How to Create Long-Exposure Photography on your Mobile Phone

This is a guest post written by Alexandru Ivan, a graphic designer based in Romania, HTC customer, and a member of HTC elevate. You might remember the remarkable high-speed photos he took with the HTC One or recognize his HTC One M8 wallpaper. Now, Alex is back and this time, sharing one of his favorite mobile photography tricks. 

long exposure mobile hotography

If you’re looking to give your pictures an elegant, artistic touch, try long-exposure photography. Long-exposure photography involves using long-duration shutter speed to capture objects normally while blurring or smearing any moving objects. An example would be a city street in which the buildings remain normal in the picture, but the fast-moving cars whir by in streaks of color. Here are the tips and tricks I use to capture long-exposure photographs using my HTC One M8.

long exposure photography  street scene

A few tips before getting started

Using a tripod is crucial. Otherwise, you will end up with pictures where every object is completely blurred because of the low shutter speed used. You can improvise if you don’t have a tripod, but whatever is used must keep the phone still. Try also not to tap the screen too hard when taking the picture—the vibration from touching the screen to take the picture can ruin an otherwise perfect long-exposure shot.

Camera settings

Launch the Camera app on your M8 and use “Manual Mode” – long-exposure photos can only be shot using this mode. Trying HDR Mode during daytime won’t ensure a nice picture either.

In Manual Mode, you can adjust a lot of things. For example, I prefer to adjust the white balance (WB) after I take my pictures. I do this in Edit Mode because it can be tricky to adjust while taking the pictures.

It’s also important to note that ISO and shutter speed settings are dependent on each other. Basically, when the shutter speed value increases, the ISO should go decreases. For shooting in complete darkness, you may use a shutter speed higher than 2 and ISO higher than 800. That’s because you can’t adjust the aperture for the camera sensor and photos may need some editing afterward to edit out some light noise in the pictures. Inbuild filters and settings from the HTC One M8 can retouch this.

long exposure photography  colors


If you’re looking for somewhere to test long-exposure photography, try landscapes. For instance, roads, highways, and cityscapes are ideal. Try to avoid pictures with too many light sources like street lamps. If you’re interested in a traffic shot, it’s better to shoot onward for the light trails. Headlights, though, could be too bright for your camera settings. In terms of time, the best for shooting long-exposure photographs is between evening and morning.

long exposure photography  night drive

What makes long exposure images special is that each image is unique and surreal. With practice you should have a collection of photos that are one of a kind.

long exposure photography  urban romania

Have you created any long-exposure photographs using your HTC? Share them with us in the comments below!

  • fabio


  • Михаил Мирошниченко

    Can i do this with M7?
    Not clear what settings are used, how to change exposure time.

    • Canyouseethelight

      No you can’t, manual control unfortunately is only available on the M8 despite the similiar camera module.

  • Ahmad Abdel-Aziz

    That’s a very nice article, Alexandru. Thank you for the information.
    So, to what minimum value do you suggest to set the ISO to? and What’s the best shutter-time setting to use when I want to create a long exposure photo, like the pic above (fourth one from top)?
    Thank you.

    • Canyouseethelight

      4 seconds exposure, try not to go over ISO 400-800, preferably stick to ISO 100 or 200 for less grain on photos and better details (the light amount will be lower tho).

  • Joy Patel

    HTC Desire 816 Camera Module is good but HTC Need to Improve the with proper Auto setting…
    Have noticed that most of the photos washed out… While U Click pics in auto it will produce with low brightness photo… So HTC Need to improve in Whitening Balancing… with the proper algorithm

  • http://www.ptm.ro/ Șerban Păun

    Where exactly are those settings you talk about? No screenshots? The “guide” is very ambiguous.

    • http://www.jasondunn.com/ Jason Dunn

      Look for the three dots, that brings up your settings.

  • lanoormohamed

    Nice ill be checking this out

  • David Bridgeman

    When is the UK getting the 4,4,3 Update for the One 8M ?????

  • Mehidy Hasan Ripon

    When is the Bangladesh getting the 4,4,3 Update for the One 8M ?????

  • TristanSchaaf

    One little “problem” with long exposure shots. You’re camera may NOT move. So holding it in your hand is a no-go. Keep that in mind.