How to take long exposures with iPhone and 7 ideas to try

Taking long exposures with the iPhone was one of the things I missed when I turned to iPhone only photography in 2012. Some apps offered manually setting the shutter speed back then but that was limited to half a second or one second at most.

Does the iPhone have long exposure?

That's a question I get quite often and the answer is yes, you can take long exposures with iPhone either by using Live Photos or by using a special iPhone camera app.

How do you take long exposures on iPhone?

Today, there are several apps and ways that enable you to take long exposures with your iPhone like Slow Shutter Cam App or using Live Photos.

Live Photos work great in good light situations and enable you to take long exposures up to three seconds. With Slow Shutter Cam App, on the other hand, you can take almost endless long exposures during day and night. It even allows you to manually set the ISO for low noise photos in low light situations.

Take long exposures using Live Photos

Provided you have one of the latest iOS versions installed on your iPhone, you can create long exposures of up to three seconds in good lighting conditions. I've already written an extensive tutorial about how to take long exposures with iOS in the blog.

To recap, you'll need to do the following to capture a long exposure this way. For a very detailed description, please see the blog post linked above.

  • Make sure Live Photos is turned on
  • Hold your camera as steady as possible or use a tripod. iOS will detect even the slightest camera shake, and the result will be a slightly cropped photo
  • In the camera roll, swipe up over your Live Photo
  • Swipe left under Effects. The last entry is labeled Long Exposure
  • Tap it and see your Live Photo turned into a long exposure.

Here are a few sample photos I've taken this way:

 
 

Take long exposures using Slow Shutter Cam App

Slow Shutter Cam app is probably one of the oldest camera apps I have on my iPhone. It does one thing, and it does it exceptionally well, and that is, you guessed it, taking long exposures.

The app differs from the previous method using iOS Live Photos in some ways:

  • It can take really long exposures of 30 seconds and even longer if the app is set to bulb mode
  • It offers dedicated modes for capturing motion, light trails or photograph in low light
  • It provides manual ISO control which I consider essential for low light photography with iPhone.

Similarly, I've written an extensive review about Slow Shutter Cam app plus a few tutorials about the app like how to photograph fireworks with iPhone or how to photograph rides at a fairground at night with iPhone.

I took all of these photos using Slow Shutter Cam app.

 
 

Essential iPhone photography accessories for taking long exposures.

It's always a good idea to use a tripod for taking long exposures with your iPhone, especially if you plan to use apps like Slow Shutter Cam App; otherwise, you're photos will be:

  • ... either blurry, mainly if you use Slow Shutter Cam app
  • ... heavily cropped if you use Live Photos as iPhone will detect camera shake and stabilize it.

It's also a good idea to invest in a remote shutter release. Using such an accessory will prevent camera shake when triggering the shutter release and your photos will definitely be sharper.

If you're looking for a small and portable tripod for your iPhone, check out the Joby Griptight Impulse Gorillapod. Behind this fancy marketing name is a mobile and convenient to use product that consists of:

  • A Gorillapod that you can put on or wrap around basically everything. The magnetic feet even offer more ways to use it.
  • A Griptight One iPhone tripod mount that will also work with pretty any other standard tripod. So no need to buy an extra iPhone tripod mount
  • A wireless remote that connects to your iPhone via Bluetooth and allows you to trigger the shutter release without touching your iPhone. This way, you can avoid camera shake and get tack-sharp photos.

Here are the iPhone photo accessoires I use for taking long epxosures:

 

Ideas for taking long exposures to try for you

And finally, if you're looking for some inspiration to start with, here are a few ideas that you could try:

  • Take a long exposure of a waterfall with iPhone. Try to find the perfect exposure time. The longer you set the exposure, the more the waterfall will look like milk. Experiment a little.
  • Find a safe place in your city to capture light trails of cars driving by. Also, experiment with different exposure settings and see the difference.
  • Try to photograph a firework with iPhone near you and experiment to capture the entire period from the launch of the rocket until it exploded.
  • Find a well-illuminated building in your city and capture a sharp and noise free photo of it at night.
  • Take a long exposure of a fountain; bonus idea: Find a fountain that's illuminated at night
  • Go to a fairground and try to capture spinning rides with iPhone. Experiment with different exposure times.
  • Try to remove people from a busy street or place taking a long exposure during the day and the night.

And now, let's have fun and take some awesome long exposures with iPhone photos together. If you're looking for some more inspiration, you may want to check the blog posts about taking long exposures with iPhone I've written.