smooth water photo with dog

Smooth and silky water photography normally involves a long exposure that requires patience, a big camera and a very steady tripod.

With the Google Pixel 6 Pro Smartphone a great smooth and silky long exposure shot can now be taken hand held and I have put this to the test as you can see here along with how it works.

smartphone long exposure

Huawei led the way in this field of phone based silky water photos with my last phone, but even then you needed to use some form of tripod to avoid blurring the whole image.

The Google Pixel 6 Pro is packed with extreme computation that helps create photos and effects that only pro or experienced photographers could produce in the past. Here the phone does all the hard work for you!

What Is Silky Smooth Water Photography?

Silky Smooth Water Photos are where running water is shown in photos with a blurred movement effect. Instead of the water or splashes being frozen in time it is shown as having a feeling of movement.

still dog and moving water

How Is It Normally Achieved?

Normally the long exposure smooth water effect is done with a proper camera, say a DSLR, plus a tripod and then fiddling with settings so that you get a longer shutter speed. This may take lots of practice shots to get the right length of exposure for the speed of the water flow.

Plus you then have to play with exposure so that as you are taking such a long photo you are letting more light in.

waterfall with smartphone

Then also you may need a Neutral Density Filter attached to the lens so that the picture does not get washed out with light as you are taking a longer photograph.

Don’t get me wrong, a proper set up gets amazing and perfect results for photographers. But what if these kinds of photos became accessible to the many who take pics on the go? Without the need for carrying kit. This is where the Google Pixel 6 Pro comes in.

rock and silky water

How Does It Work

I got the Google Pixel 6 Pro as my latest phone as it is a superb camera as well as great and fast phone for productivity. All those dog walks where the only camera I have on me is my phone. I have less to worry about taking pics of the dogs. Plus Malc is a right poser of course.

To achieve this in the phone, Google have gone full on with their computer wizardry. You go to the camera and as well as the usual options like portrait, camera, videa etc there is an option called Motion.

long exposure in google pixel 6 app

And as you can see above there are two options within that, Long Exposure, and Action Pan.

Choose Long Exposure. Frame your shot at the running water or waterfall and press the shutter, being as still as you can.

The magic then happens. It works out the speed of any moving objects or water and works out its own shutter speed. It also works out what is still and knows to keep all that in focus as well as not overexposing. It also compensates for the fact you are hand holding the phone and knows what should still be still and in focus. Magic!

long exposure water with dog and rocks

This is a huge leap in technology on a phone camera. Not a gimmick. It is still in beta too so it will only get better as each update happens.

For those interested, you saw the setting next to it called action pan. That is the opposite. Say you want to take a pic of a car passing by. The Google Pixel 6 Pro works out what is moving, and produces a pic where the moving object is static and blurs the background for an action pan effect. That is for another post upcoming.

How Is The Dog In Focus?

Ah well, this is not computer trickery. It is just that Malc is trained to pose and he also keeps very very very still.

long exposure dog

Remember the phone is taking a pic for half a second and upwards. So yes he has to be very still indeed bless him.

If he moved too much he would be blurred too! Remember the smartphone is trying to work out what should be blurred and focused by movement.

Example. Pete cannot stay still and long exposure is pointless with him. His head moves throughout the pic and his tail wags.

blurred dog photo

But most people want this for taking pics of rivers, streams and waterfalls, not pics of their dogs.

waterfall pic google pixel 6 pro

Conclusion

The camera on the Google Pixel 6 Pro is slowly taking over from my need to carry a proper camera wherever I go. Long exposure pics like these I can now do on a whim rather than plan ahead and carry a tripod etc.

Of course a professional commercial photographer has different needs and attention to detail, but what Google has done here is made these kind of shots available to the many. Great for social sharing your views that day or even a lot of my latest blog posts on here use phone pics rather than big camera pics.

The camera app on the Google Pixel 6 Pro is packed with more tricks than this. Night Sight, a super portrait mode and so on. I shall look forward to sharing more of these capabilities soon.

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3 Comments

  1. Hi,

    I think Huawei P30pro still does it better (for now), but this feature is still in beta and Huawei is now irrelevant in the west, having lost google services. I am so pleased there is another player in the field doing computational photography for daylight long exposures, especially with water, as normal photography with ND filters is a massive PITA when just going out for a walk. Tripods, ND filters etc.
    How is the live preview compared to Huawei’s method, where you can see it develop in front of your eyes?

  2. Did you post process the pics at all? Or are they exhibiting the Pixel’s typical over sharpened look?

    1. Paul Steele says:

      Hi, I just adjusted light and contrast, nothing fancy. One persons oversharpened is another persons nicely sharpened. For me, from a phone, nothing can beat shots like this on a phone. So for beta, this is great

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