Long exposure photography on any camera

Shooting long exposure photos on your smartphone has never been easier. Let me show you how.

Long exposure photography on phone
Long exposure photography on phone

In this tutorial I am going to teach long exposure photos on any camera. Yes, even your phone!

All you need for long exposure photography is a Manual control mode for your camera or phone and a tripod. The manual control mode will allow you to dial in the correct settings, while the tripod will allow you to keep your camera still during the exposure to prevent motiom blur.

If you haven’t seen the video yet click play below:

What do we need to shoot long exposure photos?

  • A camera (this can be a camera phone)
  • A tripod (to keep your camera still to prevent blurry/shaky photos)
  • A subject to shoot (try and find something more interesting than a tree in your backyard)
  • An app in case you’re shooting on your phone (there's a few listed down below)

A little bit of theory

A photo exists because light hits either an analog film strip or a digital sensor (or a wet plate etc but that's not for today's blog). How bright or dark the photo turns out to be depends on a few settings. These settings can be manipulated using the buttons on your camera or the settings in your phone app. Going up or down in the parameter values will increase or decrease the brightness of the photo. There is ofcourse more to a photograph than just the brightness or exposure of the shot however it's always good to get a firm grip on the basics. So let’s review the three pillars of exposure in photography. 


The sensitivity of the sensor. The lower this value the less sensitive. You need more light photons to hit the sensor to properly expose your photo. The higher this value the more noise/grain you’ll find in your photo


The hole in your lens through which the light passes through. A small aperture value like f1.8 means a large hole, a big number like f22 means a small hole. The smaller the hole the less light passes through to reach the sensor. The bigger the hole the less of your frame will be in focus. The aperture value controls the ‘Depth Of Field’ which dictates how much will be in focus in front of the lens. Side note: most lenses have the ideal sweet spot for sharpness around f11.

Shutter speed

The length of time that you expose the photo sensor to the light. With a fast (1/1000 of a second for example) shutter speed you will get little motion blur in your photo (so no light trails) however you will also not let in a lot of light. If you increase your shutter speed you let in more light and thus

Long exposure photo on a smartphone
Long exposure photo on a smartphone

How to shoot long exposure photos:

  • Grab your camera, put it on Manual mode and make sure all ‘auto’ settings are off
  • Make sure you’re shooting RAW or DNG photos (these are much easier to colour grade in post)
  • Dial in the lowest possible iso (sensor sensitivity) and a small aperture (the diameter of the tunnel in your lens)
  • Adjust your shutter speed until your metering tells you your exposure is correct
  • Either use an external trigger like a remote or enable a time delay to trigger the shutter (you want ZERO movement of your camera during the exposure to prevent motion blur)
  • Review your photo and adjust settings where necessary
Long exposure photography on a phone
Long exposure photography on a phone

Here are some smartphone photography apps which will allow you to shoot long exposure photos:

I hope this little writeup was helpful. If you post any long exposure shots on instagram or twitter make sure to add the hashtag #matjoezlongexposure

Check out these other blog posts you might find interesting too:

Timelapse data management and timelapse post processing workflow

Two day timelapse production vlog for the Noosa Food and Wine festival with Nicolas Rakotopare

How to shoot a hyperlapse the easy way

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Thanks for reading!