How to Do Long Exposure Photography w/ Android Smartphone & ND Filters!

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For those of you who want to take your Android smartphone’s camera to its limits, did you know you can do long exposure photography with Android and ND filters?

Phones like LG V10 or LG G4 come with long exposure mode out of the box, which works quite well in near dark or complete darkness.  Now, if you wanted to do long exposure photography in sunlight during the day or even on cloudy days, it becomes nearly impossible to do long exposures longer than 1 second.

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To do that, you can get an ND filter, which pretty much blocks out much of the light.  Through trial and error, I have found that the current ND filters made for smartphones are nearly useless, mostly due to the fact that the variable ND filter it comes with does not block out enough light.  To get around this, I was able to find darker ND filters to get the result I needed.  It seems that in general smartphone cameras need ND filters with at least ND1000 (10-stops).  To simplify the process, you will want to grab ND filter made for smartphones with 37mm lens mount, 37mm to 52mm adapter, and 52mm ND filters.  (This is because ND filters for 37mm are not as widely available, also prices are much cheaper for 52mm ND filters, just fractions of 37mm.)

Don’t forget, you will need a smartphone mount and you MUST USE A TRIPOD!!!

List of what you need to do long exposure photography during daylight: (You don’t need ND filters for night.)

– Universal ND Filter for Smartphone with 37mm mount – Link

– 37 to 52mm Step Up Adapter Ring – Link

– 52mm ND1000 Filter – You can grab the cheaper ICE or Hoya.  (I have both and I like the Hoya more.)

– 52mm ND2/4/8 Filter – Link (I used variable filter in my video but I recommend non-variable ones, stack these on top of N1000.)

– ReticamXL Mount – Link (these are the best smartphone mounts and screws onto any tripod, made of metal and sturdy!)

– Tripod – Link (You can use any cheap tripod but if you want to get a good tripod, get Manfrotto!!!)

You will most likely need ND1000 + ND2 /4/8 combo.  ND1000 by itself will not give you long exposure times (less than 4 seconds for me).  They work fine on my Canon 6D but I think it works differently with smartphone lenses thus you need more darkening.  This is for full sunlight/during the day.

The results are actually pretty extraordinary considering it was taken on a smartphone.

Here’s a photo taken without ND filter on my LG V10: (Click photos below to see original/enlarge)

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Here’s photo taken w/ ND filter:

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Some more photos:

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You can do cool effects like this too: (double Max or triple)

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Overall, with an ND filter, you can get some excellent long exposure photography done on your smartphone.  Although not perfect (as light kept creeping into my ND filter clamp), it’s still very usable.  There should be even better ways to do this though by using something like a Cinema Smartphone Rig, something I will be exploring in the near future.

I also did test it out on my Galaxy Note 5 and Nexus 6P.  The Galaxy Note 5 also has manual control for shutter speed and ISO.  But the photos taken with Note 5 were nearly unusable as I could not accurately adjust the light as exposure meter was way off.  I am sure I would have made it work eventually but I gave up trying and moved onto the Nexus 6P.  The Nexus 6P doesn’t have manual shutter speed control so I used Camera FV5 app.  The Camera FV5 app cropped long exposure photos automatically down to 1080P, making the photos very blurry and unusable.

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(Me trying to take some long exposure photos at the Rockaway Beach in Pacifica, California.  Btw, Nick’s restaurant is my favorite try their famous crab sandwiches, the best $20 lunch I had in Pacifica.)

Overall, I find the LG V10 and G4 both are the best for long exposure photography.  You can still do long exposure photography on other phones but my emphasis is on ease of use and the fact that “it just works”.  V10 and G4 both feature accurate exposure meter that will tell you how your photos will look before you take them, which helps greatly since these long exposure photos take at least 20-30 seconds each.

If you own LG V10 or G4, definitely try this feature out.  Even if you don’t get the ND filter, start with some night shots of your local streets.  For those who don’t, you can still do it but it may just take you a bit longer through trial and error on 3rd party apps like Camera FV5 but it is completely doable on any Android smartphone.  I am just saying LG V10 and G4 are the easiest to do on.

 

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(Have fun with your long exposure photos and don’t forget your tripod!)

4 Responses

  1. Eddie Pollock says:

    Is that a Globe Geminon longboard I see?

  2. Bobby-dee Arriesgado Mariblanc says:

    What were your settings on Camera FV-5 for the Nexus 6p? I would like to do long exposure shots myself too, but I am too noob with my photography skills

  3. pter says:

    Hey @Max, you say that “these long exposure photos take at least 20-30 seconds each”…
    Can you actually take photos with exposure time up to 30 secs with the LG V10 and G4 with the standard camera app? I have a Galyxy S7 and can only go up to 10 secs in Pro-Mode…

  4. Kyle Ruggles says:

    A lil late but cool list man! you could certainly use an nd filter at night, apertures at f/1.7 etc let too much light in to get light trails, even at base iso.

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Max Lee

Max Lee is the founder of HighOnAndroid.com. Max makes Android tutorials and review videos for people who want to get high on Android over at his YouTube channel and Korean YouTube channel.