

In the second case, it’s handy any time you need to keep the same framing across multiple photos. If you’re making a little stop-animation GIF of action figures or trying to capture a time-lapse photo of pedestrians outside your office window or clouds skittering across the sky. Remote triggers have long been the photographer’s go-to solution for such keep-the-camera-perfectly-still applications. It’s also handy if you’re taking pictures in low light conditions and you want to minimize lens blur.

For iPhone owners with Apple Watches, the convenience of remotely triggered photography is built right into their iPhone/Apple Watch duo. Let’s take a look at how, no extra software required, you can start taking remotely triggered photos right now.

How to Use the Remote Trigger

Using the Apple Watch’s remote camera trigger couldn’t be an easier experience. In fact, you’ll spend more time setting up the camera than you fiddling with the remote trigger app. Speaking of setup, let’s take a look at our setup for this tutorial so you’ll have a frame of reference for the following screenshots.

For this tutorial we’ve enlisted the help of Spawn and LEGO Office Worker Guy, our favorite photo tutorial sidekicks, who you may recall from such classic How-To Geek articles like What Is White Balance and Why You Should Use Digital Image Sharpening.

In the photo above, you can see the individual figures both on the table and as they will be framed in the iPhone camera. We’ve set up the iPhone using a LOHA flexible table top tripod, which is perfect for our intended stop-motion film wherein Spawn eats LEGO Office Worker Guy’s head. (We kid; both they and the Action Figure Screen Actor’s Guild had us sign contracts specifying there would be no real or simulated action figure cannibalism.)

Even though you don’t need to open the camera app (since the trigger app on the Apple Watch will do so automatically), you should obviously take a moment to frame the photo the way you want. Especially because you can’t physically reframe, crop, or zoom from the Apple Watch.

Once you’re happy with the physical setup of the iPhone, it’s time to turn your attention to your watch. Tap on the digital crown to pull up the app menu, as shown in the far left screenshot above. Select the Camera app (a silver icon with an arrow pointing down to the button on a camera. Your Apple Watch will reach out to your iPhone, via Bluetooth, as seen in the middle screenshot. After connecting, the app will finish loading and you’ll see a live preview of the scene in front of your iPhone’s camera (go ahead, wave your hand in front of the lens like you know you want to).

In the photo above, you can see the whole operation in action with the actual scene, the scene from the perspective of the iPhone, and then that same iPhone view transmitted as a live preview to the Apple Watch.

On the bottom of the Apple Watch interface there are two buttons: a button that looks just like the trigger button on the iPhone camera app (the unmarked circle), and a smaller button with “3s” written on it. The main button instantly triggers the camera and the secondary button offers a 3 second delay so that, if you’re actually in the photo, you can click the button and have time left over to put your arms back into a more natural position.

How to Remotely Review Your Photos

If you want to do a quick check of the photo without running back over to the tripod, you can do so on the Apple Watch.

After you take first photo, a little preview of the photo will appear in the lower left corner, seen above center. Tap on the smaller photo (just like you would in the on-phone iPhone camera application) to access the photo. Swipe back and forth to review the recently taken photos and then select “close” in the upper left corner to return to the main screen.


That’s all there is to it! With the built-in apps on your iPhone and Apple Watch you can take easy-peasy remotely triggered photos. You’ll spend more time figuring out how to keep your iPhone secured and in place than you will fussing with the app itself.

Jason Fitzpatrick is a warranty-voiding DIYer who spends his days cracking opening cases and wrestling with code so you don't have to. If it can be modded, optimized, repurposed, or torn apart for fun he's interested (and probably already at the workbench taking it apart). You can follow him on if you'd like.