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A Digital Approach to Long Exposure iPhone Photography – MacStories



Spectrum is a new specialized camera app from the team that created Halide, one of our favorite camera apps on iOS. The Halide team describes Spectrum as a computer shutter for iPhone, which allows the app to remove people from a crowded scene, create artistic images of rough water and create bright trails at night. The same type of images can be created with the help of traditional cameras, but get the correct exposure, keep the camera still, and take into account the images. other factors make them difficult to obtain. With Specter, artificial intelligence is used to simplify the process and make long exposure photography accessible to anyone with an iPhone.

If you used Halide, you will be at home in Specter, which shares a similar interface. However, on the whole, Specter is simpler than Halide, if not for nothing, that it is designed for a very specific type of photography.

Under the viewfinder is a row of buttons to return the camera for a selfie, stabilize it and access the settings. When stabilization is enabled, the button becomes an indicator that helps you stabilize your shot. Spectrum can take pictures of 3, 5 and 9 seconds. It has been a long time since the shutter of the camera is open. Thus, the more you can hold your iPhone, the better your results. The stabilization button helps by displaying an iPhone icon centered in a square bracketed square. When you move your hand, the icon moves, which gives you an idea of ​​the magnitude of the camera shake that you introduce into the picture. When the application decides that you are holding your iPhone still enough to take a picture, the word "STABLE" appears under the button and you can start shooting.

Instead of letting the shutter open for the duration of an exhibition, Specter takes hundreds of individual images and then compares them to delete objects that are moving in the frame. The same AI also helps to reduce the effect of camera shake, thus allowing long exposures without a tripod.

The duration of exposure is controlled by a dial in the lower right corner of the screen. Just above is the settings button where you can choose to save your photos obtained as Live photos and implement a Siri shortcut to trigger the shooting button. The Settings screen also includes a handy guide with suggested settings to get the best shot in different conditions, which I found helpful when starting.

There is also a button in the upper left corner of the screen to turn on, turn off or switch to automatic mode. In my tests, the automatic tracking of light trails worked well in most shots, but seems to have been disabled several times when operated under the headlights under a motorway viaduct at night.

Spectrum also has an exposure correction button in the upper right corner, which you can adjust with the help of a slider that appears when you slide your finger vertically on the screen or as you press the exposure button dimmed in gray. You can also tap the screen to set the AF point of a photo and preview the photos you have taken using the button in the lower left corner of the screen. In preview mode, you can tag photos as favorites, share images or movie versions of them, or delete them.

The artificial intelligence of Specter is impressive, but it's worth keeping in mind that it's not magic either. If you keep your iPhone as still as possible, you'll get better pictures than relying on stabilization.

The images in this review come directly from my iPhone XS Max without any modification. I've tried Specter in different contexts: sitting in an armchair in a cafe, my arm resting on a table, to stay stable, with no place to protect me in the icy cold and with a mini tripod. The tripod won hands down, but sitting in a chair in a cafe was not far behind. My shots from the cove were not guards, but they were caught on a cold day after I went out for a while and my hands became numb and probably a little more shaky than normal. On the other hand, all the night shots I took on a motorway viaduct were shot by hand and many went well.


The bottom line is that it takes a bit of practice to get good pictures of Spectrum: both, hold your iPhone close and consider optimal conditions for taking long exposures. There are not many settings in the app, but setting them also results in better results.

After only a week of using the application, I do not feel completely controlled by Specter. For example, of the 10 night shootings I took on a highway viaduct, six were good and four were huge. No picture fell between the two. I had the same experience with the other shots that I took. All were at one end of the spectrum.

It is certain that some people will be frustrated when they try for the first time Specter. That's why I highly recommend reading the great tips provided in the settings. Nevertheless, when things are set up, the results can be fantastic and I had a lot of fun experimenting with the application. I feel that with a little more practice, I can improve my success rate and create many more interesting shots.

Spectrum is available on the App Store for $ 1.99 for a limited time, after which the price will be increased.


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