Long Exposure Photography

Introduction to Long Exposure Photography

Long Exposure Photography is a creative technique that produces stunning images you  cannot replicate through normal exposure. Long Exposure Photography is a creative art that is both unique and artistic. At night, you will be able to create detailed photographs with beautiful lighting effects. Long Exposure Photography involves using a long-duration shutter speed (usually greater the 2 seconds) to capture stationary elements in an image while blurring moving objects like cars and water.

The objective of long exposure photography is to create an image that shows the effect of passing time. It opens a whole new world of photography that many photographers do not attempt. Your reward for your efforts are stunning images that you will cherish for years to come. We have heard that once you get the hang of it, Long Exposure Photography can be highly addictive.

Digital camera technology has contributed to the popularity in long exposure photography. Photographers now receive immediate feedback on their images and can make adjustments to get the desired shot. Getting great long exposure shots does not require special skills or expensive equipment.

Long Exposure Photography- Big Ben London

Examples of long exposure photography include ferris wheels and amusement park rides, star trails, lights from passing trains and cars, moving ocean water, moving clouds, waterfall long exposure. Illuminated moving objects at night like cars will produce really cool light trails.

Long exposure is when you open the camera shutter for a long period of time. It could be as short as a few seconds or as long as a few hours. As you let more light into your camera, all moving objects are blurred and all stationary objects stay sharp. For long exposures you will need a DSLR camera and a sturdy tripod.

To get started you may want to shoot passing cars.

Simple Steps to Nighttime Long Exposure Photography

Tripod – Set your camera up on a tripod and frame your shot. Position your camera so cars are entering and exiting the frame where you want.

Timer Mode – Next, set you camera to timer mode. This is key to keeping your camera in focus because if you press the shutter button manually, your camera will shake and it will ruin your shot. Set your timer to 2 or 3 seconds.

Shutter Priority – For your first long exposure shot, try Shutter-Priority AE mode (TV on Canon, S on Nikon). Or if you’re more experienced, switch over to full manual mode so you have complete control of your camera.

Shutter Speed – Set your shutter speed for the length of time you think its going to take for your subject to enter the frame, pass through, and exit the frame. If you’re shooting a passing car from an angle, it could take 6 to 10 seconds.

ISO – If you’re shooting in manual mode, start with an ISO of 100. You want to avoid using a higher ISO setting to minimize grain.

Aperture – Also, if you’re shooting in manual, think about what you want for depth of field. You may want to start with f/5.6 and see how your shot turns out.

Focus – Set your camera to manual focus so it doesn’t change while you have the shutter open.

Take Photo – When you’re ready, press the shutter to start the timer and remove your hands from the camera so it doesn’t move. After you have taken your first shot you can decide what adjustments you need to make in either the shutter speed, ISO, aperture, or focus. If your image turned out dark, try a longer exposure from let’s say 10 to 15 seconds.

Retake the Same Shot – Once you have your exposure and focus just right, retake the same shot several times. In long exposure photography no two shots are the same if you have moving objects like cars.

Daytime Long Exposure Photography

Daytime Long Exposure Photography requires an ND filter (also know as a neutral density filter). ND filters reduce the amount of light passing through a camera lens without changing the color of the scene.  These filter are used in bright light conditions to help prevent overexposure because they allow you to get proper exposure at a wider lens opening.

Tiffen 77mm Digital Neutral Density Filter Kit (ND 0.6, 0.9, 1.2 + Wallet)
44 Reviews
Tiffen 77mm Digital Neutral Density Filter Kit (ND 0.6, 0.9, 1.2 + Wallet)
  • Neutral Density Filters: Creates motion blur effects with slow shutter speeds
  • Eliminates overly bright, washed-out images
  • Allows greater control and flexibility of exposure and depth of field
  • Save over individual filter prices

We will cover Daytime Long Exposure Photography in another article.


Mastering long exposure is a process of trial and error. It will take some practice before you learn how to set your camera to get the shot you want. So, take the time you need to set up your shots, practice as often as you can in different scenarios, and be patient.

Udemy Photography Classes


Long Exposure Photography Classes from Udemy

Long Exposure Photography: Shoot Your Own Stunning Photos
Long Exposure
FIELD PHOTOGRAPHY MAGIC – Long Exposure & Composition
Long Exposure, Composition, and Landscape Photography

Long Exposure Photography Classes from CrativeLive

Mastering Long Exposure Photography

Long Exposure Books on Amazon

Mastering Long Exposure: The Definitive Guide for Photographers
  • Antony Zacharias
  • Publisher: Ammonite Press
  • Paperback: 176 pages
Long Exposure: Notebook with 150 lined pages (Photography) (Volume 1)
  • Wild Pages Press
  • Publisher: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform
  • Edition no. 0 (05/23/2017)
  • Paperback: 150 pages
Waterfalls & Waves: A Comprehensive Guide to Long-Exposure Water Photography
  • Nicole S. Young
  • Publisher: Nicolesy, Incorporated
  • Edition no. 2 (12/14/2016)
  • Paperback: 156 pages
Waterfalls & Waves: A Comprehensive Guide to Long-Exposure Water Photography
  • Nicole S. Young
  • Publisher: Nicolesy, Incorporated
  • Edition no. 2 (12/14/2016)
  • Paperback: 156 pages

Camera Tripods on Amazon

Manfrotto MKCOMPACTADV-BK Compact Advanced Tripod with 3-Way Head (Black)
127 Reviews
Manfrotto MKCOMPACTADV-BK Compact Advanced Tripod with 3-Way Head (Black)
  • Quick release
  • Foldable 3-Way Pan/Tilt Head
  • Supports up to 6.6lbs
Velbon EX-530/F Aluminum Tripod with 3-Way Pan Head, 9.0lbs Max Load Capacity
4 Reviews
Velbon EX-530/F Aluminum Tripod with 3-Way Pan Head, 9.0lbs Max Load Capacity
  • This Item Includes: Velbon EX-530/F Aluminum Tripod - 3-Way Pan Head - QB-46 Plate - Tripod Carrying Case - Velbon 5 Year Warranty
  • Lightweight 3.2-lbs aluminum tripod
  • Three-way pan-and-tilt head
  • Geared center column
  • Maximum height of 61.4"




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