Long exposures on the iPhone made easy

When it comes to iPhone photography it’s going to be a brand new learning curve for some. For others, this will be the only style of photography they will ever know. Long exposures are a type of photo that can freeze nonmoving items while blurring moving items. It’s a wonderful technique that until Spectre for iOS was simply not possible to my knowledge on the iPhone.


Spectre Camera is an advanced camera utility app for iOS that allows users to make long exposure photographs. This is a photography technique that involves using a long-duration shutter speed to capture stationary elements while blurring, smearing, or obscuring moving elements. This app can take the guesswork out of the long exposure shot on an iPhone. It’s designed for humans. It has a dark UI, which is gentle on the eyes when shooting at night. Spectre Camera also has custom typefaces and iconography combined with unique, smooth controls to make it as tactile as a physical camera. Developer, Chrome Noir, also made sure the app is easily useable with one hand.

Spectre Camera iOS App REVIEW

The app is packed full with powerful technology including:

  • DCI-P3 Wide Color Pipeline
  • Live Photos
  • Metal Graphics Acceleration
  • Tripod Detection
  • Siri & Shortcuts
  • AI Stabilization
  • Machine Learning & CoreML
  • Computer Vision

Spectre Camera’s smart Automatic Scene Detection requires iOS 12. The AI-based stabilization features are available for iPhone 6S and higher. The developer does recommend using the iPhone 8 or later with Spectre Camera for the best results.


Spectre is a fairly intuitive app and getting started is really self-explanatory. There is no complicated set-up required and other than setting permissions for access to your phone (Camera, Photo Library, and Location), you can start using Spectre right away.

Spectre Camera iOS App REVIEW

So, when you open the app, you will end up seeing several different basic tutorial screens like you do with most apps. Then you are taken to a camera-like screen that has a preview of what your camera sees and a few smaller icons. You can use either the front-facing or selfie camera within Spectre. Next, you select whether or not you want the Light Trails option to AUTO, ON, or OFF. There is a settings gear wheel, but the choices in that menu are very minor. In this menu, you can change capture settings (turn Live Photo on or off), modify Siri & Shortcuts, rate the app, contact support, share photos on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram, or walk through a quick start guide. Personally, I’d love to see a bit more customization available for those who want to fine-tune their long-exposure photos.


When you take a long-exposure photo, you select how long you want the photo to capture for by scrolling through the timer wheel in the bottom right-hand corner. You can choose between 3, 5, or 9 seconds. This is the amount of time that the shutter will stay open. When you are ready to take your photo, you tap on the shutter button and then wait until the timer progress bar (goes around the shutter button) finishes. The trick with this type of photo is to remain as still as possible. Otherwise, the image will not appear as crisp as the technique dictates.

Spectre Camera iOS App REVIEW

I tested out this app with a couple of different types of photos. One was an active, windy lake and the other was a busy highway at night. With the lake, I was hoping to get the ‘smoky’ look from the water. This lake is apart of a wilderness preserve so there is no shortage of wildlife in the area and a lot of people like to walk, fish, and boat in the lake. This particular day, the wind was blowing quite a bit, but other than that, activity was quite sparse. I took a couple of shots, but this one was my favorite.

Spectre Camera iOS App REVIEW

Now, I want to note that in this photo, you can still see some ripples, but it is much more smoothed out than the original water, which is shown in the photo below. I was able to capture the before/after of this photo because I had the Live Photo option turned on within the Spectre app. This meant I could go back and see the actual action of the photo as well as the finished product.

Spectre Camera iOS App REVIEW

The next test I attempted was to capture light trails from a busy highway at night. This photo was actually taken from an overpass that overlooks the highway I was capturing. You can see that the light trails include some of the business signs in the area. One thing I’ll note here is that even though the app did capture the light trails pretty well, the photo showed up better on the phone than when I downloaded it to my computer.

Spectre Camera iOS App REVIEW

The photo above, as well as the lake photo, were both taken handheld. The lake photo was 100% handheld whereas the light trail photo was handheld, but the phone was attached to the Joby Handypod at the time. I’m pointing this out because I feel like perhaps the extension from the Handypod may have contributed a bit to some hand shakiness. As a final test, I took one more light trail image, but this time, I purposely moved the phone around in an attempt to capture an interesting design. It didn’t turn out exactly as I hoped, but it was a unique photo nonetheless and it demonstrates the importance of keeping your camera steady when taking a long exposure. I would actually say that if you have the option, use a tripod when taking a long exposure if at all possible.

Spectre Camera iOS App REVIEW


The makers of Halide have really designed a fun and easy to use app with Spectre. I think if you enjoy taking photos with a smartphone this is by far one of the first apps you should consider picking up. It’s affordable (one-time fee of $2.99) and very useful. While using Spectre I have found it to be a super simple app that honestly makes taking long exposures as simple as taking a standard photo. The only real issue I came across — and it could just be a bug — was the current photo showing up in the preview in the bottom left-hand corner. Instead, I would see the last camera on the camera roll. It seems to take a bit of time for the most recent photo captured from Spectre to show up. Other than that, it’s a really delightful app.

For more details, visit Spectre
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