How to Photograph Moving Water on iPhone: Complete Guide

How to Photograph Moving Water on iPhone: Complete Guide

waterfall and green landscape during sunset - moving water iPhone
This gorgeous waterfall photo is taken with the long-exposure technique.

Are you traveling to see the waterfalls or even just the beach? It would be a waste to take boring, ordinary pictures. But don’t worry, we have good news: You can capture gorgeous moving water with iPhone! Yes, you don’t need your DSLR camera for this. In fact, if you updated your iOS to iOS 11, then you’re good to go.

Do you know the feature, Live Photos? It can help you capture beautiful long-exposure photos of moving water.

In this article, we discussed the art of taking long-exposure photos, the Live Photos app, and how to photograph moving water using your iPhone, and more.

Taking long-exposure photos

Before you can know how to take Live Photos, you must find out more about long-exposure, first. 

The stunning, smooth, and misty appearance of moving water in photos— that is because of the long-exposure effect. So, take the time to get to know it before you work with Live Photo and capture moving water with iPhone.

What are long-exposure photos?

colorful waterfall at night. - moving water iPhone
The long-exposure technique helps you capture movement.

In long-exposure photos, the stationary subjects are more pronounced, while the moving objects are blurred. 

Compared to normal photos, the long-exposure photos appear to have more movement and details. This makes the photos more “alive”, compared to regular photos taken with faster shutter speeds. 

For example, if you capture the city at night from a bird’s eye view, you can observe that:

  • Instead of moving cars, there are capture neon, blurred streaks
  • People look like ghosts
  • Dark objects disappear in the background 
  • Moving lights or even stars appear as if they’re falling

How does long-exposure photography work?

city light trails at night
Speed has something to do with it.

Long-exposure photos have that distinct appearance because of the aperture being opened for a longer time. 

That means the camera’s shutter takes longer to close than usual. As a result, the camera’s sensor will gather more light, causing a unique effect.

Just think of the camera taking its own sweet time gathering more light. By doing that, it can properly expose more objects and details from the scene. 

That’s why if the subjects are not moving, they will appear sharper. If they are moving, they will have this blurry look, which is called the Motion Blur. 

What is a motion blur?

motion blur of people walking on pedestrian lane
Motion blur is the effect when you use the long-exposure technique.

Motion blur represents movement in a photo. It makes a picture look more “alive” and dynamic. 

When you use long-exposure,  motion blur is the effect you see on moving cars or people. If an object is moving too fast, it will have a motion blur in the photo. 

Motion blur is also the dreamy, misty effect of moving water on pictures. The longer the shutter speed, the smoother the motion blur appears. 

Usually, when photographers use this effect, they want to portray the speed of the objects in a scene. 

How do you take long-exposure photos

mossy rocks by the river - moving water iPhone
You need to tweak your ISO, Aperture, and Shutter Speed to take a stunning photo like this.

Outdoor photographers adjust these three elements on their DSLR cameras to take long-exposure photos.

1. Aperture

They make the aperture smaller, which means the number must go higher. High number = smaller aperture. For example, F22 is a tiny aperture while F1.4 is a big one.

2. Shutter Speed

They normally set the shutter speed from 1.4 seconds to 5 seconds. The key here is to make your aperture smaller if your shutter speed is slower.

3. ISO

Photographers also change the cameras’ sensitivity to light. On your iPhone, you can’t adjust the aperture or the shutter speed. You can, however, use third-party apps to make that possible. 

Meanwhile, if you want to try using your native camera app first, then you have to know about the Live Photos.

Live Photos: The key to capturing moving water on iPhone

iPhone taking photo of brown landscape. - moving water iPhone
Live Photos are photo and video in one.

Ever wish you can take videos but at the same time capture a single moment? That is the magic of Live Photos.

Particularly, the Live Photos feature can help you capture moving water with iPhone. You can capture that smooth, dream-like water movement. But before we explain why, let’s get to know Live Photos better, first.

What are Live Photos? 

Live Photos are just regular pictures on your iPhone with something more.

When you take a picture with your iPhone, you’re freezing a single moment in time, right? But with the Live Photos feature, you’re capturing a photo with a little extra—a 3-second, 15FPS MOV file, to be exact.

This is because when you turn on the Live Photos feature, your iPhone camera also records the moments that happen—exactly 1.5 seconds before and after you tap the shutter button. 

Now, how do you know if you indeed captured a Live Photo? When you tap on it, a Live Photo will move.

Take note: The Live Photo feature is available on the iPhone 6 and later models. You also have to update to iOS 11 and later to use this feature.

How to take Live Photos on iPhone

Taking them on your camera is not so hard. Just follow these steps:

  1. Open your camera and slide to Photo mode. 
  2. Turn on the Live Photos by tapping on its icon, which is located between the HDR icon and the Timer icon. Make sure it turns yellow. 
  3. To get the best results, ensure your hands are still. 
  4. Tap on the shutter button.
  5. Wait until the word “LIVE” disappears.
  6. Go to your Photos and firmly press on your new live photo to see it move. 

How to turn off the Live Photos mode

If you have an iPhone 6 or later, the Live Photos feature is turned on by default on your camera. If you only want to take still photos, for the time being, you can change your camera’s default settings. 

Just follow these steps:

  1. Open your camera. 
  2. Tap on the Live Photo icon. It’s turned off when it’s white.
  3. Next, go to Settings. 
  4. Go to the Camera.
  5. Tap Preserve Settings.

What is the advantage of the Live Photos feature?

iPhone taking photo of mountain and sea - moving water iPhone
If you want to take photos and videos at the same time, you should turn on your Live Photo feature by default.

Some users don’t like this feature because, apparently, it’s pointless. They just don’t find the real use since it’s just a photo and a 3-second video in one. 

Moreover, it eats up more storage space compared to regular photos. While those are partly true, the main benefit of using Live Photos is the convenience. 

Why take the time to switch between the Photo mode and the Video mode, when you can create Live Photos? It’s the best of both worlds—photo and video in one.

So, if you’re the adventurous type who spontaneously takes photos—but also wants videos—then you will like the Live Photos feature.  

Additionally, if you’re a fan of the live-exposure technique, then you can rely on the Live Photos anytime. 

Below, we discussed how you can photograph moving water using the Live Photos feature. 

How to photograph moving water on iPhone

beautiful flowing water of waterfall - moving water iPhone
Using the Live Photo feature, you can capture moving water
with iPhone.

What you will need

  • Waterproof case. Even if you have a water-resistant iPhone, you will need this. It’s better to be safe than regret things later on. You can get the LANYOS waterproof case if you’re taking a dive. It has a built-in screen protector and a clear cover at the front and the back. On the other hand, if you’re just want something lighter for splashing around the shore, you can check out the JOTO waterproof pouch.
  • Tripod with an iPhone adapter. For the best, shake-free solo photos, get a reliable iPhone tripod. It would even be better if it comes with a Bluetooth remote shutter button. If you’re taking a hike or exploring rough terrains, you can get gorillapods like the GooFoto tripod for iPhone or the JSCT iPhone tripod. With this, your iPhone can have a sturdy grip on a tree branch, a narrow rock, or a bridge railing.
  • Power bank. It might take you a few more tries before you take the perfect photo. Better have an extra source of power. We suggest you get the small and lightweight Konfulon power bank, which carries 10,000mAh.

How to take a picture of moving water with iPhone using Live Photos

  1. Look for a secure spot by the stream or waterfall.
  2. It’s best if you can find a spot where you can capture a wide-frame shot of the body of water such as a waterfall. 
  3. Next, open your camera app.
  4. Slide to Photo mode.  
  5. For the most desirable outcome, mount your iPhone on the tripod. 
  6. Make sure the Live Photos icon is turned on by checking if it’s yellow. 
  7. Aim your iPhone at the scene. 
  8. Tap on the shutter button. 
  9. Wait until the small “LIVE” logo disappears before you view your photo. 
  10. On your Photos app, view your Live Photo.

Other iPhone apps for taking long-exposure photos

We mentioned above that to capture a long-exposure photo, you have to tweak a camera’s aperture, shutter speed, and ISO. However, since you can’t adjust those things on the iPhone camera, you have to rely on other third-party apps. 

The apps we listed below have some essential DSLR-like features and controls. That means it’s easier for you to practice taking long-exposure photos and capturing moving water with iPhone.

1. Moment app 

Moment app on iPhone

Required: iOS 11.0 or later

Moment is a feature-packed app, which means you can have full manual control of your camera. 

For taking long-exposure photos, you can use the app’s Slow Shutter, Motion Blur, and Light Trails effects. 

All the photos that you take using the Motion Blur on Moment will be saved as Live Photos in your gallery. 

And if your iPhone is a dual-camera model, you can use the app to choose which of the two cameras you can use. 

You can download the app here.

2. Camera+ 2

Camera+ 2 on iPhone

Required: iOS 12.0 or later
Price: $3.99

Like Moment, Camera+ 2 also allows you to have even more manual controls than the native camera app. 

Using the app, you can control your camera’s shutter speed, ISO, and white balance. You can particularly use the Slow Shutter Speed feature to take long-exposure photos.

Besides those, Camera+ 2 also has Burst and Timer modes, Smile mode, and Stabilizer mode. 

Download the app here.

3. Slow Shutter Cam

Slow Shutter Cam on iPhone

Required: iOS 10.0 or later

The Slow Shutter Cam is specifically designed for long-exposure shots. 

Its Motion Blur Mode, in particular, is designed for the waterfall effects. Meanwhile, if you want to take photos of light trails, you can use its Light Trail mode. 

Its Low-Light mode also gives you more freedom to adjust the exposure with its exposure compensation slider. 

You can download the app here.

Just a reminder…

That wasn’t so hard, right? Of course, remember to protect your iPhone from the splash of water. Your iPhone may be water-resistant but it’s not waterproof. That means it can only handle being submerged up to a certain depth. 

Tips on taking long-exposure photos

1. Don’t shoot when it’s cloudy. 

Taking pictures in gloomy weather won’t help you get better results. Good lighting will help expose the photo properly. 

As a result, don’t forget to check the weather ahead of time. That will save you time during the photoshoot! If you want a secondary light source, we suggest you invest in a clip-on spotlight for your iPhone. Not only will this give you a good fill light but will also come in handy when it gets dark. Get the iTech clip-on spotlight, which doesn’t produce heat and can be used on other smartphones.

2. Invest in a good tripod and a gimbal. 

iPhone on tripod taking photo of rocky wall. - moving water iPhone
A sturdy tripod and a gimbal will be good investments.

Shakiness will ruin a good long-exposure photo. So, you should invest in a tripod with an iPhone adapter and iPhone gimbal if you’re serious about perfecting this technique. If you don’t have a tripod yet, you can get the flexible KobraTech iPhone tripod.

Moreover, as a contingency move, make sure to bring something that will weigh down your tripod. That will make it withstand vibrations or winds.

3. Take some practice shots. 

Don’t hurry, set your tripod, and then take your photos right away. Always do some test shots and see how the light plays with the area. 

Take out your iPhone first and try taking quick shots of the area. You might even discover an interesting angle by exploring the area.

4. Check the area before your photo-taking session. 

moving water in stream with mossy rocks and red leaves
Don’t sacrifice your safety even for a breathtaking photo like this.

You should start exploring the area, so you find a good spot. Make sure you can take a good wide angle of the moving water. Plus you should also check the place for safety purposes. You might get carried away by the task that you don’t notice a rock or a slippery area. 

How do you take motion blur photos on iPhone?

Use a tripod with an iPhone adapter, so the subject will get blurred while the background stays sharp. Meanwhile, if you want it the other way, you can move the camera in the subject’s direction.

Why are my live photos not loading?

The problem might be about your storage or iCloud syncing. If your live photos don’t load, iCloud might not have synced properly with your gallery. We explained how to solve that here.

How do you get light trail photos on iPhone?

First, make sure to have a stabilizer for your iPhone. Next, install or buy a reliable camera app such as the Slow Shutter Cam. On the app, use the Bulb shutter speed level and Light Trail effect to capture interesting photos!


Thanks to iOS 11, you won’t have to buy a DSLR camera to take smooth, dream-like photos of moving water. All you have to do is to take advantage of the Live Photos feature. Not contented with it? Just try the apps we listed above. 

Do you know other tips on taking photographs of moving water?

Let us know in the comments below.