Review: Slow Shutter Cam App for taking long exposures [Upd 12/16]
One of the things I missed when I switched from a DSLR to iPhone photography was the ability to capture long exposures. The iPhone camera app simply won't let me do it. I tried a few camera apps and sticked with Slow Shutter Cam that helped me to get around this limitation.
With Slow Shutter Cam you can take long exposures. And I mean long! Up to 30 seconds and even longer if you switch to bulb mode. Best of all, you can even edit the motion blur strength after you took the shot.
In the November 2016 update, the developers even added manual ISO control. So you can turn down ISO, which in turn lengthens the exposure time, and get low noise shots even in low light situations.
Here are some sample photos I’ve taken with Slow Shutter Cam App on various iPhone models.
Check the Slow Shutter Cam Settings before you start
Once you've downloaded the app, do yourself a favor and check the settings first. Older versions of the app had some unfavourable default settings. That was fixed but still there are a few settings I recommend you to check before taking your first shot. Tap the gear icon in the lower right corner to get to the settings screen.
Now check for the following settings:
- First, make sure that the picture resolution is set to maximum. On my iPhone 6S Plus that is 12 Megapixel (MP).
- Set your favourite picture file format. Slow Shutter Cam can save your photos in JPG format or in uncompressed TIFF format that will get you slightly better photo quality especially if you plan to edit the shot afterwards. As always, better quality comes at the expense of a bigger file size.
- Then I recommend to enable volume shutter (release). This allows to use either the volume buttons as a shutter release, which in turn enables your headphones as a wired remote shutter release or using a wireless remote shutter like Muku Shuttr. I strongly encourage you to use a remote shutter release when taking long exposures.
- Enable or disable geotagging of your photos depending on your privacy preferences.
Using Slow Shutter Cam App
Unless you can keep your hand completely still for several seconds, I strongly encourage you to use Slow Shutter Cam only with your iPhone mounted to a tripod. I use either an AmazonBasics Travel Tripod or a Gorillapod. Check out the tripods and tripod mounts I use on my special iPhone tripod and tripod mounts page.
Also use a remote shutter like Muku Shuttr, your Apple Watch or even your wired headphones. If you're like me, you won't get a single sharp shot by holding the iPhone in your hands during long exposures.
Here are three "behind the scenes" shots illustrating how you can remotely trigger the shutter release with Slow Shutter Cam App
Slow Shutter Cam Shooting Modes
Slow Shutter Cam has three different shooting modes that you select by tapping the shutter icon. The three shooting modes are:
- Motion Blur: To capture motion like floating water from a water fall
- Light Trails: To capture movement at night like car lights
- Low Light: Long exposures of up to 60 seconds and more. I didn't get good results with this mode as the photos turned out very noisy. In a recent update the developers added a manual ISO mode. I still have to try that. Meanwhile I stick to ProCamera Low Light modes. My favorite camera app for low light photography
With each of the above options you can capture motion up to 60 seconds. If you need longer exposures, set the capture duration slider to "bulb". More on that later.
For each shooting mode, you now (as of November 2016) set the ISO manually. The ISO setting is responsible for the light sensitivity in photography. A low ISO value means low sensitivity, longer exposure and low noise. A high ISO setting leads to shorter exposure but also increases noise in the final photo. In iPhone photography, I would consider everything above ISO 250 as prone to visible noise. So keep the ISO as low as possible.
Setting ISO to auto by moving the ISO slider to the left will tell Slow Shutter Cam to choose an ISO setting that may lead to noisy photos in low light situations. So, unless you're shooting in bright sunlight, try to set it manually.
Now decide what you want to shoot: Motion Blur or Light Trails; I won't cover the Low Light mode here. There are better apps to shoot in low light situations when you don’t need to capture light trails or other moving stuff. Check out my iPhone night photography page for more on that topic.
Next set the two sliders "Strength" and "Capture Duration". The capture duration goes up to 60 seconds. If you need to shoot longer exposures with your iPhone, then set the capture duration slider to "bulb". In this mode you have to start and stop the exposure manually by pressing the shutter release. Don't even think using this mode without a tripod and a remote shutter. Your picture will be blurry!
Once you've shot the image, you can edit certain aspects of the shot. Slow Shutter Cam will display a small toolbar with three buttons "clear", "save" and "edit". "Clear" will simply delete the photo you've just shot without saving it. "Save" does what the name suggests. By pressing "edit", you can adjust settings like brightness, contrast, saturation and hue. But best of all, you can even adjust the intensity of e.g. the motion blur or the light trails after you took the shot.
Notice the "Freeze" button. Once you tap it, you can adjust the freeze (or motion blur) in the shot. Move the slider to the left to get a motion blur effect towards the beginning of the exposure and move it to the right to get the motion blur effect towards the end of the exposure. Isn't that awesome?
If you're serious about taking stunning photos at night with the iPhone, then Slow Shutter Cam is a definite recommendation. I've been using it since it was released some years ago.
Slow Shutter Cam App is one of the iPhone camera apps I use regularly. Check out the iPhone camera apps I use.