Shutter speed is one of the most important creative controls in traditional photography. By keeping the shutter open longer it’s possible to create beautiful long-exposure shots where all moving subjects are smoothly washed out, creating a really unique look. In this article you’ll discover everything you need to know to create such photos with your iPhone.
Step 1: The Right Gear
I generally don’t like taking a lot of photography gear with me, and more often than not the iPhone is all you really need to take great photos. However, for long exposure photography you absolutely need a tripod because you have to keep the iPhone steady at all times.
While almost any tripod will do, you want to make sure it stays stable on rocky and slippery terrain as much of the shooting will be done in the great outdoors.
Finally, it’s a good idea to bring your white Apple headphones, which can be used to take a photo remotely by pressing the headphone volume buttons. This is a great to way reduce camera movement as it allows you to take a photo without actually touching the iPhone.
Step 2: The App Store
Unfortunately Apple doesn’t let you control shutter speed on the iPhone, and even app developers don’t have control over how long the shutter stays open, which means that you can’t take true long-exposure photos with the iPhone.
However, developers have found clever ways to simulate the effects of long exposure photography by digitally combining multiple photos to create the same effect. The best one of such apps isSlow Shutter Cam, and it’s currently selling for $0.99 on the App Store.
Before you start shooting, take some time to explore the settings of Slow Shutter Cam, which you can access by tapping the gear icon. Make sure you select the highest possible Picture Quality (8MP on newer iPhones) and enable the Volume Shutter. If you can’t use headphones for shutter release, here you can also set up a self-timer so that the photo capture starts after you have touched the iPhone to reduce camera movement.
Step 3: The Perfect Location
Waterfalls are by far the most common example of long-exposure photography—and for a very good reason. If you keep the shutter open for a couple of seconds, the falling water turns into beautiful, smooth stream that’s unlike anything you can see in real life.
Besides waterfalls, you can also take amazing long exposure photos of other bodies of water as long as the water is flowing or has waves. Other potential long exposure subjects include cars, trains and even people walking down the street—keep experimenting and you’ll find some really unexpected long exposure opportunities.
Step 4: Taking Long Exposure Photos
After finding the perfect spot, setting up the tripod and getting the composition right, it’s time to start taking long-exposure photos. Slow Shutter Cam has several capturing modes, which you can adjust using the shutter icon on the left side of the viewfinder.
Here you have the option to change how your long exposure photos will be created. In Capture Mode you want to choose Motion Blur, which is the best setting for photos taken in good light conditions. The Blur Strength slider determines how much the app will blur the moving parts of the photo. I like to use Medium or High for most photos.
Finally, you have to adjust Capture Duration, which mostly depends on how quickly your subjects are moving. Two seconds will be enough to completely blur a waterfall, but you will need at least 15 seconds or more to see any effect on a slowly flowing river.
When the capture is finished, you have the option to review your work and save the photo if you like it. Needless to say, you should always keep experimenting with the different capture options inside the app so you can find the ones that work best for each photo.
Emil Pakarklis is a passionate iPhoneographer and the founder of iPhone Photography School, a blog about taking better photos with the iPhone. You can get in touch with Emil on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter