How to Use iPhone Camera Long Exposure

A person holding an iPhone captures a vibrant sunset over a cityscape, with the phone screen displaying the sunset scene. The sky is filled with dramatic clouds, adding to the picturesque view.

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A person holding an iPhone camera captures a long-exposure photo of a brightly lit urban street at night, with light trails from moving vehicles creating dynamic streaks in the background.

Ready to turn fleeting moments into stunning visual memoriesThis tutorial will help you master the iPhone camera long exposure photography. 

From setting up your photos app to capturing and refining breathtaking shots, we’ll show you how to unlock the full potential of your iPhone’s camera app. 

Let’s get started!

Understanding iPhone Camera Long Exposure: Basics and Benefits

Long exposure photography involves using a slow shutter speed to capture elements of time and motion in a single image. 

By keeping the camera’s shutter open for longer than usual, you allow more light to enter, which can beautifully capture moving elements like flowing water or moving clouds while keeping stationary objects sharp and clear.

Key Benefits of Long Exposure Photography

Long exposure can transform an ordinary scene into a surreal and captivating image. Here are some of the unique benefits it offers.

  • Motion Blur: Moving objects such as waterfalls, rivers, stars, and vehicles transform into smooth, flowing elements that add a dynamic feel to your photos.
  • Low Light Enhancement: Long exposure is perfect for low light conditions, as the slow shutter speed allows more light to reach the sensor, brightening the photo without the need for artificial light.
  • Eliminating People from Scenes: In busy areas, long exposures can cause moving people to blur or even disappear, making the scene seem deserted.
  • Enhanced Textures and Details: In landscapes, long exposure can enhance details like clouds and water, giving the same scene a dramatic and painterly effect.

How Does It Work on the iPhone Camera App?

Modern iPhones are equipped with advanced camera technology that simplifies long exposure photography.

  • Live Photo Feature: iPhones use the Live Photo feature to simulate iPhone camera long exposure effects. By capturing a sequence of movements, the iPhone can blend these into a single smooth image in your iPhone photos app.
  • Third-Party Apps: For more control over the camera modes, third-party camera apps allow manual adjustments of the slow shutter speed, ISO, and focus, enabling traditional long exposure techniques.

Conversely, understanding the basics and benefits of long exposure photography will help you appreciate why it’s a powerful tool, especially with the convenience and technology offered by an iPhone.

Necessary Tools and Accessories for iPhone Long Exposure Shots

Essential Accessories for Enhanced Stability

Firstly, achieving a successful long exposure photo with an iPhone requires more than just the right settings. Meaning, it’s also about stability and control. 

Here are some essential tools and accessories that can help.


  • Stability: A tripod is crucial to eliminate camera shake, especially when the slow shutter speed is open for long periods.
  • Variety: Choose from compact, travel-friendly tripods or more robust ones for uneven terrain.

Mount or Holder

  • Secure Attachment: Ensure your iPhone is securely attached to the tripod. A reliable mount prevents slipping and movement that can blur your long exposure shot.

Additional Gear for Optimal Results

To take your long exposure photography to the next level, consider these additional tools.

Neutral Density (ND) Filters

  • Light Control: ND filters reduce the amount of light entering the lens, allowing longer exposure times without overexposure during daylight.

Remote Shutter Button Release

  • Minimize Disturbances: A remote shutter release or a wireless earphone with volume controls can act as the shutter button, helping you start and stop exposure without touching the phone.

Recommended Apps for iPhone Camera Long Exposure

While the iPhone’s built-in capabilities are impressive, third-party apps offer greater flexibility and control over your long exposure settings.

Long Exposure Camera Apps

  • Manual Control: Apps like Slow Shutter Cam and Manual Camera DSLR allow you to manually adjust exposure time, ISO, and focus.
  • Special Features: Look for apps that provide features such as noise reduction and more precise control over shutter speed intervals.

Setting Up Your iPhone for Long Exposure Photography

Configuring Your iPhone Settings

Before attempting long exposure photography, it’s crucial to adjust your iPhone’s settings to optimize it for capturing these types of long exposure images.

  • Live Photo: Ensure that the Live Photo feature is turned on. This is essential as it records a few seconds of video along with the still photo, which is key for creating a long exposure effect.
  • Lock Focus and Exposure: Tap and hold on the part of the screen where you want to focus until you see ‘AE/AF Lock’. This prevents the camera from automatically adjusting focus and exposure during the shot, which is vital for maintaining consistency in long exposures.

Preparing the Shooting Environment

Additionally, setting up your environment is just as important as configuring your iPhone settings.

Choose the Right Location

  • Movement: Look for scenes with moving elements, such as flowing water or passing cars, to highlight the effect of long exposure.
  • Stable Ground: Ensure that your setup is on stable ground to prevent any unintended camera movement.

Lighting Considerations

  • Time of Day: Shoot during times when the light levels are lower, such as during twilight, dawn, or an overcast day, to avoid overexposure and capture smoother motion blur.
  • Use of ND Filters: If shooting in bright daylight, consider using a Neutral Density filter to reduce the light entering the camera, allowing for longer exposure times without overexposure.

Step-by-Step Guide to Capturing Long Exposure Photos

Choose Your Subject and Composition

The first step in taking a long exposure photo with your iPhone involves selecting a suitable subject that will benefit from the effect of motion blur.

  • Moving Water: Capture flowing rivers, waterfalls, or ocean waves to create a smooth, misty effect.
  • Cityscapes: Long exposure can turn busy streets into streams of light from moving vehicles.
  • Starry Skies: Night skies can be dramatically captured with the stars creating light trails.

Setting Up Your Equipment

Once you’ve chosen your subject, it’s time to set up your equipment to ensure stability and precision during multiple shots.

  • Mount Your iPhone on a Tripod: This is essential to prevent any movement that can blur the stationary elements in your photo.
  • Attach Any Necessary Filters: If using ND filters to control light intake, attach them to your iPhone setup.

Adjusting Camera Settings

Using either the native camera app settings for Live Photos or a third-party app, adjust your camera settings for the best iPhone camera long exposure shot.

  • Live Photos Mode: Make sure this is enabled, and select the ‘Long Exposure’ effect after taking the photo.
  • Third-Party Apps: Set the desired exposure time, ISO, and focus. Apps may offer the option to preview the effect before capturing the final image.

Taking the Photo

With your iPhone set up and settings adjusted, you’re ready to take the photo.

  • Activate the Shutter: Use a remote shutter or the timer feature to minimize shaking the camera when starting the exposure.
  • Hold Still: Make sure everything is stable while the exposure is being captured, especially if using longer exposure times.

Review and Adjust

After taking the photo, review it to see if it meets your expectations. If not, adjust your settings or composition and try again.

  • Check Sharpness: Ensure that stationary objects in your composition are sharp.
  • Evaluate Motion Blur: Decide if the motion blur effect is as desired or if adjustments are needed.

By following these steps, you can master the technique of capturing long exposure photographs with your iPhone. Moreover, you turn everyday scenes into extraordinary long exposure images. 

Each step allows for adjustments and learning, making it an exciting way to experiment with different subjects and settings.

While you’re here, check out our guide on how to do split-screen on an iPad!

A man with a backpack takes a photo on a iPhone using camera with long exposure, of a majestic waterfall using his smartphone. The scene captures the expansive and powerful flow of the waterfall against a backdrop of lush greenery and mist.

Tips for Perfecting iPhone Camera Long Exposure Techniques

Taking long exposure photos with your iPhone involves more than just understanding the basic steps. Moreover, refining your technique can dramatically improve the quality of your stunning long exposure photos. Double check that you’re using your iPhone camera to it’s full MP potential

Here are some essential tips to enhance your long exposure photography skills. 

Experiment with Different Exposure Times

  • Vary Exposure Lengths: Don’t be afraid to experiment with different shutter speeds. Longer exposures capture more motion, which can create more dramatic effects. Additionally, this is especially true in dynamic environments like busy cityscapes or rushing water.

Use the Environment to Your Advantage

  • Incorporate Natural Elements: Use elements like rocks in a stream or trees around a waterfall to frame your moving subjects. Moreover, this adds depth and interest to the composition.

Perfect Your Timing

  • Choose the Right Moments: For scenes involving vehicles, try to capture your photo when traffic is continuous. This helps create smoother light trails. On the other hand, for natural settings, the time of day can significantly impact the amount of natural light trails and the effect of the exposure.

Review and Learn From Each Shot

  • Analyze Your Results: Look at what worked and what didn’t in each photo. Moreover, understanding the impact of different settings and conditions helps refine your approach for future iPhone long exposure shots.


We’ve examined the captivating world of long exposure photography on your iPhone, from setting up your equipment to perfecting your technique. 

With practice and creativity, you can transform ordinary scenes into stunning, motion-blurred masterpieces. 

Remember to experiment with different settings, learn from each shot, and, most importantly, have fun capturing the beauty of motion. 

Happy shooting, and may your next long exposure photo be your best yet!

Frequently Asked Questions

Can an iPhone take long exposure?

Yes, iPhones can take stunning long exposure photos using the Live Photo feature or third-party camera apps.

How to do 30 second long exposure on iPhone?

For a 30-second long exposure, use a third-party app like Slow Shutter Cam that allows you to manually set exposure times.

How do I change the exposure time on my iPhone camera app?

Directly in the native camera app, you can’t manually change exposure time. For manual controls, you’ll need to use a third-party camera app.

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Dimitar Srbinoski

Dimitar Srbinoski is the founder of WeCon Digital and an Upwork Top Rated Plus freelancer specializing in content writing and SEO. A tech enthusiast with a particular passion for Apple products, Dimitar combines his expertise in digital marketing with cutting-edge technology to help businesses thrive online.

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