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The Go-Getter’s Guide to Long Exposure Photography

The Go-Getter’s Guide to Long Exposure Photography

Have you ever come across any ocean or waterfall photograph where the water looks silky and soft? Or have you come across any photographs where cities have cars looking like long red lines. These surreal photographs can appear to you as manipulated or Photoshopped.

Long Exposure Photography

In truth, using long shutter speed techniques such images can be created easily. By the time you have read this article till the end, you can yourself create images using a technique known as Long Exposure Photography.

Long Exposure Photography is a technique in photography which is widely used and popular. The style is based on the use of longer shutter speed, obscure movement of elements or blur. The water can be given a look of a fog and car lights as long trails on roads.

Long exposure photographs get their inspiration from various sources. However, the most important thing is the scene of the very shot. The search for unique backgrounds is important in long exposure photography. A combination of background, mid-ground, and foreground is used as major elements in creaking long exposure compositions. The main motive is to find a location where all these elements are present for making the ideal photo.

Long-Exposure Photography

How to choose a location

The first assessment is to check for a relationship which can be created in between static and moving subjects in a specific location. The location having attractive and appealing elements and subjects is a significant point for good long exposure photography.

For creating Traffic trail photography using long exposure the following location ideas are recommended.
 Long Exposure Photography

Location Suggested Shot

Cite central locations Light trails with building or landmarks.

Rural areas Curved light trails or Waterfall.

A High vantage point Light trails on Road, Sky, Mountain View.

If you want to create water trail photography using long exposure method, here are some ideas.

  • Waterfalls - Some of the best creative results of long exposure photography can be viewed on waterfalls. It gives an exhilarating experience. However, make sure that the slow shutter speed does not make the image appear ghostly or any unwanted motion blurs.
  • Coastlines - Endless photographs can be taken on coastlines for creating some of the best long exposure photographs. Especially if the coastline has natural bridges, rocks and foliage, the outcome can be powerful wavy motions crashing over the ridges or rugged cliffs.
  • Seascapes - Seascapes are areas where you can get endless ideas of long exposure photography. The sea is always in motion. Hence you can think of controlling the motion of the waves and create a certain mood for your composition. 

Long Exposure Photography

Types of equipment required

One of the secrets of doing long exposure photography like the professionals is to have the right set of equipment. Here are the eight suggested equipment which will help you create professionals long exposure photographs.

  • Tripod - A solid tripod is the main ingredient to cook the perfect long exposure photograph. When you are dealing with shutter speed which is extremely low, the stability of the camera will be an issue. A good tripod will give you stability.
  • Camera Having Manual & Bulb Modes - Long exposure photography does require a good quality camera. The camera must allow you to have low shutter speed, ability to change aperture manually as well as ISO.
  • Wide Angle lens - A wide angle lens is recommended for long exposure photography.
  • Neutral Density Filters - When taking long exposure photographs in broad daylight you will need neutral density filters. These are dark filters placed in front of the camera lens. They will reduce exposure but not affect the contrast or color balance. You can get neutral density filters of varied strengths such as 3 stop, 6 stop, 10 stop or even more.
  • Lens Cloth - A lens cloth helps keep the lens clean from time to time since long exposure photography will take you closer to areas such as waterfalls or coastlines. You will get smudged images if you do not keep the lens clean.
  • Extra Batteries - All photographers carry extra camera batteries to have the necessary backup at times of need.
  • A Remote Shutter Release or remote trigger like MIOPS Smart - A remote shutter release is immensely helpful to avoid camera shake when clicking a photograph.

    MIOPS Smart can be a very helpful piece of equipment for long exposure photography. It has many modes that will help you in long exposure photography. You can use “Cable Release” mode to take the picture so you don’t need to touch the camera and there will be fewer chances of camera shake.


Take impossible photos by turning your camera into a high-speed capture device!


  • It also has “Press and Hold” mode for longer exposure time. If your exposure time is over 30 seconds, you may use “Press and Lock” mode. Just tap once and it’ll open the shutter and start showing time. Once you reached your desired time, tap again. And finally “Timed Release” mode, you just need to set the required exposure time and tap once. It’ll open the shutter for a set time and you will be free to plan for the next shot.
  • Smartphone - A smartphone is something everyone needs today to gather information. It is important to collect the necessary data when going to a location for long exposure photography. 

Long Exposure Photography

Camera settings

1. Set up the shot first:

Now since we have gathered all equipment let us take some actual shots. The importance of perspective and composition is a must and hence, plan it before taking the actual shot. Although the water or the sky will look stunning still it is crucial to plan the composition in your mind. 

2. The focus to be decided:

The image in focus must be chosen in the composition. If you are using an ND filter of 10-stop you will find that the image is too dark. This will make the camera go out of focus.

Use manual focus before placing the filter in front of the lens. Also, use a Live View in manual focus. With an Autofocus the camera will not be able to capture the image as the image is too dark. 

3. Take the shot:

  • Set the camera to manual mode.
  • Keep an aperture ready to undergo a test shot. Ideally, the aperture in landscape photography should be somewhere between f/8 and f/16. It also depends on the image being captured.
  • Keep ISO as low as possible. Since you are using a tripod you can keep it as low as 100.
  • When you are using a 10-stop filter, or any other dark filter and the shutter speed required is over 30 seconds you must set the camera speed to “Bulb”. As long as the trigger is pressed it keeps the shutter open.
  • Calculate shutter speed required depending on the following - The 10 stops ND filter lengthens the shutter speed 1000 times. If you are getting a shutter speed of 1/125 without ND filter, you need to extend it to 8 seconds. If the shutter speed is 1/30, you have to set it for 32 seconds.

Long Exposure Photography

Things to remember

Make sure you reach early to your location so you can take some test shots to calculate the exposure time. Also, make sure that your lens and filters are clean. When you are shooting using a tripod, remember to switch off image stabilizer or vibration reduction feature and also disable long exposure noise reduction feature.

It is really fun to do long exposure photography. However, only if you understand and undergo some practice sessions using the above suggestions you will develop the skill.

Select and shop for your MIOPS products now to make magic happen!

Related Article: How Does Long Exposure Photography Work?


About the Author

Ramakant Sharda is an authoriOS App publisherpassionate photographer and a MIOPS Ambassador based in the beautiful “Pink City” of India, known as Jaipur. His work has been published in various magazines, newspapers, and blogs. He has published three Coffee Table Books, he writes about photography and also teaches photography in his workshops. Check out his website http://ClickManic.com to see the masterpieces created by him or download his free app for iPhone and iPad “30 Days to an Ace Photographer“.

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