What is Long Exposure Photography?
Usually, when taking a photo, the built in camera app uses a fast shutter speed to freeze motion and to create a sharp photo. But Long Exposure Photography requires a slow shutter speed of several seconds. Because of the slow shutter speed, each moving pixel in the frame, like flowing water will be blurred in the final photo.
But the problem is, that the iPhone’s shutter speed is limited to one second by hardware. Even third-party camera apps can’t overcome this limitation. To get around this hardware limitation, clever iPhone developers released camera apps for iPhone that take dozens of photos in a single second and combine them to a single image to simulate the motion blur effect of Long Exposure Photography.
Long Exposure Photography of flowing water shot on iPhone 5S
So let’s have a look at the different options and camera apps for long exposure photography on iPhone.
How to take a long exposure on iPhone?
To do long exposure photography on iPhone, you need a dedicated camera app. Depending on the type of long exposure I want to take, I use one of the following three camera apps.
Slow Shutter Cam App: The most versatile Long Exposure Photography camera app
I’ll start this list with my favorite long exposure camera app. I discovered it sometime in 2013 and that I’ve been using for my long exposure photography on iPhone ever since then: Slow Shutter Cam App. The app works on all recent iPhone models.
Slow Shutter Camera App comes with three different shooting modes:
Slow Shutter Cam App covers all long exposure photography needs with these three shooting modes: From blurring motion to creating light trails at night to taking well exposed and low noise photos at night.
You can read more about the different shooting modes in my extensive Slow Shutter Cam App review.
To demonstrate the capabilities of Slow Shutter Camera App, here’s a 40-second long exposure photo of the London Eye that I took with an iPhone 6S.
40 Second long exposure of the London Eye shot using Slow Shutter Cam App
But there’s even more that you can do with Slow Shutter Cam App. You can adjust the motion blur intensity after you took the photo. Try that with a DSLR! I’ve also covered this feature in my review of Slow Shutter Cam App.
If you’d ask me for just three reasons why you should try Slow Shutter Cam App, these would be:
Three different shooting modes that cover all the different aspects of long exposure photography on iPhone
It supports all three lenses of the iPhone 11 and iPhone 12 and allows you to set the ISO speed manually
It comes with an Apple Watch app that you can use as a remote shutter release to avoid camera shake when opening the shutter.
Please note that you’ll need a tripod when using Slow Shutter Cam App. Like with a DSLR, your photos will be blurry otherwise because you have to keep the iPhone steady when taking a long exposure, and Slow Shutter Cam app does not have image stabilization.
If you’re looking into light painting photography, Slow Shutter Cam App has you covered, too. Set the shooting mode to Light Trail, the shutter speed to bulb, enable focus lock, and tap once to focus. Now use any light source for light painting.
I use this technique to take photos in total darkness with iPhone.
Did I mention that I’ve published a comprehensive review of Slow Shutter Cam App? If you want to get Slow Shutter Cam App right away, you can download Slow Shutter Cam App from the App Store. It’s available for a one time purchase.
Live Photos: The most convenient way for long exposure photography with iPhone
Apple introduced Live Photos with the iPhone 6S. When taking a Live Photo, the iOS camera app will capture a short video clip, recording 1.5 seconds before and after you hit the shutter release button.
Since iOS 11, you can convert such a 3-second Live Photo to a long exposure photo. The results are pretty neat. Here’s an example of such a Live Photo I converted to a long exposure on an iPhone 11 Pro.