At night, you will be able to create detailed photographs with beautiful lighting effects. Light trails from car lights or motorcycle lights. Star trails on clear, cloudless nights out in the open or even in the city (where light pollution can sometimes be a bit of a problem.) Landscape
Experimentation is the Key for Successful Long Exposures
As with all new
Review the images you make. Take notes as you are out with your camera. Jot down your settings and why you chose them. The camera’s EXIF data will store the shutter speed, aperture, ISO, and a lot of other helpful information. It will not store the reason you chose to use the settings you did. Writing this down and reviewing it as you edit your images later will help you understand what you did right. It will also help you fix the mistakes you will make.
I first started experimenting with long-exposure
Now, with digital cameras, it’s so easy to review the photo we have just taken. We can also check the histogram and get a very good idea of the exposure levels in the images we are making. This all helps us to tweak our camera settings on the fly. We will return home knowing we have some good, well-exposed, and composed photographs.
However, taking notes about why you are making the choices you do is very helpful. Write down, or take a photo with your phone, how you set up your tripod. Which direction is it facing? How did you decide to set the height? Did you use a filter? These things are not recorded in the camera’s EXIF data but can be helpful to know later.
Introduction to Long Exposure
The objective of long exposure
Digital camera technology has contributed to the popularity of long-exposure
- ferris wheels
- amusement park rides,
- star trails,
- passing trains and cars,
- moving ocean water,
- moving clouds in the sky,
Illuminated moving objects for night
Long exposure techniques are 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 photograph passing cars if you live in an urban area. You’ll also need to feel comfortable being out at night with your camera. If you have a friend who enjoys
If you live in a more rural location photographing a river or stream is a good idea for a long exposure subject. If you are near a coastline you could try some long exposure
9 Simple Steps to Nighttime Long Exposure
Don’t be tempted to buy a cheap, lightweight, small tripod. There’s not much point in carrying a tripod that does not adequately support your camera, for two reasons. The first is that a wonky tripod will not hold your camera still during a long exposure. If it moves, your long exposure photo will be ruined. The second reason is that if your tripod is not sturdy enough it may fall. Your camera will fall too. Then you might end up with no long exposure pictures.
Timer Mode –
Next, set your camera to self-timer mode. Using the camera’s self-timer is key to keeping your camera from moving as you press the shutter button manually. If you do this your camera will shake and it will ruin your photo. Set your timer to 2 or 3 seconds and this will allow you to have no contact with the camera or the tripod as the exposure is made.
Use a Cable Release or Remote Shutter Release –
Cable releases and remote triggers are great accessories for long-exposure
A cable release can be plugged into a camera. This allows the photographer to release the shutter without touching the camera when the long exposure begins.
Using a remote shutter release trigger or long exposure app has the same effect, but is wireless. Some can also help to calculate the long exposure time.
Before you rush out and buy a cable release or a remote trigger, check that your camera model is compatible. Not all cameras have a point to plug in a cable release. Some cameras do not have the functionality to work with a remote. Some cameras can be triggered by the use of an app on your smartphone. Any of these accessories can help reduce the risk of camera movement when you are making a long exposure.
Shutter Priority Mode –
For your first long exposure photograph, try Shutter-Priority AE mode (TV on Canon, S on Nikon camera’s mode dial). Or if you’re more experienced, switch over to full manual mode so you have complete control over how long you keep your camera shutter open. Using shutter priority mode you might not get a correct exposure because the camera may not set the best shutter speed.
Shutter Speed –
How you set your shutter speed is somewhat determined by how fast your subject is moving and what it is. If you’re photographing passing traffic at night check how long it takes for a vehicle to pass through your whole frame. If you’re photographing a person walking or a flowing stream, your calculations for the shutter speed you use will be different. Long-exposure
If you’re using manual exposure mode, start with an ISO of 100. You want to avoid using a higher ISO setting to minimize digital noise depending on the light source and how much there is.
Also, if you’re using manual exposure mode, 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. You also need to consider your shutter speed and ISO. Set your aperture well to obtain the optimum exposure and not allow too much light to hit the camera’s sensor.
Set your camera to manual focus so it doesn’t change while you have the shutter open. Or, if you use the back button focus, you can focus independently from releasing the shutter.
Take Photo –
When you’re ready, press the shutter to start the self timer and remove your hands from the camera so it doesn’t move. After you have taken your first photo 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. Think about how much brighter you want your photos to be. Do you need to increase your exposure by one or more stops?
Experiment by first slowing down your shutter speed. Take another photo and review it again. If the exposure is still not to your liking, consider increasing your ISO or opening your aperture wider.
Retake the Same Photo –
Once you have your exposure and focus right, retake the same photo several times. In long exposure
Special Requirements for Daytime Long Exposure
Neutral density filters come in different levels of density. Some may reduce the amount of light by a few stops. Others will impede the light by ten or more stops. You can also stack ND filters to reduce the amount of light even further.
I also sometimes will make use of a polarizing filter to help reduce the amount of light entering my lens. A polarizer has the effect of blocking two stops of light.
How to Achieve Dynamic Long Exposures
Achieving dynamic landscape images is something that many photographers strive to do. One tool in helping in this is the art of long exposure
Long exposure images help to represent the passing of time and movement in an otherwise still image. If you are one of the many who want to step into this area of
Before you ever set up your camera there are several things to take into consideration for capturing a long exposure image. Make sure you scout your location well ahead of time. Also, keep an eye on the weather. Mother Nature plays a very important role in the success or failure of a long exposure landscape image. Remember, what you see physically with your naked eye is very different from what a final result of a long exposure will be. Anything that can move in the scene will most likely be more of a blur in the final image when you use a slow shutter speed.
How To Focus for Long Exposure
When it comes to focusing on your subject for a long exposure you may want to put your camera into manual focus mode. Also, make sure you have it secured on a sturdy tripod. This will ensure that your camera does not change the focal point while you use a slow shutter speed.
If you are unsure about fully relying on manual focus there are a couple of options, both of which are available on all modern DSLR cameras. While you have your camera set to autofocus you can press the shutter button half way to lock focus. Once you are happy with the focus change the camera to manual focus (while still holding the shutter button half way). Some people may also choose to use back-button focus at this point.
Back button focus is a helpful tweak that you can make on many cameras. This allows you to focus using one of the buttons on the back of the camera. The shutter release button is disabled for focusing and only releases the shutter when it is pressed. Using this camera setup allows you to focus and release the shutter independently from each other. To learn more about the pros and cons of back button focus and how to do it, check out this article.
Something to consider is using the timer mode when you are ready to take your final shot. Setting a timer will fire the shutter without you having to press the shutter button. This helps to avoid blur in the image that may be caused by pressing the shutter button too hard, too long, or simply bumping the camera. You do not have to set the timer for a long amount of time, a few seconds will suffice.
How to Make the Best Long Exposure Photos Using Manual Exposure Mode
I’m a keen manual exposure mode user. I always have been. Learning to manage your own exposures, rather than rely on what the camera wants to do will make you a more creative photographer. Especially when you are taking photos using a slow shutter speed.
Understanding what is happening with the shutter speed, aperture, and ISO helps you to make better choices. You are in more control over the outcome of your photographs.
Learning to use your camera in manual mode is not as difficult as it might seem. You need to study a little to learn the basics and then practice every day. In this course, the ins and outs of using your camera in manual exposure mode are explained clearly (and a whole lot more.)
Managing Shutter Speed for Long Exposure Times
One of the first settings you should become familiar with before delving into long exposure is shutter speed. Manually adjusting your shutter speed will allow your camera to capture the ‘motion’ of the scene you are shooting. Shutter speed, in more simple terms, is the amount of time in which your shutter is open. It is generally measured in fractions of seconds, or in the case of long exposure
Bulb Mode is also something to take into consideration for ultra-long exposure images. Setting your camera to Bulb Mode will make it possible to leave the shutter open for more than your camera’s limit (usually around 30 seconds).
Taking long exposures at night of the Milky Way or star trails will require the use of Bulb Mode being selected. If you do choose to use Bulb Mode make sure you have something with you to use as a timer. Taking a few different shots at different time intervals is ideal when Bulb Mode is used. Also, a remote is quite useful when it comes to Bulb Mode, and helps reduce camera shake from pressing the shutter button.
How to Set Your Aperture for the Best Long Exposure Photos
Another thing you want to set manually is the aperture value you use when taking a long exposure. You can think of the aperture as the iris of your camera’s eye. This opening controls the amount of light that is allowed inside the sensor. In terms of long exposure you will want to have a smaller aperture to avoid your images being over-exposed. Since you are using a longer shutter speed there will already be more light filtering into the camera as the shutter stays open.
Reviewing the Histogram for Long Exposure Pictures
Checking your camera’s histogram is very helpful in determining the correct aperture. Your cameras’ display can be too bright or dark to show the true exposure. Take a few test shots at different apertures (recording the histogram info each time). Once you have a good histogram you will know the aperture you need for the shot. All the elements of the exposure triangle come together and the long exposure fun begins.
Setting the ISO for Long Exposures
Ideally, when working with long exposure times you will want a lower ISO setting on your camera. This is to help avoid ‘grain’ from posing an issue in the final image. The ISO setting of your camera controls just how sensitive the sensor is to the light that reaches it. So, the lower the ISO number the lower the sensitivity to light. This in turn helps reduce the graininess of an image. Additionally, having your camera set to a lower ISO will aid in a more crisp final image.
Using Filters to Help Improve Long Exposure
If you are taking a long exposure image during the daytime you may also want to consider adding a filter to your camera. This will help you achieve longer exposure times. Something such as an ND (Neutral Density) filter can be invaluable in extremely bright daylight situations. As we have discussed, long exposure shots allow for a large amount of light to enter your camera. And while some of the other settings mentioned aid in compensating for this, a high-quality ND filter should not be ruled out.
Don’t be alarmed if you are unable to see through your viewfinder (or live view) once the Neutral Density filer is in place. Depending on the strength of your filter this may very well be the case. One important thing to remember when using an ND filter is that you must compensate for the stops of light introduced by the filter.
Now that you have taken the effort to find your perfect location, and the most perfect conditions possible, it is finally time to take your long exposure image. Once you have taken your shot, if time and circumstances allow, you may want to retake the image at least a couple of more times. Since now two shots are ever exactly alike, there could be the tiniest of details change from one to the next that you like or dislike. And like most new things you try, getting grasping everything you need to produce stunning long exposure will require a bit of experimentation … and a lot of patience.
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 light trails and night