How to take long exposure photos with your phone and get spectacular photos

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Taking pictures on summer nights, when it’s not hot anymore, is one of the greatest pleasures we can experience with the phone. It seems like an impossible mission, but with the advice that you are going to read, you will see how we can achieve it. Long exposure photos are already a reality with mobiles. And we can do them in different situations.


Long exposure photography manages to teach us things that we cannot see with the naked eye. With specialized mirrorless cameras we have impressive quality. And little by little, thanks to artificial intelligence and technical advances, similar results can be achieved with mobile phones.

You just have to take into account the points that we are going to see below to achieve a perfect photography to teach on the networks. It’s not as simple as just shoot and go, but it’s also not so complicated that you immediately abandon the idea.

What is long exposure photography

Long exposure photography consists of shoot with shutter times longer than one second. The goal is to record, by accumulation, things that we are unable to see with the naked eye, such as light at night, trails left by vehicle headlights or the Starlight in the sky.

long exposure photography

The more sensitive the sensor is to light, the easier it will be to get our shot. Also, to record the dimmest lights, we need a target as bright as possiblewhich allows the maximum amount of light to pass through.

Achieving this with a mobile phone seems difficult, but It is not impossible, especially with the latest generation equipment. Every time the sensors are biggerthen they can receive more light and the lenses have wider apertures.

long exposure photography

They still can’t compete with a bigger sensor, but This limitation can be overcome with the use of AI. And we must be careful with heating, the great enemy of electronic components, which means working for much longer than they are used to, and the components can overheat.

Check the slowest shutter speed of our mobile

as i said Ansel Adamsshutter time ‘is the time interval, controlled by the shutter, during which light is allowed to pass through the lens to expose the film’.

If we don’t have light, we will need a longer exposure time so that the sensor ‘fills’ with light and we can distinguish the objects. In traditional cameras we can take the times from 1/4000 to 30 sec. And then we have the Bulb mode that allows for longer times. But on phones it’s different.

Curiously, Android mobiles are more prepared for long exposure photography than iPhones. On an Android we can take a 30-second photo with the default camera app.

Mobile photography no longer seeks realism, it seeks to impress (and we love it)

However, on iPhones we have to do a little trick to have an exposure of only 3 seconds maximum. For this reason we have to have external apps:

  • Android: in mid-high range mobiles we have to go to the Pro or Manual mode and look for the shutter time setting. In some models we reach 30 sec.
  • iPhone: You have to rummage through the options to get a shutter time of 3 sec. First of all, you have to activate the Live mode (the icon of concentric circles). Then take the picture and once done, click on the icon and choose Long exposure. It will stitch all the shots you have taken to simulate the effect.
Specter Camera

Specter Camera

  • Price: €4.99
  • Discharge: iOS

If we want to achieve longer times, we have no choice but to go to specific applications that allow us to do it the same as with larger cameras. On iOS we recommend Specter Cameradesigned by the same team at Halide, one of the best camera apps that we can download on our iPhone for long exposure photographs. It costs €4.99 but if you like this technique it is essential.

Long Exposure Camera 2

Long Exposure Camera 2

In Android we have Long Exposure Camera 2, an application that generates the image from a video and allows reaching 300 seconds. Y if we have a Xiaomi, in the Camera app we have to click on ‘more’ and there we find Long Exposure.

How to take a long exposure photograph

Once we have everything downloaded, it is time to take long exposure photography with our mobile phone. If we want good results, we have to follow all these steps:

long exposure photography

  1. We place the mobile on a compatible tripod. This point is fundamental if we want the best possible result.
  2. We set the ISO sensitivity as low as possible so noise isn’t a problem later.
  3. We adjust the shutter time slowest that our mobile or the app that we have installed allows us.
  4. We focus manually to avoid problems.
  5. We press the trigger and that’s it.

And what exposure time do we have to set to achieve our goal? They circulate on the internet boards that propose reference times but I think they are not valid because it depends on many things, such as the lens we are using and the speed of the object we are photographing, as well as its distance from the camera.

For example, to shoot at the stars we have to use the law of 500:

We have to divide that number (500) by the focal length we are using to get the number of seconds we can expose while avoiding Star Trails. That is, if for example we are shooting at 28mm, we divide 500 by 28 and the result is 17.86, which will be the seconds that we can have the shutter open.

long exposure photography

Regarding sensitivity, with mobiles, we have no choice but to shoot with the lowest possible ISO. This way we will avoid the noise. And one important thing… since we are going to fill it with light for a long time, it will surely get very hot. And what causes the heat in the sensors? Much more noise… We have no choice but to bet, on mobile phones, on the lowest sensitivity.

Exposure triangle scheme: what it is and how it can help us take better photos

In the end it all depends on luck, that the cars we want pass at the right time to make the trails, that there is not much light and we are forced to use neutral density filters… But when you get a good result, all the wait is worth it.

Taking pictures on summer nights, when it’s not hot anymore, is one of the greatest pleasures we can experience with…

Taking pictures on summer nights, when it’s not hot anymore, is one of the greatest pleasures we can experience with…

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