Creating Long Exposure Photos With an iPhone

A few years ago, the idea of taking quality long exposures on a phone would have seemed absurd, but major advances in the quality of the cameras in phones and in computational photography have enabled numerous techniques that simply were not possible before. This neat video takes you behind the scenes to show you just what you can accomplish with an iPhone.

Coming to you from Mark McGee Photos, this great video takes you behind the scenes as he shoots long exposures with his iPhone. No doubt, mobile phones are remarkably capable nowadays, so much so that they can provide the results professionals demand in many situations. I have been particularly impressed by the advances in low-light abilities. For example, newer iPhones can employ Night Mode, which leverages a combination of long exposures and machines learning for improved sharpness, noise levels, and exposure. This has upped my keeper rate at night by an impressive amount, allowing me to enjoy taking shots like the skyline or groups of friends without having to carry around a large camera, which I would never do in many such situations anyway. Check out the video above for the full rundown from McGee, and give it a try yourself!

Alex Cooke's picture

Alex Cooke is a Cleveland-based portrait, events, and landscape photographer. He holds an M.S. in Applied Mathematics and a doctorate in Music Composition. He is also an avid equestrian.

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Mark does a great job with that video, but Apple has some work to do to improve long exposures. You can still see a roughness caused by combining multiple separate exposures with a small gap between the exposures. If you do a really long exposure, like 10x longer than would be required with a conventional camera, those start to disappear but it's never quite as smooth as it could be.

The Google Pixel phones include software that smooths those out some, and it does help but it's not perfect. The Sony Xperia phones can do a proper 30 second exposure like a traditional camera, but also like a traditional camera you need an ND filter in most circumstances and most smartphone filter tools target the more popular platforms like iPhones.