How to Take Long Exposure Photos on Android Phones

If you are inspired by photos that have a light trail effect, here is how you can capture long exposure photos directly from your Android phone. First thing that comes to mind after viewing light paintings (long exposure shots) is that they must have been captured with a DSLR or Mirrorless camera. That is not entirely the case! Android phones these days are capable of taking some seriously stunning photos and they also have extended functionality that lets you recreate images such as long exposure photos. If you are wondering how, here is a complete guide!

In this tutorial, we will explain to you how to take light trails or long exposure shots with your Android phone’s camera. People usually compare Android flagship phones with each other and judge which camera is best. However, for photography, it also depends on the person behind the lens and not entirely the camera hardware. Thanks to modern day phones, users can easily select all appropriate settings manually for the exact shot they want. Whilst auto mode is perfect for day to day use, Pro / Manual mode does come in handy for creative ideas such as taking these long exposure photos.

Take Long Exposure Photos, Android

What is Long Exposure Photography?

If you are not into photography, let us explain what Long Exposure actually is. Long Exposure is when you take a picture of moving traffic and instead of vehicles, your camera captures the lights of the vehicles and makes them look like long line of light. Technically, it depends on the shutter speed. If your shutter speed is 3 seconds, it will capture everything that has happened in 3 seconds after you press the capture button. The more your shutter speed is, more your phone’s camera will let the light pass through it’s sensor. Below image shows shutter speed UI on an Android device. Remember that, the sign of shutter-setting button depends on your Android phone and you need to be in Pro or Manual mode to adjust shutter speed.

In first image the shutter speed button is shown as “SS“. Tap on it to show the shutter speed. In Second image, the shutter speed can be shown in a camera shutter sign.


How to Capture Long Exposure Photos:

First you need few standard equipment to capture long exposure shots. You might already have some if not all of the things required. Go through the list below before starting:

  • Android Phone with Manual / Pro settings and shutter speed of minimum 1 second. (For reference, all modern day flagships, mid-range and even few entry level devices come with Manual / Pro mode)
  • Any standard tripod. For this you, can buy any cheap tripod. Without tripod, your image will be extreme blurry. (Buy it from here or here)
  • A tripod clip for your Android phone to mount it on your tripod. (Buy it from here or here)

Once you have gathered all of the things from the list find a place where it is easy to take pictures of running traffic. For us, there was this fence between the highway and sidewalk, so it was perfect. Now follow the steps below to start:

Step 1 – Mount your phone on a tripod.

Step 2 – Make sure the sky is dark and the sun is set.

Note: Sample Images were taken at night time.

Step 2 – Once you are all set for taking long exposure shots and get the best angle for you.

Note: The best angle is when the vehicle is going away from you so you can get the red light trail from the tail lights of a car.

Step 3 – Open the camera app of your Android phone. Now select the manual mode or pro mode to set things according to your need.

How to Take Long Exposure Photos on Android Phones 4
Manual Mode button is marked with blue box

Step 4 – Adjust your shutter speed to 4 to 5 seconds

Tip: Turn on the timer to 3 seconds so image captured is perfect

Step 5 – Select your ISO to 50 or 100 at max otherwise you will get a very white image which is not even close to light trails.

Step 6 – At last, tap on the shutter button to take the long exposure.

Step 7 – Wait for the time to end and let the android phone do it’s stuff.

Once the image is processed on your Android phone, it will look something like this:

How to Take Long Exposure Photos on Android Phones 5
Taken with LG V20 | f /1.7, Shutter Speed: 5sec, ISO: 200

After that you can edit it accordingly. Below are the long exposure images taken with LG V20 and edited it Adobe Lightroom:

For Phones with 1 sec Shutter Speed:

There are many phones which have might not have what it takes to capture long light trails because they have only 1 second of shutter speed. But there is a way to take a long exposure light trail with 1 second shutter speed. For this there is some editing involved with both Adobe Lightroom and Photoshop. For this procedure, we will use Sony Xperia XZ3 which is last of Sony’s phone that comes with 1 second of shutter speed or exposure time because Sony has released Xperia 1 which has 32 second of exposure time or shutter speed. Now follow the steps below if you have a phone that has 1 second of shutter speed:

Step 1 – Follow all the steps from the process above.

Step 2 – That’s not where this guide ends. Take at least 10 to 20 photos with 1 seconds of shutter speed and 100 ISO. (Don’t forget to turn on the timer)

Step 3 – Now copy all of the taken images on your computer and open them in Adobe Lightroom.

How to Take Long Exposure Photos on Android Phones 11

Step 4 – Once they are opened select all of the image and right click on them. Now select Edit in >> Open as Layers in Photoshop. It will open all the images in Photoshop as layers.

Step 5 – Once they are open in Photoshop select all the layers then right click on them and select Convert to Smart Object.

How to Take Long Exposure Photos on Android Phones 12

Step 6 – Once you have selected Convert to Smart Object, wait for a little while to complete the process depending on the total number of Images.

Step 7 – After the process you will see that all of layers have now appeared as only one layer. Now click on Layers >> Smart Objects >> Stack Mode >> Mean and wait for it to complete the process.

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Step 8 – Once the process is complete, save it through Command + S or Control + S and go back to Lightroom.

Step 9 – The new image that was stacked will now show in Lightroom.

Step 10 – Edit the image according to your need then export it.

Below is the image taken with Sony Xperia XZ3 by using the same process:

How to Take Long Exposure Photos on Android Phones 14
Taken with Sony Xperia XZ3 | f/2, Shutter Speed: 1sec, ISO: 50

We hope this process worked well for your device that has a lesser shutter speed!

This was a detailed insight into how to capture Long Exposure photos through setting different shutter speeds. If you run into any problems, make sure to contact us through the comments below!

Rohail Khan
Rohail Khan

A football lover, Writer and a great photographer. Gaming all the way. Really love to travel the world.

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