Long Exposure Phone Photography

Some photographers use long exposure just to smooth out the movements of clouds or water, others use it to emphasize that movement. It can also be used to add an ethereal element to the images. You can see the popularity of this technique stemmed from its flexibility. For a long time, it could only be done using a professional camera. However, long exposure phone photography is also possible now. 

Read along to learn how you can do it as well. 

Understanding Long Exposure Phone Photography

Before understanding how to do long exposure photography on a phone, let us get a recap of what long exposure means. As the name suggests, you need to expose the sensor to light for a longer period. This, as you know, can be done by keeping the shutter open for a longer time. The shutter is a curtain or device which opens to let the light enter the sensor. In the case of most professional cameras, it is a mechanical device. On the other hand, we use electrical shutters in mobile phones and some cameras as well. The electrical shutter can be a little slower than the mechanical one. But one advantage is that it does not deteriorate over time, whereas the mechanical shutter has to be replaced after some time. Before we learn how to do long exposure phone photography, there are a few things that you need to have. Let us see what these things are.

Tripod and Remote Shutter Release

The very first thing that you are going to need is a sturdy tripod. Buying a tripod will be a great investment not only for your photos but your arms as well. For long exposure photography, you need to keep the phone steady. If you think that your hands can do that, then you are far from right. Even a slight shake can cause the whole image to get blurred. Therefore, try to get a tripod as soon as you can. The next thing that you need is a remote shutter release. You can use the touch controls on the phone screen to capture the photos. But just as we said before, even a slight tremor can mess up the exposure. These mistakes can also be fixed in mobile photo editing apps.
Long exposure landscape - Long Exposure Phone Photography

Photo edited in Lightroom.

Lenses for Long Exposure

Most of the newer flagship smartphones come with great wide-angle lenses. However, if your phone does not have one, then you do not need to change your phone. You can simply buy a lens for a fraction of the price. A wide array of lenses is now available for smartphones. You can choose either a wide-angle lens or a landscape photography lens. If you want to take your long exposure phone photography an extra mile, then you can use filters as well. The most common choice would be to get a Neutral Density ND filter. Since a lot of light is reaching the sensor, this filter makes sure that it does not wash out the details of the image.

How to do Long Exposure Phone Photography?

The first step that you need to take is to head into your camera app and open the Manual Mode. It may be labeled as Pro on some phones. There are a lot of settings in the Manual mode, but you only need to take care of two of them. The first one is Shutter Speed, normally denoted by S, and the second one is ISO. If you touch the S, then you will find a range of shutter speeds. These are normally between 32 and 1/4000, in terms of seconds. You might have guessed, if you choose a longer shutter speed, then the shutter will stay open for a longer period. Since we choose a longer shutter speed for long exposure photography, we run the risk of washing out the details due to all the light coming in. For this purpose, set the ISO to a lower number. This will reduce the sensitivity of the sensor to light.
Long exposure phone photography at subway station

Long Exposure Techniques

Here are some example techniques that you can try out. Firstly, light painting and light trails are the most common techniques. You need to set the shutter speed to 20 or 30 seconds and ISO to the lowest setting in the phone. After that, point a flashlight towards your phone. Using this combination, you can make any shape using light. Take the same combination of ISO and shutter speed, and set up your phone on a tripod. This simple method will let you capture starry nights. There are many other techniques that you can experiment with on your own. Also, there are some applications out there that are specific for long exposure phone photography. You can check them out to speed up your learning curve.

Conclusion - Long Exposure Phone Photography

Long exposure photography has been around for a long time but long exposure phone photography is still catching up. It might seem a little confusing at first, but once you understand the basic principles, it all feels right. Just give it some time and keep practicing.

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Have a nice photoshoot! 

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