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Shooting Long Exposure — Put Your Smartphone to Use

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.

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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 /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.

controls

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).

LE_View

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.
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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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