‘Long Exposure’ Hack Using An iPhone

A while back I wrote a short article how you could achieve the look of a neutral density filter without actually using one. A lot of people asked if this is possible using your phone and I am glad to say that it is – at least using an iPhone.

This past weekend I was in the Drakensberg and had the opportunity to take some photos to illustrate how this is possible, which I have included in the short tutorial below.

Before getting into how this is done I would like to note that this is most likely possible using an Android device. However, I don’t have access to one, at least not a newish one, so cannot confirm this. Also, as there are so many models of Android devices it is most likely the case that whilst some will have this feature built-in, others may not. If you find yourself in this position you may have to purchase a third-party camera app from the Google Play Store. If you know of an app that does this, or perhaps a camera that has the feature built-in, then please drop a note in the comments.

Setting Up The Camera App

There is a setting which you need to turn on in order for this to work and many of you may have turned this off in the past. At the top of the screen in the middle there is what appears to be what almost looks like a dartboard. This is the button to turn on Apples Live Mode. This needs to be turned on in order to create the ‘long exposure’ look.

Make sure you turn on the Live Mode by clicking on the middle circular icon at the top of the screen

Once you have done this you can capture a photo of the scene you wish to apply this look to. Remember, the phone will ultimately be blending multiple frames together to get the look of a long exposure photo so some scenes just won’t work well. This is going to require some experimentation on your part.

You will also notice that your phone now appears to capture a video clip of the scene you wish to photograph. It is important to note that there will be a loss in quality because of this, but it is more than acceptable when posting to Instagram, Facebook, or other forms of social media. As a reference I have included a screen grab below of what the clip will probably look like.



Once you have captured your scene you need to exit the camera app and head over to the Photos App and follow these steps:

Original unedited image

  1. Once in the Photos App find the image you have just captured and click on it to open it.
  2. Swipe up on the image
  3. Below the image there are three effects to choose from. Select the Long Exposure effect. (Also, try the others when you get a chance)
  4. The Photos App will now create a ‘long exposure’ looking image.

Image with Long Exposure effect applied

That is all there really is to it. A nice simple way to add a nice long exposure effect to your images.

A Note About Google Images

Many people use Google Images as a way to back up all of their photos to the ‘Cloud’. It is a convenient way of making sure that you never lose your photos and you are able to transfer them from one device to the next as you change/upgrade phones.

It is important to bear in mind that when you do this and then remove the original from your phone you lose the ability to apply the Long Exposure effect to your image.

Also, when using the free storage option there will be a further reduction in image quality. This will not apply if you are using the ‘Maximum’ quality setting within Google Photos but you will most likely need to purchase additional storage.

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