iPhone is all you need to take dreamy long-exposure vacation photos

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Whether you are looking for a way to take amazing vacation photos during your spring trip or just want to Improve your phone’s photography skillsThere is a creative trick hidden inside your iPhone that will turn your everyday photos into dreamy long exposure shots. you do not need iPhone 13 Pro or 2022 iPhone SE To take advantage of this feature. It works on any iPhone released after iPhone 6.

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A long exposure photo is any photo in which the shutter has been intentionally left open long enough to blur movement in the photo. Look for pictures of waterfalls and you will undoubtedly see pictures where the raging torrent of water has been softened into this otherworldly flow – this is a long exposure.

Read more: Phone Photography 101: Take stunning photos with any phone

To take this kind of photo with a DSLR, you usually need a tripod to keep the camera steady and a filter that blocks the light. This is often required because leaving the shutter open for a second or more can let in a lot of light, resulting in an overexposed shot.

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Standard photo taken with the iPhone 11 Pro (left) and the same photo, with long exposure mode enabled (right).

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The iPhone uses a different and more subtle technology, however, this does not require additional equipment. It uses Live Photos, a feature that turns a still photo into a short animation by recording a few seconds of video when the shutter is released.

By analyzing objects that are moving, the iPhone captures the movement and distorts it. It is also able to recognize what isn’t moving (a rock or wall, for example) and tries to keep those things sharp and focused. It’s a great method because it allows you to take long exposure photos even in the bright midday sun without using a tripod or filter. Take that, DSLRs.

Here’s how you can do that.

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Flowing water makes for an inviting misty theme, while the rocks remain firm and sharp.

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Learn what makes a good long exposure shot

Not everything works as a long exposure photo. The close-up of a flower blowing in the breeze will become just a blurry mess, while the still image of the car will remain static.

What you need is a scene with static and moving elements. Waterfalls are a popular topic as the flowing water will disappear while the rocks all around will remain solid. Any body of water, really, would be a good subject to experiment.

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The standard shot (left) looks like any old, memorable shot from the Disney park. But a long exposure (on the right) turns it into an ethereal image that actually shows the movement in the scene.

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You can also experience the busy city streets (remember your social distancing!). The long exposure effect would keep buildings and roads sharp and steady in the picture, but people wandering everywhere would blur into ghostly shapes, which would look great in the atmosphere.

Turn on Live Photos

Getting a long-exposure photo requires movement that is recorded in a Live Photo, so it is important that the mode is activated when shooting. It’s located in the top right of the screen in the camera (when held in portrait orientation) or top left (in landscape orientation). You will see a two-circle icon surrounded by a third dotted circle. If there is no line to go through, Live Photos will be activated. If there is a line inside it, click on the icon and you will see a “Live” message appear on your screen in a small yellow box.

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Make sure there is no line between this icon.

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keep steady

Although the iPhone does not require a tripod to get a good long exposure photo, you will get the best results if you keep the phone as steady as possible while taking the live photo. I suggest placing the phone on a wall or some other stable surface while shooting. If you have to hold the phone in your hand, I find that placing my elbow toward my body and holding my breath helps reduce motion blur while taking the photo.

It’s a good idea to take multiple shots as well, by holding the shutter button while holding position. This way you will increase your chances of taking at least one photo that is stable enough to produce an attractive long exposure.

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Swipe up on the Live Photo in the gallery and activate the Long Exposure effect.

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Create a long exposure

Once you’ve captured your live photo, it’s time to turn it into an actual long exposure. The update in iOS 15 made the effect creation process easier, so if you’ve updated your iPhone to the latest version, go ahead and open your photo in the Gallery app. At the top left you will see a little icon that says “He livesWith a small arrow pointing down next to it. Hit the arrow and you’ll have the option to convert the image into a repeating gif or, right down at the bottom, to create a long exposure.

It will take a second or two, but you’ll quickly see how any movement in the shot is blurred into the dreamy effect you’re looking for. You can then zoom in to check that it’s still nice and sharp. Feel free to apply the same effect to other photos you’ve taken of the same scene, just in case it works out better.

For those of you using iOS 14 or greater, open the image you’ve rested on in your gallery and swipe up. This will display a panel called Effects Where you can repeat the movement in the video in gifs. Swipe to the end of the Effects panel though and you’ll see one called long exposure. Click on it.

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I didn’t intend to make this shot a long exposure when I first took it, but since it was a live photo, I was able to come back later and turn on the long exposure mode.

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Check your library

Before you rush to find your nearest waterfall, take a look in your library to see if you already have photos that will work. The great thing about using the iPhone long exposure tool is that you don’t need to use it while shooting. You can go back and apply it to any long-exposure photo you’ve taken so far.

Perhaps you visited Niagara Falls or Havasu Falls in Arizona a few years ago and happened to have Live Photos activated when you took your shots. You can swipe up and activate the long exposure in any of those shots. You can even go to your Live Photos album in your gallery to see all the shots you’ve got on your phone that can be turned into long exposures. My advice? Play a good podcast, sit in a comfy chair and watch the dreamy picks you can take out of your library.