Your iPhone camera is a capable piece of kit, but it still falls short when it comes to long exposure photography.
Those blurry yellow taxis and misty waterfalls require a slow shutter speed that’s impossible on an iPhone, because you cannot pick how long the shutter stays open.
Thankfully, there’s an app for that. Long exposure apps overlay multiple exposures of the same scene to imitate the effect. Here are the best long exposure apps for your iPhone.
1. Slow Shutter Cam
When it comes to long exposure apps, Slow Shutter Cam is the iPhone photographer’s weapon of choice. In fact, it’s so popular there’s a #slowshuttercam Instagram hashtag, so be sure to follow it to see what others have created with the app.
The popularity is justified: Slow Shutter Cam has a clean design and is easy to figure out. Just tap on the Settings icon to get presets for major use cases.
- Motion Blur: Allows you to control blur strength and is great for capturing busy urban scenes and flowing water.
- Light Trail: Lets you adjust light sensitivity to better capture, you guessed it, light trails.
- Low Light: Comes with a Noise Reduction setting, so that you can avoid noise when shooting in low light.
Slow Shutter Cam also features a few handy settings, such as Self-Timer, allowing you to set an automatic shutter release timer, Sleep Timer, which prevents your phone from auto-locking during capture, and the good old Grid that helps you compose the shot.
Download: Slow Shutter Cam for iOS ($1.99)
2. Shutter Stop
Shutter Stop is perfect if you don’t want to rummage around in the settings just for the sake of a waterfall pic. When you launch the app, it prompts you to select the mode, Normal or Light Trail, adjust light sensitivity, and set a timer.
By pressing the grid icon in the top left-hand corner you can add the familiar grid for better composition, and the flash icon in the same corner is self-explanatory.
Once you take a shot, you can make it less blurry by adjusting freeze and increase or decrease the contrast before saving the photo to your Camera Roll.
Download: Shutter Stop for iOS ($2.99)
ProCamera is exactly what it sounds like: an advanced iPhone camera app with DSLR controls. These include ISO, Exposure Compensation, Tiltmeter, Anti-Shake, and many more, but for the sake of this article we’ll focus on Shutter Speed.
When you open the app, tap on the Menu icon and then on ISO & Shutter. If you set ProCamera to Shutter & ISO Priority Mode (SI), it will automatically adjust ISO as you change the shutter speed. After that, play with the Shutter Speed setting in the top left-hand corner. For blurry shots of flowing water, shoot for 1/10 or lower; to freeze action, try a higher shutter speed.
Once you have the shot you want, you can edit it right in the app. ProCamera has all major editing controls such as exposure, contrast, saturation, and even curves.
Download: ProCamera for iOS ($5.99)
4. Camera+ 2
Camera+ is often listed among the best camera apps for smartphones, and according to the developer, version 2 is “better, faster and stronger than ever.” It gives you manual control over ISO and shutter speed, has several white balance presets, and features a macro mode.
When you first install the app, these advanced settings may be hidden, so head to the Menu > Advanced controls and switch on the Always show toggle. Below you’ll see the Manual Exposure Mode settings. You can select either Shutter priority, which allows you to set shutter speed and have ISO adjusted automatically, or Full manual.
Pressing the small plus next to the shutter button will reveal more settings. They include Timer, Stabilizer, and Action (the new mode in Camera+ 2, designed for capturing movement).
Download: Camera+ 2 for iOS ($2.99)
5. Stabilized Night Camera
Stabilized Night Camera is a dead simple camera app, built specifically for taking long exposure photos at night. It hits the sweet spot between long exposure and night photography, and is perfect for snapping a quick light trail photo for Instagram.
When you launch the app, there’s literally nothing to do but press the shutter button. Just tap and hold it for as long as you need to capture movement.
As the name suggests, Stabilized Night Camera fixes the camera shake effect. Even a slight camera shake will blur your long exposure shot, and you’re bound to shake your iPhone, because it’s impossible for a human to stay completely still. The app gets rid of blurry photos in the set and aligns the rest, so you get a clear image even without a tripod.
Download: Stabilized Night Camera ($2.99)
Time to Gear Up Your iPhone
Now that you know all about the best long exposure apps for iPhone, it’s time to gear up with some hardware. As we said above, one of the common shutter speed mistakes when shooting with slow shutter speed is failing to hold the camera steady. So if you’re serious about mastering long exposure on iPhone, shop around for one of the best phone tripods.
When your iPhone is steadily fixed on a tripod, the moving objects will be blurred, just as you’d want, but the rest of the frame is crisp and in focus. And to make sure you don’t accidentally nudge your phone by pressing the shutter button, a remote shutter release is one of the essential iPhone camera accessories you should seriously consider buying.