How to take good long exposure photos

There’s no precise definition of long exposure photography, but a good working definition is that long exposure photography uses shutter speeds of longer than 30 seconds to create photos where the moving elements are blurred.

The reason for this is that you need to use your camera’s Bulb mode to obtain a shutter speed longer than 30 seconds. This gets you out of your camera’s other exposure modes and into the mindset of a long exposure photographer.

Here’s one of my favorite long exposure photos, made with a shutter speed of 125 seconds.

How to take good long exposure photos

Photos made with shutter speeds of a minute or longer also have a completely different look or feel than those taken with slower shutter speeds.

I made this photo with a shutter speed of 2.5 seconds. The waves are blurred, but the sea isn’t smooth and the motion of the waves has created lots of texture. This isn’t what many photographers would call a long exposure photo. It’s simply an example of using a slow shutter speed to create blur.

How to take good long exposure photos

This photo of the same scene is definitely a long exposure photo. I used a shutter speed of 125 seconds and as a result the sea and clouds are much more blurred.

How to take good long exposure photos

But don’t waste too much time thinking about definitions. A better question is which shutter speed is most appropriate for the photo? Sometimes a shutter speed of one second gives the amount of blur and motion that you need. Another time you may need a shutter speed of two minutes.

If you are taking photos in the evening you can use both techniques. You can start with a shutter speed of around one second, then let the shutter speeds get longer as the sun goes down and the light fades. That’s exactly what I did with the example above. You can pick your favorites afterwards.

What subjects can you take long exposure photos of?

Most long exposure photos are landscapes or architecture, and the blurred elements are water or clouds. Occasionally photographers include people in the photo, either out of lack of choice because they are shooting in a busy location, or to deliberately introduce a human element into the image.

Long exposure landscape photos usually include both water and cloud, as it’s the way these elements blur during long exposure that gives them their unique look.

How to take good long exposure photos

Do you need a digital camera for long exposure photography?

It helps a great deal. Using film gives you two problems. The first is reciprocity failure. This simply means that film doesn’t respond to low light in the way that you think it should.

Your calculations may show that you need an exposure of say, two minutes. With a digital camera that would be fine. But with film you would in reality need a shutter speed of closer to four minutes or eight minutes. Without an LCD screen or a histogram, you only know for sure whether the exposure was good when you develop the film.

Digital cameras also have more tools to help you calculate the correct exposure settings (such as the histogram, and the ability to set a high ISO to take test shots).

For these reasons, long exposure photography is a relatively new genre that has only become popular in the age of digital photography.

Extending the shutter speed and capturing images using the long exposure photography technique can lead to some amazing images. However, as with any technique, there are additional factors you need to consider in order to avoid damaging the image.

There are several such factors when working with a slow shutter speed but an important one, that often goes under the radar, is light leaks. These commonly occur when using Neutral Density filters and are nearly impossible to fix in post-processing.

So, what exactly are light leaks and why do they occur in long exposure photography? How do you prevent them from ruining your images? Let’s find out.

What are light leaks?

Light leaks come in many shapes, sizes, and colors but are most commonly seen as an unwanted glare or glow that appears in the corners of the image. In extreme cases, they are seen as a large miscolored spot covering large parts of the frame. Such as in the example below.

How to take good long exposure photos

Light Leak from using a Long Exposure

As you might see, light leaks such as this are nearly impossible to fix in post-processing. It’s something that needs to be dealt with in the field.

Light leaks are more common for long exposure photography. That means that it’s less likely you see them when using ‘normal’ shutter speeds. If, however, you see them for all your images, that’s an indication that your lens or camera is damaged.

The reason why we see them more commonly in long exposure photography is that we use darkened filters to achieve this slow shutter speed. This means we need more light in order to get a well-exposed image. But small holes or gaps can expose the camera’s sensor to additional light, which causes these unwanted artifacts.

Since it’s nearly impossible to fix these areas in post-processing, we need to eliminate the problem already in the field. Luckily, there are a few simple solutions that make sure you never see light leaks again.

#1 Cover the viewfinder

The viewfinder is the most common source of light leaks in long exposure photography. This is especially the case when you’re using Neutral Density filters to achieve long exposures during the daytime, or when you have a bright source of light behind you.

This is because the light that enters through the viewfinder is a lot brighter than what enters through the lens. Normally, when you’re not using a filter, the light is the same on both sides of the camera, which means you won’t see any glare. Now, there’s very little light that actually makes its way to the sensor via the viewfinder. Yet, the little light that makes it, is enough to cause the glare and miscoloring you now know as light leaks.

Failing to cover the viewfinder is arguably the main reason you get light leaks in long exposure photography. The good news is that a lot of modern cameras come with built-in functions to block the viewfinder. These are known as viewfinder shutters.

Don’t worry if your camera doesn’t have them, though. Simply place a piece of cardboard, a dark microfiber cloth, or your hand in front of the viewfinder to prevent light from entering. Alternatively, you can purchase a viewfinder cover.

Note: This is not the case for mirrorless cameras as the Electronic Viewfinder doesn’t let any light through.

#2 Place Neutral Density Filters in the first slot

Filters are important in long exposure photography. More specifically, Neutral Density filters are essential in order to achieve slow shutter speeds that completely blur or obscure moving objects. There are a couple of different filter systems but more and more photographers depend on square filters.

These filters are placed into a filter holder that typically consists of two to three slots. You might not think that it matters what order you place the filters in but it’s actually a very important factor.

As I mentioned, light can leak through small gaps and produce glare. These gaps are exactly what you get if you don’t place the Neutral Density filter into the first slot.

These filters often come with a foam edge that prevents any gaps between the filter and filter holder. Obviously, this will only work if the filter is placed in the first slot so that the light-leaking gasket is pressed tight towards the holder.

How to take good long exposure photos

All NiSi ND Filters come with a light leaking gasket

There are some filter manufacturers that don’t include a light seal gasket. If this is true in your situation, I strongly recommend purchasing some. These don’t cost much more than $10 and, trust me, they’re worth every cent.

#3 Use screw-in or circular filters

The square filter systems are popular amongst landscape photographers but this system is quite pricy and not always the easiest place to begin. In addition to being a more bulky system, they also are far more likely to have small gaps where light can leak through.

How to take good long exposure photos

Circular filters are mounted directly onto the filter thread of a lens. This further reduces the probability of light leaking through. They are just as good as the square filters but they are less flexible as it’s not ideal to use multiple filters at once.

#4 Cover gaps and openings in the lens or camera

The three methods above should eliminate all light leaks. If you’re still experiencing some, it’s a good indication that either the lens or camera is damaged. In that case, I strongly recommend contacting your local camera store and sending the gear for a service.

Before that, though, you want to locate where the light leak comes from. The best way to do this is to bring out the trustworthy gaffer tape. Cut off small pieces and tape the gaps and openings around the camera until you’ve located the source. Remember to cover one piece at a time while taking images afterward. If the light leak is still there, cover the next place and try again.

Don’t forget to cover the filter holder as well, as a poorly built system might be the reason you’re experiencing light leak.

Follow the steps above and eliminate light leaks in long exposure photography! Are you interested in learning more about Long Exposure Photography? Then you’ll love my eBook ‘Ultimate Guide to Long Exposure Photography‘.

Learn how to set up your kit just right and use slow shutter speeds to take surreal long-exposure photographs.

How to take good long exposure photos

Andrew Hoyle/CNET

Fast shutter speeds are great at freezing action in place, but slow the speed right down and watch as movement in a scene turns to smooth, abstract forms. Long-exposure photography is a great technique to play with and lends itself particularly to clouds moving across landscapes, waves crashing onto rocky shores or busy nighttime city streets.

It doesn’t even require expensive kit or hours of training to get started. Read through this guide to find out how you can create your own slow-shutter masterpieces.

The minimum kit you’ll need

  • A camera that offers full manual control over shutter speed, aperture and ISO speeds.
  • A sturdy tripod.

Handy extras

  • A remote shutter release allows you to take a photo without touching the camera, which can help reduce blur. If you don’t have one, then setting the self timer for 2 seconds will achieve the same result.
  • Neutral density filters, such as the Big Stopper by Lee Filters, are crucial if you want to take long exposures in the middle of the day. They act like sunglasses for the lens, reducing the amount of light coming into the camera, letting you expose a photo for over a minute without it looking completely white and washed out.

Find your location

Long-exposure photos have the most impact when they combine both moving and still subjects, so think about where you can combine those. Clouds moving over buildings and cityscapes provide brilliant fodder for dramatic shots, so head into town, get in among the buildings and point your camera upward. Clouds streaking over wide landscapes also look particularly dramatic.

How to take good long exposure photos

Andrew Hoyle/CNET

City streets at night are fantastic locations to experiment with, as car headlights will turn into long, winding streaks of light, twisting through the streets, when captured with slow shutter speeds. Position yourself near a busy junction — safely away from traffic, of course — and see what you can catch.

Set up your equipment

Set up your tripod so it’s nice and stable. Make sure it’s positioned so it can’t be knocked by passersby, and not on a surface that is likely to shake or vibrate due to traffic or wind. Keep in mind that even the slightest wobble — when exaggerated over a minute — can result in a very blurry shot. A strong wind can cause a lot of camera shake, so position yourself as a barrier to reduce the amount of wind destroying your lovely photos.

Frame your shot and set your lens to manual focus — particularly if you’re shooting in the dark. Many cameras allow you to zoom into the scene using the LCD display, which is handy for making sure you’ve got the best focus on your subject. If you’re using dark neutral-density filters, slot these in place after you’ve set up your scene.

How to take good long exposure photos

Andrew Hoyle/CNET

Choose the right settings

The main setting you need to change to capture long exposures is the shutter speed. The slower the shutter speed, the longer the sensor is exposed to light, resulting in more movement being captured. How long you choose will depend on how fast your subjects are travelling and how much ambient light there is.

More photography tips

If you’re shooting car headlight trails at night, for example, start out with a shutter speed of 2 to 3 seconds — as the cars are moving fast, you won’t need to keep the shutter open long to capture the movement. Clouds tend to move more slowly across the sky, so shutter speeds of 20 seconds or more may be necessary here.

If you’re shooting for longer than 30 seconds then you’ll need to switch to bulb mode, which allows you to keep the shutter open for as long as you keep your finger held down on the shutter. This is typically only a feature you’ll find on dSLRs and you’ll definitely need to use a remote shutter release — holding your finger on the camera for that length of time will shake it and cause blur in the final image.

How to take good long exposure photos

Andrew Hoyle/CNET

Using a narrow aperture — f/12-f/22 — will restrict the amount of light allowed in so it’s a good way of shooting long exposures in low, but not quite black light. Keep your ISO speed at the minimum your camera will allow — typically 100 or 200 — as this will help keep image noise to a minimum.

If your camera allows it — and most do — shoot in raw format. Not only do raw images capture greater detail in the dark and light areas of an image, they allow you to select the white balance after having taken the shot.

Take your shot

If your dSLR has a mirror lockup function, use it. When taking a photo, a dSLR’s mirror has to physically flip up out of the way to allow light to strike the sensor instead of being bounced into the viewfinder. This movement, although tiny, is enough to add a small amount of blur to long-exposure photos. Using mirror lockup moves the mirror out of the way before the photo starts to be captured.

How to take good long exposure photos

Andrew Hoyle/CNET

If you have a remote shutter release, use that to avoid shaking the camera. Alternatively, set the self timer to 2 seconds so you don’t have to touch the camera when the shot is taken. Always review your shots on the LCD display to ensure they’re exposed sufficiently and zoom in to check that you’ve focused properly.

Process your shots

Processing isn’t a critical step, but it’s certainly worth experimenting with. Although you should always make sure your shot is properly exposed and composed in camera — no amount of editing can rescue a badly composed shot — the sometimes abstract results from long-exposure photos often lend themselves to a bit of tinkering with in post.

Nighttime shots, particularly car headlights streaking through dark city streets, are naturally high-contrast so often work well in black and white. There are no strict rules to processing, so it’s always good to spend some time having a play with colour balance sliders, contrast and even cross-processing.

How to take good long exposure photos

Andrew Hoyle/CNET

A useful technique in night photography is the long exposure.

The effects that can be captured with a long exposure are stunning and have an ethereal quality.

The most important tool that you will need is a sturdy tripod, along with a DSLR camera that allows for long exposures.

Photographing the Ferris Wheel

How to take good long exposure photos

How to take good long exposure photos

To photograph a Ferris wheel at night, move close and use a wide-angle lens to get as much detail as possible. Place your camera on a tripod and frame the image.

Because we want all the elements to be sharp, choose a small aperture between f/11-f/32. Set your camera to either Manual or TV (Shutter Priority) mode and select a shutter speed according to the speed of the lighted Ferris wheel, and the style you are after (anywhere between 1-30 seconds).

You should take the image using the camera’s self timer or a cable release so that you avoid touching and jiggling the camera. The image captured will be full of light trails against a black sky, yet the center beams that hold the wheel will be sharp.

Making Star Trails

How to take good long exposure photos

A long exposure on a starry night can produce beautiful light trails created by the stars and the rotation of the earth.

The best way to frame the image is to include an element of interest such as an old tree in the foreground. Place your camera on a tripod and focus the lens to infinity. You’ll want to use a cable release to eliminate camera shake of any kind, as it will RUIN your photo.

Set the camera to B “Bulb” shooting mode and set your aperture between f/2.8 – f/4 for optimal results. Depress the remote to open the shutter. You should keep your ISO at 100 to keep the digital noise at a minimum. To complete the photo after your desired elapsed time, depress the remote again, and release the shutter. These exposures can be 15 minutes to several hours long.

Stunning Light Trails

How to take good long exposure photos

Traffic head light and tail light trails give a stunning effect and are a great way to get acquainted with long exposure times.

Select a busy road that has lots of traffic at night. Use a sturdy tripod and position the camera so that it has an overview of the area. Use a small aperture of f/16 or smaller for a greater depth of field, making most of the image in focus.

The longer the exposure, the more lines will appear and the longer they will look.

Blurry Sea Waters

How to take good long exposure photos

To capture that dramatic look of the ocean and the sky, you should utilize the fantastic light of “the golden hour,” the last hour before the sun sets.

Follow the basics of night photography – place the camera on a tripod, use a wide-angle lens with the smallest aperture possible, and focus to infinity. Turn the camera’s mode dial to Manual or Bulb shooting mode and use a slow shutter speed (5-30 seconds) for a longer exposure. The longer the exposure, the mistier the water appears.

Use your camera’s self-timer or a cable release to take the photo with absolutely no blurring. Don’t use flash because it could ruin the effect in the image.

Determining Exposure

How to take good long exposure photos

The exposure of your night time image will vary depending on certain factors. If there is a lot of ambient light, then the shutter speed will be shorter. If you are shooting somewhere very dark, then the shutter speed will need to be longer.

To capture the effects of light trails you need a shutter speed of at least 1/15th of a second, which means you must use a tripod. The image of the Houses of Parliament required a 6 second shutter speed, which is slow enough to capture the traffic trails. The f/8 aperture allowed the building to be sharp.

The more you practice, the more you will become tuned to the exposure you need for the effect you want.

Recommended Settings

The main thing to keep in mind while deciding on the correct exposure is how to capture both the shadows as well as the highlights.

If you are successful in obtaining the right shadows, you will be able to produce an excellent night scene that will win you compliments. When taking long exposures, the key is to keep the shutter open only long enough for the desired effect. If you keep the shutter open too long, you’ll lose the details in whatever light source is illuminating your subject, and you might even lose the ability to identify what the subject is.

When trying to create a light trail, the shutter should be open for at least 1 second, and therefore requires a tripod. Use shutter priority mode and start with 1 second shutter speed and see what the result is; if the trail is too short, add 2 seconds, and then keep adding 2 seconds until you get the lighting effect that you want (the beauty of digital photography is that you’ll know immediately). If you have too much blurring, then your shutter was open too long, and you need to dial it back down maybe a full second.

Recommended Equipment

In addition to your digital camera, you need a sturdy tripod to take good night photographs. This will ensure you stabilize your camera firmly, thereby avoiding blurriness in your pictures.

We recommend the AmazonBasics 60-inch Portable Tripod as an excellent entry-level option for taking long exposure captures.

Conclusion

Taking long exposure images at night can be perfected with practice and by learning to recognize the lighting conditions and how to adjust the camera to meet those conditions.

Depending on what you have to work with, your shutter speed can be anything from 1/60th of a second to several minutes.

What makes long exposure images unique is that each image is unique, since light trails move in unusual ways, and with practice, you should have a collection of photos that are truly one of a kind.

Ever wondered how photographers take cool night pictures of roads in New York with the red and white car lights.

In this Instructable I will show you how to create these photos and other tricks using the same method.

HOW IT WORKS:
These photos are taken using long exposure settings on cameras. The car body doesn’t show up in the photo as the road is exposed for a longer time, though the car lights show up as they are lights and will therefore be brighter than the lengthy exposed road.

Step 1: Items/Tools Needed

1) A camera that has adjustable exposure settings. Usually 15-20 seconds is long enough. I find that digital SLRs work the best, though other cameras can be used.

2) A tripod or solid placement . This is to ensure the photo isn’t blured by movement. This is esential as the long exposure will mean that any movement of the camera during the 15 or so seconds, will result in the image being blured.

You will also need a busy road that isn’t well lit by street lights if possible.

To create the second type of photo in this Instructable (writing in the air, outlining people and objects) you will need a torch or LED light of some sort, preferably one that is not too bright, but is largely focuses the light straight forward instead of dispersing outwards.

Step 2: Firstly: Find the Best Location for Tripod

The photo angle and tripod position is essential for getting the best photo result.

Find a road that is busy at night, but isn’t over lit by street lamps and surrounding buildings. Try to ensure that your photo has a key feature in it, like a roundabout or impressive building or road structure.

The best results come from positions where the camera is positioned high up on a hill, bridge or building that looks down onto the location of the picture.

Step 3: Setting the Camera

On the Canon digital SLRs set the mode to TV, this will be different on other cameras so refer to the camera’s manual and try to find the fully manual mode.

Then adjust the exposure length (this is how long the camera is ‘open’ for taking the picture). On the Canon this is changed by turning the wheel that is located just behind the shutter button (left to increase the exposure length, right to decrease the exposure length). I find the best results between 15-25 seconds (depending on the time of year, day and level of traffic).

You may also get better results by changing the ISO speed. On the Canon this is done by pressing the ‘up’ button then setting your speed. I find having the lowest speed gives the best contrast between the car lights and other objects in the photo, so I put my ISO speed on its lowest setting ‘100’.

Another setting you may wish to change is the white balance setting. I find the best results on the Shade setting (Approx. 7000k).

Step 4: Now Go Take Photos!

Now go take some great photos of your town or city. Experiment with different settings and locations. You can get some great long light reflections if the area is wet (though i wouldn’t advise taking these pictures in the rain).

Note: If your tripod or camera placement isn’t extremely sturdy, you may wish to set the camera on a timmer, so that when you press the shutter button down, it doesn’t blur the image at all.

Step 5: Alternatives to Roads

There are many different light objects that you can photograph using long exposures to get great light photos.

Fairs and rides
If there’s a fair on near you at night, then you could photograph it in the same way. Taking long exposures of rides when they are in motion can create some amazing effects.

Fireworks
Fireworks are great to take long exposure photos of, and are always set-off at dark night, so there is a good contrast in the photo. You can experiment with your own (BUT REMEMBER TO BE CAREFUL WITH FIREWORKS) or go to a public fireworks event.

Light writing and graffitti
Set-up in a dark room and get some glow sticks or lights. You can write things in the air, and they will show up in full on the photo. Outlining people or objects with these light trails can create some cool effects, and you can also use a flash to seal people in certain poses.

My favorite type of personal photography is taking night shots of the stars (long exposure pictures). I am often busy shooting pictures of people at weddings, or apartments, or models, and it’s important for me to make sure I take pictures for fun regularly. Taking pictures for no one other than myself is highly rewarding, soul filling, and fun! I also love taking travel photos and HDR photos, in this article we will take a close look at exactly how you can take your own epic star photographs.

How to take good long exposure photos

What you need to take jaw-dropping pictures of stars

To take your star pictures, you only need three things:

    (for better ISO capabilities) (for the widest view of the sky)
  1. a tripod (for stability during 15 second photos)

(Note: You can do this with a cropped sensor camera, without a tripod, and without a fisheye lens. It will just be a little harder and slightly less jaw-dropping)

How to take good long exposure photos

Camera settings

You can nail this shot almost every time with these settings: 25 second exposure, f/2.8, ISO 1600

If your lens doesn’t open up to f/2.8 you can try 30 seconds at f/4 with ISO 1600.

Note: this kind of photography won’t work if there is a full moon out (or even a half moon). D on’t compete with large light sources, the stars will be over powered. The best location for star photography is way out in nature, away from city lights that cause “light pollution.”

How to take good long exposure photos

Why to use these settings

The most important component of these settings is the 25-second exposure. An exposure longer than about 25 seconds will start to show star trails. Photographing star trails is a legitimate type of photography on its own, but not the type of photography you are trying to do here. Since you are limited to about 15-25 seconds max shutter speed, you still need to let in more light.

The largest aperture you can find on a fisheye lens is f/2.8, and still, your picture might not be quite bright enough to look stunning. So this is where the ISO comes into play. On a full-frame camera like the 5D Mark III or the Nikon D800, you can bump the ISO up to around 2000 without seeing much noise.

You’ll learn how to reduce noise in Lightroom in the next section for a super clean photo.

How to take good long exposure photos

Editing in Lightroom

I do extensive retouching in Lightroom after I take my photos. I’ll usually boost the exposure up by a stop or more, and I’ll use Noise Reduction under the Detail section to reduce any unwanted “noise” (those pesky extra white, red or blue pixels that show up when you push the ISO too high).

Here is a standard star photo of mine and the Lightroom settings I used to create it:

How to take good long exposure photos

Here are the Lightroom settings I used to edit the above photo:

How to take good long exposure photos How to take good long exposure photos

1) You can see in the first panel that I bumped the whites up to +46 and brought the blacks down to -52. I really wanted to emphasize the stars against the dark sky and this is a good way to do that. Pushing the clarity up to +55 also helps define the stars against the sky, making them nice and crispy. I boosted the saturation to bring out any colors that are in the sky.

2) In the second panel, you can see that I sharpened up the image a bit, also to emphasize the stars. At the same time, I brought up the noise reduction to 33 to smooth out some of the noise that might show up, and I brought up the color to 25 for the same reasons.

Pro tips

How to take good long exposure photos

Here is where you can have fun with the editing. Play around with the split toning sliders to make the colors in your sky appear magical. In the photo above you can see a little bit of turquoise in the lower part of the sky, and that comes from boosting that color in the Shadows of the Split Toning slider here:

You can also affect the color of the sky by playing around with the temperature and hue sliders to get some pretty magnificent looking star photos. Take a look at this one photo rendered three different ways:

How to take good long exposure photos

Another pro tip that you may have noticed in all of the photo examples I gave here is this – shoot your stars in context. It really tells a great story to see a silhouette of a pine tree or a house in the background, and it shows the magnitude of the scene when you have an object in the foreground to compare to the stars.

Lastly, make sure you know which direction the Milky Way is. You can use an app like Sky Map to see exactly what stars are in the sky above you.

Today, I’ll introduce you to one of the lesser known (unless you’re an Instagramer) parks in Vienna and demonstrate one way of taking a long exposure with iPhone.

Vienna is famous for many things. In facts, it’s been chosen as the most livable city for many years in a row. Besides many other great things here, we do have a number of wonderful parks. One of them is Setagaya Park.

I discovered this park when I looked for a small waterfall near Vienna to learn and experiment taking long exposures with iPhone back in 2013. The park is a beautiful Japanese style park located in the 19th district of Vienna. It was designed and created to demonstrate friendship and a city partnership between Vienna and the Setagaya district in Tokio.

In Setagaya park, you’ll find lots of great photo spots like a Japanese Tea house, a small lake, a bridge, and this little waterfall. The park seems to be a kind of “hidden” gem for Instagramers and wedding shootings; lots of posing going on there. So be there early; the park usually opens at 7am.

What you need to take a long exposure of a waterfall with an iPhone.

To take long exposures of a waterfall with iPhone you need:

  • An iPhone camera app capable of shooting long exposures (1 second or longer) like Slow Shutter Cam
  • A tripod like the Joby Gorillapod or the AmazonBasics Travel Tripod
  • A remote shutter release to avoid any kind of camera shake or movement when taking a long exposure.

2020 Update: Since I wrote this blog post a few years ago, some things changed. Now, you have even more options to take a long exposure with iPhone. Check them out.

Slow Shutter Cam App

Slow Shutter Cam App is one of my recommended iPhone camera apps that I’ve been using since I turned to iPhone photography. I’ve posted a full Slow Shutter Cam App review here in the blog.

Tripod for iPhone

One of the two tripods for iPhone I use like the super portable Gorillapod for iPhone.

It’s small, portable and the flexible feet will enable you to use it on any kind of surface or even to wrap it around things like handrails.

If you don’t have one yet, I strongly encourage you to get one.

Remote Shutter Release for iPhone

I initially used Muku Shuttr as a remote and wireless shutter release. But after years of usage, mine broke, and I learned it’s not sold anymore.

So know I use the Joby Impulse Wireless shutter release that came with the Joby Gorillapod for iPhone.

If you have an Apple Watch, you can use that as a remote Shutter Release, too. Just install the Slow Shutter Cam App to your Apple Watch.

How to take good long exposure photos

Using a remote shutter release with Slow Shutter Cam App

How to take good long exposure photos

Using Apple Watch as a remote shutter release with Slow Shutter Cam App

How to use Slow Shutter Cam App to take a long exposure

So, let’s get started and take a long exposure of this gorgeous waterfall:

  • If you haven’t done it already, download Slow Shutter Cam App from the App Store.
  • Check that your wireless remote shutter release is connected to your iPhone and works with Slow Shutter Cam App.
  • Make sure Slow Shutter Cam App is set to Motion Blur. To check that, bring up the settings screen by tapping the gear icon in the lower right corner in Slow Shutter Cam App.
  • If you’re shooting in low light, set ISO to 100 to avoid noise. You’ll compensate the low ISO setting with slower shutter speed.
  • Set the shutter speed to 2-3 seconds if you’re not yet familiar with taking long exposures with iPhone or be brave and set it to bulb mode. This means you have to start and stop the exposure with your remote shutter, which is my favorite way to take long exposures because you can see the developing long exposure right on the iPhone screen.
  • Compose the frame and shoot.
  • Don’t forget to press save when you’re satisfied with the result to save your work to the camera roll.

The last point is particularly important. I learned during photo walks that some people forget to tap the save button because they’re used to that almost all other camera apps automatically save the result.

And if you’d like to visit this park during your next trip to Vienna, here’s the exact location of Setagya Park on Google Maps.

How to take good long exposure photos

And finally, if you’re interested in more iPhone photography tutorials, follow me on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram where I share my photos shot on iPhone and how I shot and edited them.

And now, let’s take gorgeous long exposure iPhone photos of waterfalls together.

Did you know that your mobile phone is capable of long-exposure photography? Your amazing phone camera can do even more with the right apps and tools on hand. Here are the best ones we could find for slow-shutter / long-exposure photography.

What is long-exposure photography?

Long-exposure photography refers to images taken with a camera whose shutter remains open for a long time, allowing more light into the image sensor. The moving elements will create blurriness, while the still elements remain crisp.

It is also commonly referred to as “time-exposure” or “slow-shutter” photography.

How to take good long exposure photos

A slow shutter speed allows you to capture movement over time. In this example, the left image’s shutter speed is faster than the right. On the right, a slowed shutter speed captured more light over time, creating the light streaks from the cars’ headlights.

Best long exposure camera apps

alt=”A1 Slow Shutter Cam” width=”169″ height=”300″ />A1 SuperSlo Shutter Camera – Long Exposure Cam & Pic Editor

The controls look a bit clunky but all of the features are there: control the shutter speed from 0.5 to 15 seconds, sensitivity, self-timer mode and light trail mode. Pretty great for a free app.

alt=”Slow Shutter Fast Cam” width=”169″ height=”300″ />Slow Shutter Fast Cam

Free (Ad-Enabled, remove ad for $2.99) on the App Store for iPhone/iOS

Another free feature-packed app that gives you an insight into the camera’s settings as they change. Manual and auto-focus enabled, and options for different capture modes, including light trail mode. Control shutter speed, zoom in speed and more.

alt=”Slow Shutter Cam” width=”169″ height=”300″ />Slow Shutter Cam

If you’re willing to shell out a couple of dollars, then spend it on Slow Shutter Cam. This app is a lot more polished than the free ones, and gives you a lot more control. Use different capture modes including Motion Blur, Light Trail and Low Light– with specialised controls for each. It’s highly rated in the app store. The app had a little trouble white balancing, but it fixed itself up pretty quickly.

Android Apps

  • Long Exposure Camera 2 (Free, In-App Purchases) – Low resolution photos in the free version. You’ll need to upgrade if you want any larger images. (Free, Paid version available here) – A wide-ranging app that allows you to control various camera settings manually, including shutter speed. (Free, In-App Purchases) – Another app with many manual controls and a nice interface.

Long-exposure photo ideas

Take a look at these ideas for some quick inspiration in using long exposure. The possibilities are endless!

Traffic at night

How to take good long exposure photos

A clichéd but wonderful example of long-exposure photography is traffic at night. Moving traffic under long exposure creates streams of white and red light from the head and tail lights.

Silky smooth waterfalls

How to take good long exposure photos

The movement of water under long exposure makes waterfalls and streams of water look wispy and misty.

Paint with light

Try using a sparkler at night and drawing in the air while the shutter is open. The slower the shutter speed, the more time you have to draw.

How to take good long exposure photos

Using a long exposure allows you to paint with light using torches, sparklers, and fire.

Moving Train

This dramatic shot shows the subject watching the world go by while they remain still.

How to take good long exposure photos

A slow shutter speed helps to show the movement of the train while the subject stands still and remains sharp.

Tips for the best long-exposure photos

The key to a long exposure photo is to capture the contrast between moving and still elements of a photo. The moving elements will be blurry or virtually invisible, and the still parts of the image should be sharp.

How to take good long exposure photos

Thanks to the great performance of the iPhone’s camera, you don’t have to be a professional photographer to be able to capture long exposure photographs. This popular technique, allows you to capture motion blur, light trails and improve shots in poor light conditions. Although the default Camera app is not designed to give you control over aspects like light sensitivity and the speed of the shutter, you can find a good selection of apps in the App Store that offer this features. In order to get stunning long exposure photos, you just need your iPhone and a good tripod. Here we’ll share some tips that will come handy.

How to take great long exposures using your iPhone

The iPhone 6 and the new iPhone 7 are set to offer the best camera quality in the series, but even previous versions were known for offering great results. Apart from your iPhone, you will need a good tripod in order to capture long exposure photos effectively. This is because during long exposures, the shutter has to stay open for long periods of time, which means that you really need a tripod. If you have one for a large camera, you can find an adapter to fit your iPhone. There are affordable options (around $20) that work with a variety of smartphones, including different iPhone models.

Once you have the equipment, the nest thing you need to get is an app that will help you to get great long exposures. Slow Shutter Cam by Cogitap Software is a great option that is specifically designed for long exposure shots. It offers a great selection of features that you won’t find with other apps. You will be able to check a live preview of the picture, make any necessary adjustments and check the final results immediately. This is very convenient and allows you to spend less time editing the image afterwards. Slow Shutter Cam is available for $1.99. There are other options like LongExpo by EyeTap Soft , which is free. However, Slow Shutter Cam offers richer functionality.

Motion Blur

This effect is created when an object passes by and with Slow Shutter Cam, you will be able to edit the photos. You simply need to tap on the edit button and you will be able to rewind and fast forward the capture to get the right balance. It is also possible to add small editing effects within Slow Shutter Cam. Motion blur allows you to make your photos unique and with Slow Shutter Cam, you will be able to get great images.

Improve low light photos

In order to get better low light photos, you will need a lot of light, but if you leave the shutter open for too long, you would get motion blur. The iPhone boosts the light sensitivity to balance things up, but this results in noise. Once again, Slow Shutter Cam proves to be a great option because it allows you to control the shutter manually. It is likely that you will need to try different shots until you find what you are looking for, but usually, you can use medium exposure setting for low light and then adjust the shutter speed to suit the environment where you are taking the photo.

Capturing Light Trails

Light trails are created by moving objects that emit light and they are usually best to capture when night is approaching. Dusk is the perfect time for this technique because it is when you will be able to capture light without getting street lights and other objects that can interfere in the image. In most cases, 15 seconds and 1/4 light sensitivity are the perfect conditions for light captures. It is also possible to stop the capture earlier if needed. You can simply tap the start button to capture a new image over a previous one, if you don’t want the first one. This is useful when you want to stop and start captures while cars are passing by and you want to focus on tail lights instead of getting the headlights.

You can also capture images after dusk, but this will require a higher light sensitivity and longer capture. You can use the pause and start feature that Slow Shutter Cam supports in order to avoid capturing cars’ headlights. To make adjustments in the photos, you can use editing tools like Google’s Snapseed.