Slow it Down

 

Ambarin Afsar tells you how to make slightly crazy, slightly trippy long exposures using your good ol’ cellphone.

 Street lights combined with the bustling city that is moving past you in a speeding vehicle, can help you capture electrifying streaks.  Shot with: Oppo N1 Photograph/Ambarin Afsar

Street lights combined with the bustling city that is moving past you in a speeding vehicle, can help you capture electrifying streaks. Shot with: Oppo N1 Photograph/Ambarin Afsar

When light levels fall, the first thing you get worried about is the shaky pictures that your cellphone camera will end up making. Have you ever thought of using such slow shutterspeeds to your advantage?

Explore the Inbuilt Camera App
First things first, check whether the native camera app allows you to control the shutterspeed in any manner. Can you reduce the ISO value to base level? Doing so will give you a slow shutterspeed in low light. Does your phone have a specific Night exposure mode that either gives you a preset long exposure, or gives you control over long exposures? If it does, your battle is half won.

 The best part about making light trails handheld is that other distracting details get eliminated on their own. Shot with: Oppo N1 Photograph/Ambarin Afsar

The best part about making light trails handheld is that other distracting details get eliminated on their own. Shot with: Oppo N1 Photograph/Ambarin Afsar

Look for Third Party Apps
Camera FV-5, a paid Android app, allows you to control variables like shutterspeed and ISO, while apps like Slow Shutter Cam (iOS), Lightbomber (iOS) are dedicated to long exposures. While a great number of these apps are paid, it is a nominal amount (Rs. 50–200, depending on whether you buy the app during discount season) and completely worth all the added control.

 The N1 has a rotating camera, so you can tilt it and steady the phone against a railing or a wall to get a sharp, well-exposed image of a dimly lit area such as this facade. Shot with: Oppo N1 Photograph/Ambarin Afsar

The N1 has a rotating camera, so you can tilt it and steady the phone against a railing or a wall to get a sharp, well-exposed image of a dimly lit area such as this facade. Shot with: Oppo N1 Photograph/Ambarin Afsar

Focusing Issues
If you have trouble focusing, look for pinpricks of light in the landscape, or areas of the frame that are contrasty. Camera FV-5 will also allow you focus manually.

 While this looks like a slow sync flash, nighttime image of a boy on a swing, it has actually been shot on an extremely overcast afternoon. Shot with: Apple iPhone 4s Photograph/Natasha Desai

While this looks like a slow sync flash, nighttime image of a boy on a swing, it has actually been shot on an extremely overcast afternoon. Shot with: Apple iPhone 4s Photograph/Natasha Desai

Looking for Subjects
Tangled shadows on the wall, traffic lights, neon signboards, slow sync flash at parties where people are dancing, fairy lights and other decorative fixtures at festival processions and weddings, are all examples of the kind of subjects you can choose to make long exposures of.

Tags: Ambarin Afsar, apps, cellphone, High ISO, light trails, long exposures, night exposure, slow shutterspeed, trippy, vehicles