Since the birth of the Live Photo, mobile photographers have shown how to be creative in new and unique ways. Using that same technology, it’s easy to turn your Live Photo into a long exposure image, right through the Photos app in iOS 15.
Long exposures through Live Photo technology first came to the iPhone in iOS 11, but many people don’t know about them. For landscape photographers, this is the next best thing when you don’t have your camera or tripod on you.
With iOS 15, the method to create a long exposure has changed slightly. Here’s how to make your long exposure with Live Photos in iOS 15.
How to take a long exposure in iOS 15
It’s pretty easy to get started. First, open your Camera app and set it to Photo mode.
Make sure that the Live Photos icon (the one that looks like a bullseye) on the top right of the app appears. If it’s crossed out, click the icon to activate. Then, snap your picture, making sure to hold your iPhone still.
Live Photos capture what happens 1.5 seconds before and after you take your photo, meaning your long exposure will be 3 seconds long. Once you take your photo, you can preview the Live Photo in the Photos app.
When you’re previewing it, you’ll see an action menu in the upper left corner. Clicking it will give you the option to add Live Photo effects — Loop, Bounce and Long Exposure. Click Long Exposure.
You should see your photo transform before your eyes, with any moving elements suddenly blurring together or becoming still.
Things to take into account
Creating a long exposure on iPhone means that you’re taking the Live Photo and turning that file into a still frame. To do this, the iPhone might crop in on your photo due to image stabilization, to make sure it fills the frame. Note that this might mean you’ll end up with a lower resolution photograph, and one that looks slightly soft.
Because of this, you might want to invest in a lightweight tripod and mobile tripod adapter.
Another thing to note is that Live Photos do not work with the RAW format. When you choose to take a Live Photo, it will change to the HEIC format automatically. You can edit HEIC on most computers now, but some application support is still limited (Lightroom only supports it on Apple devices, for instance). If you don’t have an application that supports HEIC on your computer, you can edit it on your phone, and then export it as a JPEG to your computer.
What about other apps?
Other apps also provide long exposure support. I wrote about Lightroom’s long exposure capture, which captures a burst of images and then combines them.
If you’re looking for ultimate control over your long exposures, an app like Slow Shutter Cam works well. With this, you can set the shutter speed up to 30 seconds, or use a Bulb mode. This is handy, as there’s an Apple Watch companion app you can use to control the shutter. The downside with Slow Shutter Cam is it relies on you having a tripod, but the plus side is this is the closest you’ll get to a real camera experience.
Spectre Camera, made by the creators of the popular Halide app, is another good option and works similar to Lightroom, but with more controls. It also has the capabilities to do things like remove cars and people automatically, as well as capture things like light trails.