Mobile Photography: Light Trails Tutorial

Using the Show Shutter Cam app to improve your long-exposure photography

This article describes how to use Slow Shutter Cam to shoot light-trail photos on your smartphone.

Taking Your Shots

Here's how to use Slow Shutter Cam to capture your first light-trails image:

  1. Turn the mobile phone's camera flash off.

  2. Launch Slow Shutter Cam and give it access to your camera, if prompted.

  3. Tap Settings in the Slow Shutter Cam app. It resembles a gear.

  4. Tap Light Trail in the Capture Mode section.

  5. Move the Shutter Speed slider to the right until it says bulb. This setting lets you control when the shutter opens and closes manually.

  6. Select a setting for Light Sensitivity and ISO. Until you become more familiar with the app and light trails, select a midrange setting for each.

    Slow Shutter Cam settings on iPhone
  7. Place the phone on a tripod or stable surface, and frame the image.

  8. Tap the Shutter button to start capturing.

  9. Tap the Shutter button again to stop capturing.

  10. Tap Save.

How Does the App Do That, Anyway?

Slow Shutter Cam takes a series of long-exposure photos in rapid succession and stitches them together into a single image showing the continuous trail of light. This is why keeping your camera steady and still is important. Ideally, the shots link or overlap at the same point within the frame so that the result looks like a single shot.

Practice and Play

Because you must activate and deactivate the shutter manually, you need to develop a feel for how long to wait between these two actions. When you photograph cars, for example, leave the shutter open as long as it takes a car in the distance to pass your phone to capture a full trail. When using the long-exposure setting to shoot something like a flickering fire, use a shorter exposure time.

Part of the fun of long-exposure photography is experimenting to find the settings that yield the most impressive images of various subjects.

About Light Trail Photography

At the most general level, light-trail photos capture movement in a still image. The light of the moving object is the focus and creates a trail across the frame. Such photos can be exceptionally beautiful and interesting.

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