Long Exposures with iPhone

Handheld time exposures!

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Lee Vining Falls, October 2017

Lee Vining Falls, 11 AM, 24 October 2017. 2½ second time exposure, hand-held. bigger.


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Long 2½ second time exposures are easy to do and can be done hand-held with iPhones that can do Live Photos, but the process is well hidden. I've tried this on iPhone 6S Plus, iPhone 7 Plus and iPhone X, and should also work on iPhone 8 plus and others running iOS 11 and newer. It won't work on the non-plus iPhone 6 or older iPhones.

First you shoot a Live Photo, and then play it back and swipe up to find the option to create the time exposure after you shot it. Crazy!


1.) Be sure you have the LIVE PHOTO mode active. The weird circular "Live Photo" icon should be yellow as seen here; if not, tap it to activate:

iOS Live Photo

The Live Photos icon. Yellow means ready to shoot. bigger.


2.) Shoot your photo. Be sure to hold your iPhone steady from before you take the picture, and hold it steady as long as the LIVE icon shows at the top, which stays lit for the two seconds it takes the time exposure.

The iPhone's optical and electronic video image stabilization systems will compensate for most motion from hand-holding and give super-sharp results. DSLR systems don't have the electronic stabilization ability of the iPhone, so they can't do this and require you use a tripod, ha!

iOS Live Photo

The iPhone is recording a Live Photo (or Time Exposure) while this LIVE icon is lit. It also is recording for about a half second before you take the picture. bigger.


3.) Here's the trick: play the image you just shot, and swipe up to see this new set of options:

iOS Time Exposure

Select "Long Exposure," your iPhone processes the data and saves an image that is a genuine 2½ second time exposure. bigger.

The iPhone's fantastic video stabilization corrects normal hand motion, so you don't need a tripod.

Since the iPhone is doing this magic by taking a high-resolution still photo and mixing it with a 2½ second simultaneous video capture, it can do this just as well with a still HDR image, which it also captures automatically when needed — as it did for this waterfall image with bright water against black shadows. Try doing that on your DSLR this fast!


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04 November 2017