How to take long exposure photos on iPhone

Long exposure photography on iPhone is really fascinating technique along with many others you can use on iPhone (or basically any other smartphone). Today’s technical capabilities of smartphone cameras allow creating quality pictures that were only possible on DSLR cameras in the recent past. Let’s dig down to long exposure photography in this article!

iPhone XR on a tripod

Equipment

Long exposure photography is actually based on the main component: slow shutter speed. And to be able to use long shutter speed, you have to keep your smartphone stable during the exposure time to avoid any blurriness and shakiness on the final image.

Thus a good tripod is a must in this case. But don’t worry, you don’t have to buy a professional expensive tripod for a start. I still use my old Manfrotto 725B Digi, it’s already discontinued due outdating, but for me, it performs surprisingly well!

Landscape shot, long shutter speed

Check out a few options on Amazon:

If you’re on a really tight budget, just buy this kit (tripod plus universal smartphone bracket) on Aliexpress. Bear in mind that you’ll have to wait for your item for a long time, the delivery may take a month or even more.

In my opinion, the Manfrotto kit seems like the best choice among others, it will last for a long time and you’ll enjoy it as quality of their products are quite high.

Manfrotto PIXI Mini Tripod Kit

Applications

I’m a huge fan of Adobe’s Lightroom mobile app (available for iOS and Android)

In the free version, you still have plenty of various really great features that are suitable for long exposure photography. RAW format, flexible editing instruments and logical library for storing your files are real deal-breakers.

Lightroom allows you to set up to 5-sec shutter speed, which is enough to get an idea of what kind of results you’ll get. 

Landscape shot, long shutter speed
Landscape shot, long shutter speed
Landscape shot, long shutter speed

Shooting

First of all, you have to find an interesting location that would be suitable for the long exposure technique. It could be a waterfall, a river or any other relatively fast-moving thing. If in the city, try to shoot a Ferris wheel at night. I bet it has illumination and you’ll get a cool lighting trail!

After putting a smartphone on a tripod and framing, set up a few settings in Lightroom. First of all, change the mode from Auto to Long Exposure

Lightroom camera settings

Change shutter speed to 5 sec, this is the longest possible shutter speed available in Lightroom. The effect of long shutter speed will be better defined with the max settings.

Lightroom camera settings

You may want to adjust focus point. In most cases, Lightroom set the focus point correctly, meaning that the entire scene will look sharp and everything will be in focus.

However, for some creative purposes, you can shift the focus point. For example, you can keep the foreground in focus while having the background blurry. For that simply move the slider and look at the green areas. The more greenish it becomes, the sharper it will be on the final image, simplistically speaking. This option called focus peaking, a really common thing in modern mirrorless and DSLR cameras.

It defines edges of highest contrast and highlighting them. Unfortunately, Lightroom hasn’t an ability to control aperture (i.e. control depth of field).  So changing the focus point works only on a limited scale. I do not want make this article too complicated and technical, just keep in mind that you can adjust sharpeness in a mentioned manner.

Lightroom camera settings

You can adjust brightness on this next step, simply drag a slider to make the image brighter or darker. I prefer to underexpose my shots in order to do further post-production. It’s much easier to reveal details from shadows then trying to recover overblown areas (for example, difficult scenes with dark ground and bright skies).

Lightroom camera settings

Finally, lock exposure and take a shot.

Hint: use standard Apple EarPods to trigger a camera by using the volume up button. Thus you’ll avoid unnecessary touching a smartphone and possible camera movements.

Lightroom camera settings
Landscape shot, long shutter speed

In the next part, you’ll know how to edit images in Lightroom and Snapseed apps. As mentioned earlier, the RAW format provides a lot of space for maneuvers and you can edit images in really different ways which sometimes not possible when shooting regular JPG (or HEIC) shots.    Stay tuned!

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