Slow Shutter Makes Long Exposures Easy

ghost cabs

I heard about Slow Shutter from James Campbell, an iPhoneographer who I’m pretty sure has every iPhone photo app ever created. I was fascinated by the blurry, abstract long exposures that he had created with it.

I have a “real” camera, a Canon DSLR, that I could use to get long exposures. I’ve done so before, but it’s always a bit of trial and error, since I don’t create long exposures that often.

Slow Shutter has enabled me to get long exposures just with a click – the app is that easy. I downloaded it, played it with a bit (the controls are little cryptic), then went out into the street. I wanted a photo of cabs going by.

But the cabs weren’t going fast enough – they didn’t have the long lines I wanted. So, I went to another corner and waited for the stoplight to change. Taxis took off and I got my shot.

I ran the photo through Slow Shutter, adjusting the “freeze” and exposure until it was dreamy, blurry and ghostlike while still retaining enough of the scene to make it identifiable. Then I used Instagram to crop it to a square, Polaroid format using the X-Pro II filter. The filter also vignetted the photo, something I always like.

My dreamy cab shot made the DCist Photo of the Day. It’s one of those common urban scenes but with a slightly different, mysterious perspective.

Some photographers might look at Slow Shutter and say, “But that’s cheating.” My knowledge of f-stops and exposure times is, at best, limited. Just a few years ago you’d need fancy equipment, technical knowhow and darkroom experience to get such a shot. Now it can be done with just a click.

But what can’t be duplicated by technology is a good eye. Apps like Slow Shutter just make it easier for photographers to achieve their unique vision.

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Jeff Ribeira

Great shot Joe. I don’t know much about camera apps for smartphones, so I’ve been wondering if the app actually access the iphone’s camera on the backend to physically keep the shutter open longer, or is it all a post-production effect?

The other day I was out shopping with my wife and as I was browsing in some gadget store, waiting for her, I stumbled upon these little iphone lenses that you fix to the front of the camera to create effects like blur, fish-eye, etc. You just carry it around on your keychain, and when you want to take a cool shot, you just hold the lens up to the iphone. Seemed like a pretty nifty idea.

Joe Flood

It actually keeps the shutter open for a couple seconds. It takes a photo and then you can adjust the amount of “freeze” to make it more or less blurry. When you’re happy with it, just click save.

Also check out Instagram and CameraBag for other cool post-production effects. You can make your photos look like 70s Polaroids, fish-eye, etc…