Computational Long Exposure Mobile Photography

Eric Tabellion, Nikhil Karnad, Noa Glaser, Ben Weiss, David E. Jacobs, Yael Pritch
Google Research

"Motion Mode" in Google Pixel smartphones' camera app, captures, processes and outputs both conventional and long exposure photographs automatically, at the tap of the camera shutter button.


Long exposure photography produces stunning imagery, representing moving elements in a scene with motion-blur. It is generally employed in two modalities, producing either a foreground or a background blur effect. Foreground blur images are traditionally captured on a tripod-mounted camera and portray blurred moving foreground elements, such as silky water or light trails, over a perfectly sharp background landscape. Background blur images, also called panning photography, are captured while the camera is tracking a moving subject, to produce an image of a sharp subject over a background blurred by relative motion.

Both techniques are notoriously challenging and require additional equipment and advanced skills. In this paper, we describe a computational burst photography system that operates in a hand-held smartphone camera app, and achieves these effects fully automatically, at the tap of the shutter button.

Our approach first detects and segments the salient subject. We track the scene motion over multiple frames and align the images in order to preserve desired sharpness and to produce aesthetically pleasing motion streaks. We capture an under-exposed burst and select the subset of input frames that will produce blur trails of controlled length, regardless of scene or camera motion velocity. We predict inter-frame motion and synthesize motion-blur to fill the temporal gaps between the input frames. Finally, we composite the blurred image with the sharp regular exposure to protect the sharpness of faces or areas of the scene that are barely moving, and produce a final high resolution and high dynamic range (HDR) photograph. Our system democratizes a capability previously reserved to professionals, and makes this creative style accessible to most casual photographers.


  author = {Tabellion, Eric and Karnad, Nikhil and Glaser, Noa and Weiss, Ben and Jacobs, David E. and Pritch, Yael},
  title = {Computational Long Exposure Mobile Photography},
  year = {2023},
  issue_date = {August 2023},
  publisher = {Association for Computing Machinery},
  address = {New York, NY, USA},
  volume = {42},
  number = {4},
  issn = {0730-0301},
  url = {},
  doi = {10.1145/3592124},
  journal = {ACM Trans. Graph.},
  month = {jul},
  articleno = {48},
  numpages = {15},