Home / NewTech / iPhone Photo Trick: Take breathtaking long exposure pictures without additional apps or devices

iPhone Photo Trick: Take breathtaking long exposure pictures without additional apps or devices



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Andrew Hoyle / CNET

The iPhone 1

1 Pro’s The Triple Camera Array captures some of the best pictures you can get from a phone, and even those iPhone SEThe single camera captures amazing images that believe their affordable price. However, there is a creative trick in these cell phones, especially after the iPhone 6, with which you can transform your everyday pictures into dreamy long-term exposures.

Read: iPhone 12 Pro Max Camera: Why This Pro Photographer Is So Excited

A long exposure photo is one where the shutter has been purposely open long enough to blur movement in the image. If you look up pictures of waterfalls, you will no doubt see pictures in which the raging stream of water has been smoothed into that otherworldly river – this is a long exposure picture.

To capture this type of picture with a DSLR camera, you usually need a tripod to hold the camera steady and a filter that blocks out the light. This is often necessary because opening the shutter for a second or longer can let in too much light for the picture to become too bright.

Long exposure in front of the iPhone

A standard picture taken with the iPhone 11 Pro (left) and the same picture with long exposure mode enabled (right).

Andrew Hoyle / CNET

However, the iPhone uses a different and much smarter technique that doesn’t require any additional equipment. It uses Live Photos, a feature that turns a still image into a short animation by capturing a few seconds of video when you release the shutter.

By analyzing which objects are moving, the iPhone detects the movement and blurs it. It can also detect what is not moving (such as a stone or wall) and try to keep those objects sharp and sharp. This is a brilliant method as it allows you to take long exposure pictures even in bright midday sun without a tripod or filter. Take this, DSLRs.

Here’s how to get started.

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The rushing water makes for an attractive, blurred subject while the rocks remain static and sharp.

Andrew Hoyle / CNET

Know what makes a good long exposure

Not everything works as long exposure. A close-up of a flower blowing in the wind just turns into a blurry mess, while an image of a static car just stays static.

What you need is a scene that has both static and moving elements. Waterfalls are common subjects as the rushing water blurs while the rocks around it remain solid. Any body of water would be a good subject to experiment with.

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The standard shot (left) looks like an old, memorable snapshot from a Disney park. But a long exposure (right) turns it into an ethereal image that really shows the movement in the scene.

Andrew Hoyle / CNET

You can also check out busy city streets (think about your social distance!). The long exposure effect would keep the buildings and streets sharp and solid, but the people walking around everywhere would be blurred into ghostly figures that would look atmospheric and dramatic.

Enable live photos

A long exposure image requires the movement that was recorded in a live photo. It is therefore important that the mode is activated when recording. It’s in the top right of the screen in the camera (in portrait) or in the top left (in landscape). You will see a symbol made up of two circles surrounded by a third dotted circle. If there is no line, live photos will be activated. If there is a line, tap the icon and the message “Live” will appear on the screen in a small yellow box.

Long exposure iPhone

Make sure there is no line on this symbol.

Andrew Hoyle / CNET

stay calm

Although the iPhone doesn’t require a tripod to get a good long exposure image, keeping the phone as still as possible while capturing the live image will get the best results. I suggest leaning the phone against a wall or other solid surface while recording. When you need to hold the phone in hand, it helps me stick my elbows towards my body and hold my breath to reduce motion blur while recording.

It is a good idea to also take multiple pictures and press the shutter button while holding the position. This way, you increase your chances of taking at least one picture that is stable enough for an attractive long exposure.

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Swipe over your live photo in the gallery and activate the “Long exposure” effect.

Andrew Hoyle / CNET

Create the long exposure

Once you’ve captured your live images, it’s time to convert them to actual long exposure. Open the picture you decided on in your gallery and swipe up. This will bring up a window called Effects that lets you loop the motion in the video into gifs. However, swipe down to the end of the Effects window and you’ll see one labeled Long Exposure. Tip it on.

It will take a second or two, but you will quickly see how every movement in your shot has been blurred into the dreamy effect you are looking for. You can then zoom in to check that it’s still nice and sharp. You can also apply the same effect to other photos you took of the same scene, in case they work better.

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I didn’t intend to take this long exposure shot when I first took it, but since it was a live photo, I was able to come back later and activate long exposure mode.

Andrew Hoyle / CNET

Check your library

Before heading out to find the nearest waterfall, search your library to see if you already have any pictures that would work. The great thing about using the iPhone’s long exposure tool is that you don’t have to use it while shooting. You can go back and apply it to any long exposure image you’ve taken so far.

Perhaps you visited Niagara Falls or Havasu Falls in Arizona a few years ago and happened to turn on Live Photos while taking pictures. You can swipe up on each of these shots and activate the long exposure. You can even go to your “Live Photos” album in your gallery to see all of the footage on your phone that can be converted into long exposures. My advice? Put on a good podcast, sit in a comfortable chair, and see what dreamy recordings you can get out of your library.


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