Review: Slow Shutter Cam App for long exposures with iPhone
One of the things I missed when I ditched my DSLR for iPhone photography was the ability to take long exposures. The iPhone camera app simply won't let me adjust the shutter speed. Then I tried a few third-party iPhone camera apps that advertised their manual shutter speed setting.
But the slowest shutter speed I could get from those apps was 1/2 second. So I began to use Slow Shutter Cam App to take photos like these:
Meanwhile, Apple has introduced Live Photos that will allow you to create long exposures of up to three seconds with iOS 11. I wrote about creating long exposures using Live Photos in a dedicated blog post.
But Slow Shutter Cam App does not have any limitation of the shutter speed. You can set the shutter speed up to 30 seconds and if you need more, just set it to bulb mode. In bulb mode, the shutter remains open until you close it by pressing the shutter release again.
And best of all, you can even edit the motion blur strength after you took the shot. Try that with a DSLR ;)
In the November 2016 update, the developers even added manual ISO control. So now you can turn down ISO, which in turn lengthens the exposure time, but allows you to get low noise shots even in tricky light situations. I recommend sticking to ISO 80-100 for good results with low noise.
Slow Shutter Cam App is around since 2010 and continuously maintained since then. I guess it's the oldest iPhone photo app on my iPhone. If you're curious, here are all the other iPhone camera apps I use regularely. ￼
Check Slow Shutter Cam Settings before using it
Once you've downloaded the app, do yourself a favor and check the settings first. Older versions of the app had some unfavorable default settings. That was fixed in later releases, but still, there are a few settings I recommend you to check before taking your first shot.
Tap the gear icon in the lower right corner to get to the settings screen. ￼ Now check for the following settings:
- First, make sure that the picture resolution is set to maximum. On my iPhone 6S Plus that is 12 Megapixel (MP).
- Set your preferred picture file format. Slow Shutter Cam can save your photos in JPG format or in uncompressed TIFF format that will get you slightly better photo quality especially if you plan to edit the shot afterward. As always, better quality comes at the expense of bigger file size.
- Then I recommend enabling the volume shutter (release). This allows using either the volume buttons as a shutter release, which in turn enables your headphones as a wired remote shutter release or using a wireless remote shutter like the Joby Impulse.
- Enable or disable geotagging of your photos, depending on your privacy preferences. ￼
Using Slow Shutter Cam App
Unless you can keep your hand completely still for several seconds, I strongly recommend using Slow Shutter Cam only with your iPhone mounted to a tripod. I use either an AmazonBasics Travel Tripod or a Joby Gorillapod for iPhone.
Also, I encourage you to use a remote shutter to avoid camera shake and blurry photos when pressing the shutter release. If you have an Apple Watch, install Slow Shutter Cam App on your Apple Watch, and you can use Apple Watch as a remote shutter. Quite convenient.
Alternatively, you can get one of the many Bluetooth remote shutter releases that are available. As my Muku Shutter broke a while ago, I currently use the one from Joby (the Joby Impulse) that came with the Joby Griptight Gorillapod Magnetic.
You can get the [Joby Impulse wireless remote shutter for a few bucks from Amazon].
Slow Shutter Cam Shooting Modes
Slow Shutter Cam has three different shooting modes that you select by tapping the shutter icon.
The three shooting modes are:
- Motion Blur: To capture motion like floating water from a waterfall
- Light Trails: To capture movement at night like car lights
- Low Light: Long exposures of up to 30 seconds and more for low light situation. I strongly encourage you to use this one in combination with manual ISO control. ￼ With each of the above options, you can capture motion up to 60 seconds. If you need longer exposures, set the capture duration slider to bulb. More on that later.
For each shooting mode, you can set the ISO manually. The ISO setting is responsible for light sensitivity in photography. A low ISO value means low sensitivity, longer exposure, and lower noise. A high ISO setting will result in a shorter exposure but will also increase the noise in the final photo. In iPhone photography, I would consider everything above ISO 250 as prone to visible noise. So keep the ISO as low as possible.
Setting ISO to auto by moving the ISO slider to the left will tell Slow Shutter Cam to choose an ISO setting that may lead to noisy photos in low light situations. So, unless you're shooting in bright sunlight, try to set it manually. Now decide what you want to shoot: Motion Blur or Light Trails; I won't cover the Low Light mode here. There are better apps to shoot in low light situations when you don't need to capture light trails or other moving stuff. Check out my iPhone night photography page for more on that topic.
Next set the two sliders Strength and Capture Duration. The capture duration goes up to 60 seconds. If you need to shoot longer exposures with your iPhone, then set the capture duration slider to bulb. In this mode, you have to start and stop the exposure manually by pressing the shutter release. Don't even think using this mode without a tripod and a remote shutter. Your picture will be blurry!
Once you've shot the image, you can edit certain aspects of the shot. Slow Shutter Cam will display a small toolbar with three buttons clear, save and edit. Clear will simply delete the photo you've just shot without saving it. Save does what the name suggests. By pressing edit, you can adjust settings like brightness, contrast, saturation, and hue. But best of all, you can even tweak the intensity of e.g., the motion blur or the light trails after you took the shot.
Notice the Freeze button. Once you tap it, you can adjust the freeze (or motion blur) in the shot. Move the slider to the left to get a motion blur effect towards the beginning of the exposure and move it to the right to get the motion blur effect towards the end of the exposure. Isn't that awesome?
If you're serious about taking stunning photos at night with iPhone, then Slow Shutter Cam is a definite recommendation, and you can get Slow Shutter Cam App from the App Store. I've been using it since it was released years ago.
I also have a few more tutorials about how to take long exposures with iPhone for you here in the blog
And finally, One thing you'll definitely should use when photographing with Slow Shutter Cam App is a tripod. I use the AmazonBasics Travel Tripod together with the Joby Griptight iPhone tripod mounts.
And now, let's take fantastic long exposures with iPhone together.