How to: Create a Ghost Effect with Slow Shutter Cam

The Ghost Train; (cc) by-nc

This Friday I took a two hour photowalk and discovered a small bridge over railway tracks with regular trains passing below. I experimented with long exposures using my iPhone. It took me a few attempts to get the timing right. Using Slow Shutter Cam App, I got the above picture.

Apps and Gear I used for this Photo

I try to use few apps in my mobile photo workflow. For this photo I used two apps, a gorillapod and a remote shutter release:

Slow Shutter Cam is an iOS app for creating long exposures with an iPhone. You can configure the app to create a motion blur or a light trail effect or simply do a long exposure for low light conditions. Before you use Slow Shutter Cam, make sure to go to "Settings" and set "Picture Quality" to 8 Megapixel.

With Lenslight app, you can add all sorts of light effects to photos right on the iPhone. I used it for this photo to add the headlights.

At the end, I converted the photo to black and white using the new editing functions in iOS8.

Photographing the Train

Settings for motion blur in Slow Shutter Cam App

Settings for motion blur in Slow Shutter Cam App

I mounted the iPhone to the bridge railing with a Griptight Gorillapod, a special Gorillapod with a smartphone mount that works with a number of current smartphones.

To avoid camera shake and get a sharp picture despite the long exposure, I used Muku Shuttr, a wireless remote shutter release for Smartphones.

I selected motion blur mode and set the blur strength to maximum. Then I made a guess about the capture duration I thought I'd need. After experimenting a little with different exposure times, I used one second. If I had used a longer exposure time, the railcar would have made its way through the entire frame and I would have gotten an entirely grey tube.

I aimed the iPhone at the tracks and as soon as I saw the train entering the top of the viewfinder, I pressed the shutter release button on my wireless remote. 

Adjusting the motion blur effect in Slow Shutter Cam App

Adjusting the motion blur effect in Slow Shutter Cam App

If you use a remote shutter like Muku Shuttr with Slow Shutter Cam App, make sure to enable the "Hardware Shutter" option in the app, otherwise Muku Shuttr won't work with the app.

Once Slow Shutter Cam finishes exposing the photo, it displays the photo and a toolbar with "Edit", "Clear" and "Save". The trick for the ghost effect is behind the "Edit" option.

After tapping "Edit", you can adjust the amount of blur (called freezing here) by tapping "Freeze". Move the freeze slider all to the left to see the photo at the beginning of the exposure. Move it to the right will display the photo towards the end of the exposure, creating the motion blur and ghost effect. 

Don't forget to tap "Save" once you're done with the Freeze slider.

Adding the Lights

Each light effect is a single layer in Lenslight

Each light effect is a single layer in Lenslight

In Lenslight, you can add different kinds of light effects to a photo. Each light effect is added as a new layer that you can individually edit using familiar two finger pinch or rotate gestures. You can also set different parameters like brightness and color tone.

I used the "Search Light" effect for this photo.

To add a new search light, load the photo into Lenslight. Then tap "Layers" followed by "+" of the first empty layer.

A new window will open displaying all kinds of awesome effects. Swipe to the left and locate the "Search Light" effect and tap it. It's added to the photo as a new layer.

To position the effect properly, tap and drag the search light to the position you want it. Use a pinch gesture to resize the search light. 

First headlight added in Lenslight

First headlight added in Lenslight

Each Layer (Light Effect) has an "Edit" button. Behind the "Edit" button are additional fine adjustments that you can use to make e.g. the light of the cone of the search light brighter, wider or smaller and you can even set a different color for the light.

For this photo I made the cone slightly smaller.

Then I repeated the above steps and added another search cone that I used as the second headlight for the train.

After you're done adding and positioning all the light effects, save the final photo to the camera roll by tapping the share symbol in the upper right corner.

From there, you can save your masterpiece to the camera roll.

Black and White Conversion with iOS8

Converting the final photo to black and white with iOS8

Converting the final photo to black and white with iOS8

I used the new adjustment functions in iOS8 to convert the photo to black and white. 

Tap on the saved photo in the camera roll or "all photos" as it's called in iOS8. Then tap edit "Edit" in the upper right corner. The new adjustments are hidden between the symbol that looks like a rotary knob. It's the third symbol from the left. 

Tap "B&W" and move the slider to convert the photo to black and white. For this photo, moving the slider to the right made it a little darker.

That's it. With two apps and a little practice you can create such photos in under 5 minutes.

Did you create any spooky ghost photos using this tutorial? Post them on Twitter or Instagram and tag me (@squics). I'd love to see them.