How to Take Long Exposure Photos on iPhone & iPad with Live Photos

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Take Long Exposure photos on iPhone and iPad with Live Photos

You’re probably aware of Live Photos by now, the interesting iPhone and iPad feature that transforms a regular image capture into a brief movie clip. But the latest versions of iOS support an assortment of exciting Live Photo effects, including an ability to easilyy create beautiful long exposure images.

Long Exposure photography is typically left to the realm of more advanced digital cameras and a tripod, and by leaving the shutter open longer you get a nice blur effect of any motion. Thanks to the Live Photo effects features in modern iOS however, you can get this Long Exposure capability almost instantly on any Live Photo you have taken with the iPhone or iPad camera.

This tutorial will show you how to take and create long exposure images on an iPhone or iPad by using the Live Photos feature.


To have access to the Live Photo Long Exposure feature, you will need an iPhone or iPad running iOS 11 or newer, earlier versions of iOS may support the Live Photos feature but they do not have the Long Exposure capability.

How to Take Long Exposure Photography on iPhone and iPad

Capturing Long Exposures with Live Photo in iOS may seem a little counterintuitive at first, you take a regular Live Photo, and then add an effect that Live Photo after the fact. It sounds more complicated than it is however, and once you get the hang of it you’ll see just how easy this process is:

  1. Take a Live Photo image with the iPhone or iPad camera as usual*
  2. Go to the Photos app and select the Live Photo you just took by tapping on it
  3. Swipe up on the photo
  4. How to use Long Exposure photos on iPhone and iPad

  5. Swipe over to find in the Effects section available for the Live Photo
  6. How to use Long Exposure photos on iPhone and iPad

  7. Tap on “Long Exposure” and wait a moment for the effect to transform the image into a long exposure photography
  8. How to use Long Exposure photos on iPhone and iPad

The image will magically transform into a long exposure image, using the data from the Live Photo to determine what is moving and blur that, while keeping the unmoving image data as normal as possible.

In the example pictures here, we took a regular Live Photo image of a river and turned it into a Long Exposure image, which blurs out the rapids to give that classic long exposure motion look.

Here’s the Long Exposure effects version of the original Live Photo image of a river:

iPhone long exposure example photo

And here is the original Live Photo image, which looks like a regular picture of a river:

iPhone live photo before turning to long exposure

You can share the long exposure images just like any other photo, through messages, posting to social media, Facebook, Instagram, copying them to your Mac or PC, or you can edit them further in other image editing apps or by applying the native iOS filters in Photos too.

Tips for Capturing Long Exposure Photography on iPhone and iPad with Live Photos

* For best results with shooting Long Exposure photographs using Live Photos, try the following tips on an iPhone or iPad:

  • Take a Live Photo of something obviously moving. For example, the feature works particularly great on water, whether that’s a river, creek, ocean waves, waterfall, etc, or fast moving traffic in the evening hours when the cars have lights on, or when taking pictures of fireworks from an iPhone.
  • Keep the iPhone or iPad camera as steady as possible, this will reduce blurring of the Long Exposure image
  • Long Exposure works best where there is contrast between motion against otherwise stationary surroundings
  • You can undo the Long Exposure effect if desired by returning to the Live Photos effects section and selecting the regular “Live Photo” option instead of Long Exposure

This is one of the more interesting uses of Live Photos yet (aside from making animated gifs, of course), and if you’re a fan of long exposure photography then it’s certainly worth checking out. Before this capability was bundled into iOS Photos apps, you had to use third party apps to mimic the long exposure effects. Try it out, it’s pretty cool.

If you liked this tip you might want to check out more Live Photo tips here.

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