How to: Photograph Fairground Rides at Night with iPhone (Jul. ’18)

Since I’ve ditched my DSLR and turned to iPhone photography, Ive been trying to use photo techniques on iPhone that I previously used with my DSLR. So let me take you to the fairground for this post (that I wrote originally in 2013 and updated a few times since then)

To begin with, here’s an old shot from my DSLR “era”. It’s a long exposure of a ferris wheel at the Prater fairground in Vienna. The difficulty in this shot was to get the exposure right. If the exposure would be too long, I’d simply get a white circle. If it would be too short, it would just look blurry. So I put my DSLR on a tripod and used a wired remote shutter with live view to take this shot. Here’s the processed RAW (developed and edited with Adobe Lightroom Mobile):

 A long exposure of a Ferris wheel shot with a DSLR. We'll apply the same technique to iPhone photography

A long exposure of a Ferris wheel shot with a DSLR. We'll apply the same technique to iPhone photography

So now let’s take a look how to take such photos of fairground rides at night with iPhone.

How to take long exposures at the fairground with iPhone

With iPhone, surprisingly, things are quite similar. Here’s what you need to take great photos at the fun fair at night with iPhone:

So, set up your iPhone on your tripod and launch Slow Shutter Cam App. Tap the gear icon to properly configure Slow Shutter Cam App for photographing fairground rides at night:

  • Set the capture mode to Light Trail
  • Set ISO (first slider) to something around 100 or lower. Don’t go above 100 or your photo will be noisy, especially in dark areas.
  • Set light sensivity to something in the right third of the slider.
  • Set exposure to Bulb. This means we’ll have to manually start and stop the exposure.

If you’ve set up and configured everything properly, press the shutter release on your remote shutter and watch the picture come to live on the iPhone screen. On e you’re satisfied, press the shutter release again to stop the exposure. Now, don’t forget to hit save in Slow Shutter Cam! Otherwise you’ll loose your shot as soon as you take the next one!

Here are two photos I took this way. One is a ride called Tagada, where people are being jarred and the second one is a capture of London Eye.

 Fairground ride "Tagada" photographed at night with iPhone

Fairground ride "Tagada" photographed at night with iPhone

 A 40 second long exposure of the London Eye at night

A 40 second long exposure of the London Eye at night

Four more tips to get awesome photos at the fairground.

  • Check operating hours: Although checking for the operating hours might seem obvious, I failed on this one. Shame on me. The fairground I visited for this photo session had two different operating schedules. The opening hours of the fairground itself and a different schedule for the fun rides. The rides stopped two hours ahead before the park closes. I heard "last ride" announcements all over the place just 15 minutes after it got totally dark and I started to photograph.
  • Observe the lights: When I arrived at the fairground, I set up my tripod and began to take photos right away. But everything I got was photos of illuminated circles in a single color. That was not what I was looking for. Flashing lights will appear as a simple, single color circle or line in your photos. Most suitable are rides with running lights in different colors. This will produce some nice effects in your shots. Watch the light show of the fun rides for a while before you start to shoot.
  • Turn ISO down: Unless you own a full-format digital camera, I recommend keeping ISO as low as possible. Especially if you use an iPhone keep the ISO at 100.
  • Use a tripod and a remote shutter control: Once you got the first three tips right, make sure you get a perfectly sharp photo. When photographing rides at a fairground, you will be using exposure times up to several seconds. Place your camera on a stable tripod. Additionally, use a remote shutter control to avoid any kind of vibrations and blurry shots caused by releasing the shutter.

Here are two more sample shots that I took in the same way outlined in this post. I’ll updated this article now and then. [Follow me on Facebook] to get notified once I update this post.

 Long exposure of a small Ferris wheel in Vienna. Taken with Slow Shutter Cam App

Long exposure of a small Ferris wheel in Vienna. Taken with Slow Shutter Cam App

 Long Exposure of a carousel ride photographed at night with iPhone and Slow Shutter Cam App

Long Exposure of a carousel ride photographed at night with iPhone and Slow Shutter Cam App