How to easily take Long Exposure photos on your iPhone

Dec 6, 2017

Lee Herbet

Lee Herbet is a visual storyteller.He is the founder of Capture.ink, which has helped some of the biggest brands in the world tell their stories.He runs workshops all over the globe sharing his knowledge on visual storytelling. He also writes for a number of online sites on the topics of video production and editing.

How to easily take Long Exposure photos on your iPhone

Dec 6, 2017

Lee Herbet

Lee Herbet is a visual storyteller.He is the founder of Capture.ink, which has helped some of the biggest brands in the world tell their stories.He runs workshops all over the globe sharing his knowledge on visual storytelling. He also writes for a number of online sites on the topics of video production and editing.

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Here is a way to easily take long exposure images with the Apps that come with your iPhone.

Apple’s iPhone has become one of the most used cameras in the world and, over the years. They have added some very cool features to their camera and photos applications on the phone.

Normally, their camera features are very well advertised and they market them very well, but with the latest realise of iOS 11, they seem to have buried the lead as far as I am concerned.

Did you know that if you have a iPhone 6s/6+ and up you can now take “long exposure” photos with your phone? Probably not I’m guessing because Apple seems to have buried the feature pretty deep.

So here is how to do it.

First you need to take a Live Photo. You probably know about Live Photos as it’s the roundish button at the top of the camera App in the middle that

you keep forgetting to turn off and end up with Live Photos that start and end with an image of your feet. I don’t about you but I have found very few times I’ve take a Live Photo, I’ve actually wanted to take the Live Photo.

Well now you want to take a Live Photo. For long exposures, you want to have something moving and something not moving in your frame. This will create a nice contrast in the final image.

Once you’ve taken the live photo you can either tap on the preview of the image in the bottom left-hand corner of the Camera App or go to view the image in the Photos App.

Once you are on the Live Photo, swipe up and you’ll see a selection of Effects. Swipe all the way to the right and the last option will be “Long Exposure”. Tap the option and there you go, easy as that.

Now here are some gotchas that I’ve found.

For the element that is moving in your image, you don’t want it moving too fast. I’ve found if it’s a car driving past at “normal” road speeds, it’s probably going to be going too fast and the blur it creates will be almost invisible.

So to overcome this, I tend to take images of cars as they are slowing down, speeding up or going round corners.

It goes without saying that you want to hold you camera as steady as possible the whole time you’re taking the Live Photos, but of course taping the shutter button adds some “wobble” to the phone as you tap it.

 

To overcome this I try two methods.

One is using the Volume Up button on your iPhone as your shutter button. This works by default, so you don’t have

to change any settings. This also lets you hold your iPhone in a way that you would hold a traditional camera, so both hands can be holding it steady as you press the shutter button.

The second method is to use the timer which lets you tap the shutter button and then can give you 3 or 10 seconds to steady yourself as you hold the iPhone. The timer button is just to the right of the Live Photos button the Camera App. Very important, remember to turn if off once you’ve done, otherwise it’s going to confuse you next time you take a photo and you don’t want the timer on.

One last thing to be aware of is that when you apply the effect, your image will be slightly cropped. So think about your composition when taking a live photo that you want to use for long exposure. If you have a cool subject just at the outer edges of your image, they may be cut off or cut in half when you apply the long exposure effect.

So, go out there and have some fun with Long Exposure on your iPhone. I’d love to see some of your results in the comments below. :)

Train guards

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Lee Herbet

Lee Herbet

Lee Herbet is a visual storyteller.He is the founder of Capture.ink, which has helped some of the biggest brands in the world tell their stories.He runs workshops all over the globe sharing his knowledge on visual storytelling. He also writes for a number of online sites on the topics of video production and editing.

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2 responses to “How to easily take Long Exposure photos on your iPhone”

  1. Renato Murakami Avatar
    Renato Murakami

    Somewhat technical question on this – and this is not only for iPhones, but Android phones too:
    Is this actually long exposure, or more like stacking multiple photos to create a long exposure effect?

    It’s a technicality really, but to me it seems like smartphone camera sensors can only take light for at most a few milliseconds a time. So the only way of creating a long exposure photo is stacking multiple, less than a second exposures and using that as result.

    I’ve noticed the difference in effect in some smartphone cameras… never on iPhones because I never owned on, but I’ve started testing this idea of long exposure with my Xperia Z3 phone that didn’t have it natively, so I had to use alternative apps for that. It was even worse back then. But you could see more clearly that the app was trying to take and combine multiple shots for the effect.

    The best way to see this (though you can see it in this article photos) is using a light source that is not too bright. Say you are using it for light painting. A regular camera will give you continuous streaks just fine with long exposure, for up to several minutes. I guess most of us have tried this at some point… write your name or something in light.
    Smartphone cameras on the other hand will give you something closer to dotted lines, choppy results. It’s not bad per se, really depends on what you are using it for. But this is valid for both 3rd party camera apps, and native apps that supports long expose from what I’ve seen so far.

    Just wondering.

    1. Lee herbet Avatar
      Lee herbet

      Hi Renato,

      Yes technically it is an effect and not creating the long exposure as you would with a longer shutter in a traditional camera. There are a few Apps for the iPhone that allow you to keep the shutter open on the camera, but I’m very rarely out and about with tripod for my phone so very rarely find I can use them too well. :)

      Thanks for your comment. :)