How to take long exposures in iOS 11 - a first look and walkthrough

Last week, Apple released public beta 5 of iOS 11, the new iPhone and iPad operating system that’s scheduled to launch later this year. I usually wait for beta 5 before I install new iOS (beta) versions as they’re (usually) stable enough for every day use. Disclaimer: “beta” indicates software, that is still under development and has not been fully tested. So you may encounter anything from app crashes to data loss. If you’re uncomfortable with that, don’t install beta software.

iOS 11 as a number of improvements waiting for us iPhone photographers. Last weekend I tested one of them: Creating long exposures without using a third party app in iOS 11.

What is a long exposure anyway?

Normally, when you take a photo, the camera shutter is open for only a fraction of a second. You may have seen this elsewhere, but those (fast) shutter speeds are typically 1/1000 (seconds) or 1/500 (second) as an example. During a long exposure the shutter is kept open for a second or longer. The result of a long exposure is, that everything that’s moving during that period of time is blurred. This creates some nice effects when photographing flowing water, a waterfall, cars or a ferris wheel at night.

Here's a comparison of a snapshot (zoomed in) of a fountain without and with long exposure effect in iOS 11. Have a look at the water that's flowing down.

iOS 11 live photo of a fountain without long exposure effect

iOS 11 live photo of a fountain without long exposure effect

iOS 11 live photo with long exposure effect

iOS 11 live photo with long exposure effect

With iOS11, we finally get a (limited) long exposure mode in the native iOS camera app.

Three things to know about long exposures in iOS 11

First, taking long exposures is not a new mode that you can enable by swiping the mode selector in the iOS camera app. It’s a kind of “editing mode” that you can apply aver you took a live photo. So be sure to have enabled Live Photo’s if you want to take a long exposure with iOS 11.

Second and unlike my favorite long exposure app, Slow Shutter Cam, long exposures in iOS11 have a maximum exposure time of three seconds. Those are made up of the 1.5 seconds before you press the shutter release and the 1.5 seconds after you pressed the shutter release.

Third, though the iPhone is a (very) smart phone, it can’t do anything about camera shake (yet). So if you plan to convert a Live Photo into a long exposure you either have to have a very calm hand for three seconds ore use a tripod.

How to take a long exposure with iOS 11

The process of taking a long exposure is pretty straight forward

  1. Make sure “Live Photo” is enables in the iOS camera app by making sure the Live Photo circle at the top of the screen is yellow. If it’s not, tap it to turn Live Photo on.
If the middle icon (circle) is white with a line running through, live photos are disabled.

If the middle icon (circle) is white with a line running through, live photos are disabled.

A yellow middle icon indicates that love photos are enabled. If you enable it, the word "live" will briefly be displayed.

A yellow middle icon indicates that love photos are enabled. If you enable it, the word "live" will briefly be displayed.

  1. Put your iPhone on a tripod or be prepared to move you hand for three seconds (I strongly propose the first option).
  2. Press the shutter release button.

Now you should have a new love photo on your camera roll. In iOS 11, live photos have a small Icon saying “live” in the upper left corner.

Make sure you’re viewing the photo (tap the thumbnail if you’re in grid view) and then swipe up over the photo until you see the “effects” part. You’ll see only the first two effects which are labeled “live” and “loop”.

ios11-long-exposure-effect.jpg

Swipe left over the two effects and you’ll get two more, namely “bounce” and long exposure. The last one is the one we’re looking for. Tap it and watch the photo you’ve just taken being transformed into a 3 second long exposure.

Swipe left over "effects" to go to the long exposure effect in iOS 11

Swipe left over "effects" to go to the long exposure effect in iOS 11

But there’s even more:

How to edit a long exposure in iOS 11

You can even edit the long exposure you’ve just created. After you’ve applied the long exposure effect, tap “edit” in the upper right corner of the screen. At the bottom of the screen you’ll see all the known editing tools for light, color and black and white. Right above is a filmstrip representing the whole three seconds of the long exposure.

Edit an iOS 11 long exposure by dragging the yellow bars to adjust exposure time

Edit an iOS 11 long exposure by dragging the yellow bars to adjust exposure time

Now drag either from the right or left. A yellow marker will appear. Dragging either (or both) sides you can change the exposure (from 3 seconds down to a millisecond) that are used to created the long exposure. So, Applenhas given us the possibility to adjust the exposure length of a long exposure after we’ve taken it. Isn’t that awesome? (Try that with a classic camera!)

Hit the yellow check mark in the lower right corner of the screen to make your adjustment permanent.

Thoughts on long exposures in iOS 11

I love that Apple has made it so simple to take long exposures. However, this mode won’t yet replace my favorite long exposure app Slow Shutter Cam (Check my Review here), because:

  • There are scenes where three seconds exposure time is simply not enough. With Slow Shutter Cam App I can long exposures up to a minute if I need to., e.g. for capturing a slow ferris wheel or cloud movement.
  • With Slow Shutter Cam app I can manually adjust ISO which is great for long exposures at night because that reduces the noise in the final photo.

However, the new long exposure effect in iOS 11 is a great idea to get used to and experiment with long exposures and I hope Apple will further enhance it in upcoming releases. I’ll continue experiment and using it and let you know about the results here, on my blog and over at my facebook page, twitter or instagram.