How Does Long Exposure Photography Work?

How Does Long Exposure Photography Work?

Long exposure photographs are usually so stunning that ordinary people—those who have no idea about photography—think they are only products of Photoshop editing. If you were not a photographer, would you have thought that it is possible to capture the light trails of cars? However, technology has proven that nothing is impossible when the right equipment is used by skilled photographer’s hands at the right timing.

star trails

The long exposure technique is one of the useful tools in night photography that capture spectacular images with fantastic effect quality. This has the capacity to modify the scenario in a way that what the eyes cannot normally see will be revealed.

If you want to find out how long exposure photography works, then continue to read below.

What is Long Exposure?

Long exposure photography (also called slow shutter photography) involves setting the shutter speed to a long period of time to be able to capture movements and incredible effects that the normal eyes cannot usually follow.

This technique lets the photographer capture the motionless objects vividly, while the moving elements are blurred. The examples of long exposure photographs are seascapes highlighting the rocks or star trails.

long exposure

How It is Done

The long exposure technique is basically about engaging in a longer shooting duration than the standard time set by your camera’s photometer. This is done by shooting at about ½ second or more, which is too slow compared to the typical shot at 1/50th second or less.

Moreover, this method requires shooting using the Manual mode. If in case you are not that knowledgeable about shooting in Manual, you must learn how to get off the Auto mode and find out more about the other kinds of mode.

Also read: How to Shoot the Perfect Long Exposure Time Lapse

Camera Settings

If you are not confident of shooting using the Manual mode, then you can also use any of the following semi-manual modes:

  • Aperture- The aperture should be set somewhere from f/8 to f/16. The amount of light available in the scene and the duration of exposure you desire will determine this.
  • Shutter speed- If needed, the shutter time has to be 10 seconds or more—and this is dependent on the light in the scene again.
  • ISO- The ISO settings should be kept low. ISO 100 is usually recommended for long exposure shots.

Also read: Understanding Camera Modes for High-speed Photography Triggering

What Equipment to Bring

The following list contains the basic tools and gadgets that you need in order to achieve your long exposure photography goals.

  • Camera­- Of course, the first equipment you need is your camera. This does not need to be a DSLR. You can use any point-and-shoot cameras with an advanced system, particularly those with a Shutter Priority feature.
  • Tripod- This is a necessary tool for capturing long exposure images. Before you start taking shots, see to it that your camera is placed on a tripod to keep it stable. Furthermore, you need to choose a tripod that is sturdy so that the camera will not be easily moved by little movements or the wind.
  • RemotePlus- Pressing the shutter release button while your camera is on a tripod may cause a slight movement that can lead to blurry images. For this reason, it is advisable that you use a cable release or a camera remote, such as the RemotePlus. This product functions as a shutter release button, which allows you to take a shot even without actually touching the camera.
long exposure ideas

MIOPS RemotePlus is an advanced camera trigger that functions at a high speed and is powered by a smartphone application. This camera remote is useful for timelapse, remote shooting, HDR, and long exposure photography.

  • Filter holder- In case you need to use square filters since there are some lenses that do not accept round filters in long exposure, then you need a filter holder to help you. It is recommended that you put the ND filters, together with the filter holder, before the shutter is pressed in the later part.

Tips for Best Long Exposure Shots

Aside from the equipment, there are other considerations, such as the subject, time element, weather, etc., that can affect the quality of your long exposure outputs. If you want to come up with the best long exposure photographs, then take the following tips:

  • Choose your subject- Long exposure is usually used for cityscapes, landscapes, and seascapes. These are ideal scenes that will showcase the beautiful contrast between the captured movements and the still objects.
  • Check for weather updates- This photography technique is best on a windy day with a cloudy sky. Therefore, it is best that you first check out the weather forecast for your planned shooting date.
  • Scout the location- Before the actual shooting, it is best if you can scout the venue first, especially if you will be shooting in low light. You must find the perfect spot where to put your tripod and camera. Also, take time to visualize the scenario and focus on how to achieve the right framing.
  • Use the morning or evening light- It is best to conduct your long exposure shoot during either of these two moments so you do not have to rely much on ND filter. The natural low light condition will allow you to capture more creative shots.
  • Keep the lens and filter clean- Since the camera shutter needs to be open for a long time during shots, dust and other tiny particles could cover your filter or lens. The dirt can ruin the quality of your images. To avoid this from happening, take time to clean the lens and the filter in between shots. This will save you from too much post-production work.
long exposure equipments

More from MIOPS

Long exposure photography is one of the techniques that will allow you to create those ethereal shots that most people find heavenly. The production may be tedious, but once the final output comes out, you will see that it is worth it.

For more information, tricks and tips on how to improve your photography skills and creativity, feel free to read our blog. You can also check our shop and discover other amazing products that will help you take your photography to the next level.

Related Article: What is a High-Speed Camera Trigger and How Does it Work?