Does your camera offer a smartphone app?  Many do and you might be surprised by what they offer. Here are a few, but there are more out there (just check your owner’s manual).  Some cameras have Wi-Fi built-in, others require an adapter.

Note: While this article is primarily about the Olympus, you can apply the technique to most cameras that offer Wi-Fi apps or even a tethered remote.

I recently picked up the Olympus OM-D E-E-M1.  One of my favorite things about it is the great mobile app.  I’ll have a detailed review in the coming weeks, but I am amazed at how easy it is to setup.  Turn on Wi-Fi and the camera puts a QR code on the pack of the screen.  Launch the app, point it at the screen, and setup is completed automatically.

One thing I was keen to try was long exposure.  The app can be used as a remote trigger so that you can minimize touching the camera. In this case, I secured the camera with a GorillaPod, but I’ve also just set the camera down on a flat surface.


The application makes it simple to control the camera.  You can dial in the exposure that you want.  In this case, here’s how I approached the shot. The whole thing was done shooting manual, so that I could completely control the process.

  1. I stopped the camera down and shot ƒ/22 to let in the least amount of light.
  2. I experimented with exposure time to find the level of streaking that I wanted.
  3. I refined the exposure using ISO, making sure that I show slightly underexposed to avoid blowing things out.


That worked quite well, but then I took advantage of a feature that I stumbled across (no, I haven’t had time to read the full manual yet). If I set the Olympus to maximum shutter speed, there are two additional options.

First is Bulb (which most cameras have). This leaves the camera open and keeps exposing the shot until you click again.

The second is called LiveTime and its pretty cool. It lets me expose the shot and see a preview on my smartphone (or the back of the LCD).  This allows for the exposure to run as long as you want. As it happens, you get a real-time preview fed to the camera.  It also does a good job of not overexposing the image.  The advantage here is never having to touch the screen or shutter release (which can lead to bumping the camera and ruining the shot).


For comparisons, the shot on the left is a base exposure while the one on the right is about a 15 second one.  It’s great to be able to truly control the camera and see the results you’re getting when shooting a long exposure.  I can’t wait to try this on more challenging subjects and using a dark Neutral Density filter.

Be sure to check out if your camera has an app.  It’s surprisingly useful as a camera control.  As an added bonus, most make it easy to pull images right of your camera and download to the smartphone for easy sharing to social networks.


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Join the conversation! 3 Comments

  1. Great post! I have to try it!

  2. Home to see more and more Wifi and Bluetooth integration in DSLRs.

    Recently, Canon reduced forecasts for DSLR sales and cited smart phones as a reason for the decline (yes DSLRs. Both Sony and Nikon are going to see a decline in DSLR sales for the first time in 10 years).

    Offering extensibility through software — apps. on mobile devices — may be a necessity more than a “nice to have” thing.

    There’s a lot of creativity in mobile photography, especially in the area of software. You would think the camera manufacturers would look to tap into this, by offering APIs for third-parties to tap into the their cameras.

    Then you could have apps. which would control all the settings in the camera, save them as macros, so that you don’t have to deal with the unintuitive menus in cameras.

    Besides shutter control and sharing, apps could improve the usability by offering:

    1. Ability to program and change any setting with one or two taps.

    2. Ability to apply filters (while saving the RAWs)

    3. Quick and dirty HDR and Panos, even when cameras don’t have in-camera support for these features.

    In addition, they should work with the OS vendors to allow importation of photos by Wifi into Lightroom, Aperture.

    • While I don’t completely disagree with your comment – for the sake of accuracy, I thought it might be prudent to note that the article (I am guessing you are referring to) also says about Canon’s decision to reduce DSLR forecasted sales – that it was “inevitable, said Hideki Yasuda, an analyst at Ace Securities Co. in Tokyo. With the yens gain and uncertainties over economies, its hard to foresee Canons earnings improving going forward.”

      So the problem is not just that smartphone sales are up – they are – but also the uncertainty in the economy and a strong yen v. the US dollar – which had as much (if not more) to do with Canon’s decision to cut forecasts than smartphone sales.

      I am not sure that adding smartphone camera features will change anything – given the strength of the yen and the problems still ongoing in the economy, but I sure think it would be cool if they did it. I hope you are right. The things you talked about would be great features.

      For years I’ve argued that DSLRs (and digital cams in general) don’t need to look like, act like or feel like “cameras.” Hopefully the demand is there for these new features, but based on information in Canon’s annual report, they don’t believe these new features alone will cause people to buy a DSLR.


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About Richard Harrington

Richard Harrington is the founder of RHED Pixel, a visual communications company based in Washington, D.C. He is the Publisher of Photofocus and Creative Cloud User as well as an author on Lynda.com. Rich has authored several books including From Still to Motion, Understanding Photoshop, Professional Web Video, and Creating DSLR Video.


Gear, Photography, Shooting, Software


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