How do I Shoot Breathtaking Long Exposure Photos on my Phone?

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October 26, 2020

Long exposure photos can look fancy and seem out of your reach as a mobile photographer. These photos will take you to the next level with an artistic flair, but you’ll be able to master them. Grab your mobile phone and read on.

         Long exposure photos with a mobile phone are used to take photos of objects that are moving but look still. A river flowing is a perfect place to try long exposure photography.

Traditionally long exposure on a DSLR or mirrorless camera has a shutter that opens and closes as you take a photo. The time it takes to take the photo is called shutter speed and is normally open for 1/60 of a second. That is enough time to let just enough light in to take a properly exposed image.

         Mobile phones have a digital shutter that has software and hardware that change the shutter speed. Typically, when taking photos, the shutter speed is very quick. Sometimes you’ll want to increase the time the shutter stays open from 15 seconds to 30 minutes or longer.  This is called long exposure. In very dark environments you may choose to increase the time the shutter stays open to let in more light.

One method of long exposure mobile photography is Astrophotography. Astrophotography is another example of long exposure photography. A 30-second exposure in a really dark sky will capture the light from the stars. For brighter photos of stars, you would increase the exposure to create light trails. Light trails show the stars as they rotate throughout the night sky. Isn’t that stellar? (Lol)

Long Exposure smartphone Photo

Equipment for Long Exposure Mobile Photos

Tripods for Better Long Exposure Shots

                     Holding your hands steady for 15 – 30 seconds is not a possibility, so of course, you will need something to stabilize your shot. Even if you try with all your might the tiniest of vibration will ruin your photo.

         So, it’s time to try a tripod. There are all types of tripods that are compact for mobile photography. Instead of hauling around a massive tripod, you can transport it easily in a bag or a pocket.

 The micro stand is the smallest tripod out in the market. It is built with high-quality material, and you won’t go wrong with this tripod. The Joby GripTight One is the standard GorillaPod that has been updated recently. It has bendable legs and a sturdy ball joint that makes taking angle pictures easy. The Pro Stand is sturdy and reliable and will not move if there is wind or if it is placed on something unsteady. The mount is made of high-quality materials that will keep your phone safe. If you are getting more into cell phone photography try the Pro Series. All these products are fantastic products that will last for many years.

I recommend using the Gorilla Pod because they are so flexible. With adjustable legs, you can create steady footing on any surface.

Steady Shots with a Remote Camera Shutter

         Did you know that tapping on the screen to take a photo causes vibration and defeats the purpose of a tripod? The smallest movement can affect the quality and sharpness of the photo and lose the tiny details in the photo. The Joby Impulse Bluetooth Remote works to take one picture or many pictures from a distance. There is no need to run to make it into the shot with the timer. This handy tool is a great way to shoot long exposure mobile photography light painting shots.

Lens for Wide-angle Shots

       An additional lens is helpful for long exposure shots for mobile photography. Although it is not necessary, it will improve your image. If you’re seeking to do some long exposure star or night photography, it’s best to use a wide-angle lens. 

       A wide-angle lens is a handy tool if you enjoy traveling or being in nature. It’s an excellent lens for landscape photography and is heavily used in long exposure photos. I recommend the Olloclip clip, macro, wide angle, and fisheye lens. It is versatile and can be used for many purposes. The Olloclip lens almost doubles the field of view on your phone. It’s great for stunning long exposure shots.

How to take Long Exposures with Manual Mode

         To begin taking a photo you’ll need to access manual mode. This can be through your traditional camera app if you have an Android or through a third party app for iPhone.

| Learn about the best manual mode apps for android and iPhone

Instructions for Shooting Long Exposure on iPhone:

Since the iPhone does not have manual settings in the built-in camera app, there is a workaround to create long exposure shots. This workaround works well if you are taking a photo of a stream or water.

All you need to do is turn on Live Photos and take the shot. This will record a 1.5-second video before and after the shot. Then go to photos and scroll up to see the options for long exposure. This will put the frames into a flattened layer that looks like it was a long exposure shot.

The downside with this is that you don’t have very much control and the software can make little errors that effect the quality of your image.

We recommend using a third-party manual mode app. I suggest using a paid version because you will have added features. The one I recommend is ProCam because you can choose features specifically for long exposure photography from motion blur, light trail, and low light.

Long Exposure Mobile photos

Instructions for Shooting on Android :

         To take a photo open your native camera app and tap on pro mode. Once you have tapped on pro mode or manual mode you can increase the shutter speed. The camera app on your phone may have some limitations in adjusting the shutter speed so you may need to try a third-party app.

         We recommend trying Camera-VF 5, you can try the lite version for free but I suggest paying the money for all the features. Camera-VF 5 comes with many features that make it easy to increase the shutter speed and take long exposure shots on your smartphone.

| Here’s a list of some of the best third party apps for mobile photography

Composition Tips for Creating Beautiful Long Exposure Photos

Clouds

       Capture the flow of clouds as they move across the sky. When seeking to take photos of clouds look at the movement and color of the clouds. If the clouds are thin or big and white they will just look blurry. If you have a sunset where the clouds are moving and changing colors you’ll be able to capture a fantastic shot.

Stars

       Taking pictures of stars is called astrophotography and has become somewhat of a trend. There are two ways you can capture stars.

 You can capture light for a shorter time to show the depth of the sky. This style is used to capture the billions of stars with milky way photography. To do this, set your phone on a tripod and use a remote, then set the long exposure time to something between 15-30 seconds. Then take the shot. It will need to be very dark to capture a good shot. This technique may take some practice to take a good shot.

Star trails are another way to capture stars. This shows the motion of the stars and the exposure of the image is longer. So if you are planning to take photos of star trails make sure you have plenty of battery life on your phone. You’ll need to keep the exposure open for a few minutes to capture the photo.

Water

       Have you ever seen the photos of a river where the flowing water looks so still? Long exposure is the way these photos are created. To capture this type of photo you will need to find water that has movement. Rivers and lakes are great options. A river or waterfall with show streams of water as moving. A lake will look as if the image is glassy and smooth.

Editing Long Exposure with Mobile Apps

       The last step is to edit your photo. The best app to use is Snapseed. It is a powerful editing app that includes all the features for editing. You can adjust the lighting color, brightness, and contrast to enhance the photo.

       I suggest doing simple edits that don’t change the overall look of your photo. It is easy to over-edit a photo. As you edit check to see the colors in the image. Do the whites look white and the darks look black. These are some basic edits that will improve your photo.

Once you have edited your photo you can save it on your phone or share it on social media.

Long Exposure Cell Phone

Conclusion

      Taking long exposure photos are one of the easiest ways to improve your mobile photography skills. You’ll look like a professional photographer in no time and your friends will be impressed that your photos are only taken with your phone. 

       So, to recap, remember that long exposure is increasing the time that the shutter is open. The longer the shutter speed the more light that is let in the photo. Next, you’ll need some equipment to help you out on your journey. A tripod is a must if you want your images to be clear. Also, a remote and a lens are helpful tools to get the best shot.

Now that you’re ready to take a shot open the manual mode app and set up the camera to shoot. Remember that there are three recommended places that long exposures work best. They are taking photos of clouds, stars, and water. You can also get more advanced by trying light painting and people. That will be discussed in another blog post.

To finish your image off take a moment to edit your image. You’ll be able to enhance the image by adjusting the brightness in the image and the darks and lights.

Were you able to try out these tips for long exposure photography? If you were please share your photos and comments below!

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