Photography has allowed us to exceed our limits, especially in observing and capturing many visual phenomena that are elusive to the naked eye. The different genres of creative photography make this possible using camera equipment, techniques, and unique inspirations that have transformed how we see and experience the world around us.
In this article, we’ll talk about one of the best genres out there that have turned mundane scenes into ethereal and fantastic images that never fail to amaze: long exposure photography. Here, we’ll first define this type of photography, the camera equipment you need to try it, and long-exposure photo ideas to try for beginners and professionals alike.
Let’s go to the first part of our discussion.
What is Long Exposure Photography?
Long exposure photography is a unique creative photography genre that captures the mesmerizing contrast between highly defined stationary and fixed elements against the blurred and obscured patterns of moving elements.
Long exposure is also known as slow-shutter photography because this technique lets your camera’s shutter be left open for a lengthy period of time. When your shutter allows your camera’s lens to let in more light before it completely closes, it can capture blurry, smeared, and obscured trails that add creative drama to your images.
Why Do Photographers Use Long Exposure?
This photography genre is more exciting and dynamic than conventional images. There are different reasons why photographers would want to choose long exposure over a normal photo. Some include creating an effect that mimics the passing of time, capturing smoother water surfaces, mapping out and tracing the motion of the stars, creating patterns of light, and capturing beautiful human movements, such as a ballerina’s dance.
While these reasons may sound intimidating for beginners, did you know that even with regular, entry-level camera equipment, you can easily capture long-exposure images?
Here are the basic camera equipment and accessories you need for long-exposure photography.
What Equipment Do You Need for Taking Long Exposure Photos?
Long-exposure photography requires the most basic camera equipment. You don’t have to own the most expensive and advanced gear. You just have to learn how to use your camera’s manual settings and pair your device with the most camera versatile accessories for long exposure photography.
Here is a complete list of everything you need to get started.
1. DSLR Camera with Manual Mode
Entry-level cameras conveniently have automatic modes so you can easily take photos without worrying about your camera settings. However, if you want to step up and upgrade your photography skills, it’s time to learn how to use the Manual Mode. Using manual mode is crucial to a successful long exposure shot.
In long exposure photography, you will have to adjust multiple settings, especially your shutter speed. As mentioned earlier, this genre of photography uses slow shutter techniques, so your camera should also allow Bulb Mode. While on Bulb Mode, your camera’s shutter will remain open as long as you need it to be.
You also need your other camera settings adjusted to make sure that you’re getting the level of exposure and other aspects of your images right.
2. Sturdy Tripod
You cannot do long exposure photography while manually holding your camera. The technique of using a slow shutter requires your camera to be fixed on a stable platform or tripod, or else, all you’ll get is a blurry image.
Your goal is to achieve a contrast of high-definition static objects and trails and patterns of the moving elements. Remember, do not just rely on your camera or lens’s image stabilization function. The smallest shaking or movement can easily distort your images and waste your effort.
You don’t have to spend on an expensive and bulky tripod. You can go DIY and use stabilizers that will ensure that your mounted camera will stay in place. Seasoned photographers, especially those who shoot outdoors, use bags of sand or rice to weigh down their tripod, especially during harsh, windy weather.
3. Wireless Camera Trigger
Aside from using a tripod to stabilize your camera and prevent image distortion, using a wireless camera trigger can help you achieve the perfect long exposure photography images you want on your first try.
A remote camera trigger or a wireless camera shutter enables you to signal your camera to shoot from a comfortable distance, without risking blurry shots. Aside from remotely controlling your device, it will also reduce fatigue, especially if you’ve been shooting outside for hours.
Since long exposure shots take a long time, having a wireless trigger with a self-timer mode can help you manage your shots.
So far, these are the basic things that a regular remote camera trigger can offer, but imagine if you’re using an intuitive and versatile camera trigger that combines the power of your smartphone with technologies designed for creative photography! These are offered by both the MIOPS Smart+ and MIOPS FLEX, the most recommended remote camera triggers for long-exposure photography and other photography genres.
Using MIOPS Smart+ for Long Exposure Photography
MIOPS has transformed how photographers take on the challenging yet exciting world of long exposure photography. Its MIOPS Smart+ has Long Exposure Mode that offers many possibilities for convenient and creative shots.
As a gadget for long exposure photography, you can also choose slow shutter settings, the duration of your shot and how many frames your camera can take per second.
It means that whether you’re trying a low-light, indoor long exposure photography idea or a bright, daytime long exposure idea, you’ll have the best camera settings that adjust to the presence or absence of light, during the shot! With this intuitive function, you don’t have to waste hours getting the best instant shot or post-processing.
4. Lens and Neutral Density Filter (ND Filter)
Another must-have camera equipment that will help you make difficult daytime long exposure ideas happen is a neutral density filter (ND filter.)
A neutral density filter will prevent the overexposure of your photos, especially if you’re shooting outdoors on a sunny day. How? These filters are designed to reduce and balance the amount of light that enters your camera lens. They can come in different light filtration levels, so it’s best to plan out your shoot to identify the filter strength you need beforehand.
Now that you have all your long exposure camera equipment ready, we can finally go to inspirations and creative long exposure photo ideas that you can try as a beginner.
Using the camera equipment that we listed and the knowledge that you discovered about long exposure photography techniques, you can find these examples easy and fun!
What Long Exposure Ideas Can You Try as a Beginner?
Light, motion, and vibrations provide some of the most spectacular trails and patterns that we can only observe through the lens of our camera. Here are some of the best examples that even beginner photographers with an entry-level camera can try!
1. Light Trails on a Busy Highway
One of the most beginner-friendly long exposure photography ideas is taking photos of light trails on a busy highway. These locations are easily accessible and you can find safe locations to set your tripod. However, because this is quite easy, it’s hard to take unique images of the same scene. Your goal is to find a location that will help your photo stand out.
Light trails offer streaks of differently patterned and coloured bands of lights. These light paintings follow the trails of the roads. While you have to focus on them as your subjects, don’t take your background for granted as this can make a huge difference. Shoot your image from a higher angle. Use a wide-angle lens to capture the beautiful landscape that will serve as the light trail’s canvas.
2. Stellar Movements at Night
Star trail photography or astrophotography is one of the most beloved contributions of long exposure techniques to the world of capturing the night sky. However, unlike photographing light trails on a busy highway, the stars and heavenly bodies are elusive.
Astrophotography is only possible in remote locations, away from the light pollution of the cities. This will also depend on the weather condition as you’ll need a clear night sky to capture the movement of the stars across the sky.
3. Exquisite Movement of Dancers
One of the most interesting indoor long exposure photography ideas you can try is taking a slow-shutter photo of a dancer’s movement. The resulting image of an interestingly smooth and obscured image is beyond evocative, capturing the beauty of the human body, and the freedom and passion of dance.
4. Eerie Portrait Photography
A long exposure technique adds eerie and enigmatic elements to creative portraitures, especially if you’re framing a Halloween-themed shot. Imagine how a long shutter effect can deliver ghostly apparitions and double images through repetitive exposures of the same elements. You can also use the same technique when creating a narrative photography portfolio under the same theme.
5. Busy Crowds at World Landmarks
When you see photos of a famous landmark, most images just focus on the structure. Sometimes, the images are empty and lifeless in an effort to emphasize the beauty of its architecture. However, through long exposure photography, you can capture a unique image that visually narrates a more interesting story.
Including the busy movement of crowds, tourists, pedestrians, and other elements in your frame, against a famous global landmark as a background will not just add life to your photo. It will deliver a timeless image that is full of life and filled with stories.
6. Foggy Mountains and Silky Seascapes
Let’s also not forget the landscape photography genres that have been transformed with the introduction of long-exposure photography techniques. Rising smoke and thickening fog on a mountainside, flowing rivers, raging waves, and dancing waterfalls, are some of the best images that this genre has captured through the years.
You can add to this collection by exploring the great outdoors and capturing the movements and patterns that these natural elements can offer.
7. Light Paintings and Patterns
Light painting, light performance art, and light drawing are all made possible using basic time lapse techniques. Set up your tripod, leave your shutter open for a longer period, and start drawing or painting patterns using light sticks, flash bombs, and other sources. Don’t hesitate to use different colors and light intensities! It will add more texture and depth to your images.
8. Smoke Bombs and Smoke Art
Smoke bomb photography is one of the emerging styles of commercial photography, especially when taking portrait photos of product models. Depending on how you use them, these props can deliver cool and awesome effects to your portraits. Some photographers even use this equipment for Halloween-themed portraits and other creative photography ideas.
Using long exposure tricks, you can take advantage of the creative clouds and colors that your smoke bombs produce. You can even just focus on smoke as your primary subject and contribute to the emerging genre of Smoke Photography.
Just like how waterdrop photographers focus on droplets and splashes of clear or colored water, smoke photography (also known as smoke art photography) as a genre relies on chance, luck, and imagination! Smoke art photography can be done indoors or outdoors, too! Just make sure you have the proper lighting equipment to help emphasize the unique patterns and flow of your subject.
Getting Started on Long Exposure Photography
We provided you with the definition, camera equipment information, and subject ideas to help you get started on long-exposure photography. Hopefully, we have also inspired you to think of more unique ways to take advantage of this camera technique.
While your creativity and imagination can help you capture unique long exposure images, you shouldn’t also take for granted how pairing your camera with the right gadgets can up your game in this genre.
We’ve introduced how MIOPS and its Smart+ model can conveniently deliver spectacular long-exposure images for beginners and professionals alike. This gadget, however, can cover more and help you take on some of the most advanced and challenging photography techniques today, especially lightning photography.
Know more about long exposure photography now!
Blog Credit: Charm Villalon
Charm is a writer and a visual artist. Her drive to share ideas and stories is evident in her background in communication arts and language studies. Years of professional experience in content creation have given her a broad proficiency with the process of engaging online communities. An appreciation for multiple languages and cultures drives her to seek out experiences and capture these moments through her writing, digital art, and photography.