Beat boredom with these fun photo ideas for iPhone and iPad

clones three
Jeff Carlson

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Trapped inside due to weather? Itching to make photos but you’ve been too busy? Or do you just have a few hours to kill? It’s easy to think we can’t capture photos unless we wake up before dawn to welcome the sunrise or travel to picturesque locales, but fun photos can be made anywhere and at any time.

They also don’t require expensive, dedicated photo gear. Here are three photo ideas for boring days that you can create with an iPhone or iPad that you probably already have at hand.

Fun with long exposures

The iPhone and iPad cameras are designed to capture the best possible image in a fraction of a second, without you worrying about the individual capture settings. But it’s within those particulars, namely the shutter speed, that you can have fun.

Using an app such as Manual, Long Expo Pro, or Slow Shutter Cam, you can play around with longer shutter speeds. Generally, a longer speed is used in dark situations to bring more light to the image sensor. There’s a drawback, though: if anything moves in the frame, it ends up blurry.

long exposure expopro

Blur, baby, blur. Long Expo Pro lets you play with shutter speeds to create more abstract results.

But on a boring day, that’s where things get creative. Keeping the shutter open results in interesting visuals when you move something in front of the camera lens (or move the device itself). Manual can keep the shutter open for up to half a second (shown as 0”5); Long Expo Pro can do 16 seconds; and Slow Shutter can wait a leisurely 60 seconds before it stops recording the image. Both of the latter apps also include a Bulb mode that keeps capturing until you press the shutter button again.

long exposure slow shutter

This 4-second exposure in Slow Shutter of the sky and moon isnt washed out.

Long Expo Pro and Slow Shutter also include modes that are designed to enhance motion blur or star trails, even in daylight where normally a long exposure would wash out the image.

Clone yourself and others

It’s not possible to actually clone ourselves (which would finally enable me to do all my laundry), but we can photograph whimsical scenarios where we appear multiple times. The trick is to take multiple photos and combine them into one.

To save yourself a lot of hassle when merging the photos later, put your iOS device on a tripod or other stable mount so it doesn’t move between exposures. Then, capture two or more photos where the subject (you or someone else) appears in different locations within the frame. Make sure you don’t place the person where he or she might overlap one of the other positions, and keep an eye out for shadows that would normally fall across them all.


Capture your subject in a variety of poses in the same scene.

To combine the images, open Photoshop Mix (free, but requires an Adobe ID, which you can get for free online or in the app). Create a new project by tapping the + button, and then choose two of the images you shot.

Next, use the Cut Out tool to draw over the subject. Don’t forget to select any shadow areas created by the person’s placement (like the shadow to the right of the girl’s legs).

clone cutout

Draw over the area you want to keep.

When you release your finger from the screen, the app creates a mask, hiding everything in the photo except for the area you selected. The other photo shows through, combining the two into one image.

clone cutout result

A clone, ready to attack.

Mix works only with two images at a time; if you want to add more clones, export the combined image to the Camera Roll, and then create a new project with that as the base.

Create a time-lapse movie

Fun photos don’t need to be limited to still images. Apple’s Camera app now includes a Time-Lapse feature that captures one image every 8 seconds, then stitches those shots together to make a video. The video can be of anything: light moving across a floor, snow falling outside, people moving around in a room. Mount the device on your car’s dashboard and create a super fast version of your commute.

timelapse setup

First set your focus and exposure and lock it. I'm going to take a time-lapse of the sun moving shadows across this chair.

This is another example where having a tripod or other mount is helpful, but it’s not required. In the Camera app, frame your subject and swipe the screen to switch to Time-Lapse mode. I recommend locking the focus and exposure by pressing and holding an area of the screen until you see a yellow indicator that reads AE/AF LOCK. That prevents unexpected color and exposure shifts during the course of the recording. And since captures take a long time, it’s a good idea to plug the device into power while shooting.

timelapse power

An iPad mini is a fine camera for creating time-lapse movies.

Tap the Record button to start, and then come back later and tap it again to stop. It should turn out something like this:

I also recommend the free app Hyperlapse for easy time-lapse creation. When you want more control over how often the shutter fires, look at Lapse It.

Make boring fun

A friend of mine used to say that boredom doesn’t exist—if you’re feeling bored, then go do something about it. With a camera, even the one in your iPhone or iPad, you can soon pass the time and have fun making new photos.

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