Long Exposures with Smartphone


Today’s Question: I was reviewing your video course on long exposures [“Creative Blurs”, https://www.greylearning.com/courses/creative-blurs] and that got me wondering if those types of effects could be created with a smartphone.

Tim’s Quick Answer: Yes, it is possible to get photos with some degree of motion blur effect with a smartphone, but it is very difficult to control enough to get consistently good results.

More Detail: Smartphone cameras don’t enable us to control the exposure settings the same way you can with other cameras, and in many cases if you attempt to photograph a dark scene the smartphone will compensate such as by raising the ISO setting to compensate.

There are some apps that enable you to create long exposure effects with a smartphone. For example, the Lightroom mobile app includes options for adjusting exposure, including shutter speeds of up to one second. However, because you’re not able to adjust a lens aperture to reduce the amount of light, it can be difficult to get a long exposure except under dark conditions or by holding a neutral density filter in front of the lens.

There are other apps that enable you to capture long exposures more consistently, but most of these use a process of capturing a series of photos and blending them together, which doesn’t always result in a long exposure that looks like photos captured with the traditional photographic technique. These apps include Slow Shutter Cam and ProCam 8, for example.

In addition, the default Camera app for iPhone and iPad includes the ability to create a long exposure effect. This can be accomplished by capturing a photo in the Live Photo mode, and then browsing the photo and changing the “Live” popup to “Long Exposure”. This will take the multiple frames captured for the Live Photo and create a motion blur effect based on the variation of the frames.

Ultimately, while you can certainly achieve a long exposure effect with a smartphone, you’ll be able to get much better results using a proper camera instead.