How to Take Good Long Exposure Photos

In lengthy publicity images, you’re taking an image with a sluggish shutter pace—usually someplace between 5 and sixty seconds—in order that any motion within the scene will get blurred. It’s a technique to present the passage of time in a single picture. Let’s take a look at the right way to do them proper.

RELATED: What Is Shutter Pace?

Lengthy publicity images is all about exhibiting motion and time passing in a single photograph; it’s one of many methods you’ll be able to present movement in nonetheless photographs. Whereas you should use lengthy publicity occasions to take photographs of topics that you simply need to keep still—such because the evening sky—these aren’t strictly lengthy publicity photographs as a result of, until you’re intentionally capturing star trails, they don’t present movement.

RELATED: Tips on how to Take Good Images of the Starry Sky

The basic examples—and among the hottest lengthy publicity subjects—are photographs of our bodies of water like the ocean or waterfalls. Take a look at the lengthy publicity picture under. I’ve used a shutter pace of 10 seconds to blur and easy the water and clouds, giving them an ethereal high quality. That is the lengthy publicity look.

I took the subsequent shot about ten minutes later. I’ve used a shutter pace of 1/100th of a second right here, and you’ll see that the water and clouds look very totally different from the lengthy publicity shot above.


The Technical Stuff

For a protracted publicity picture, you’re actually solely after one factor: a sluggish shutter pace. You’ll begin to get the lengthy publicity take a look at round half a second for fast-paced topics, however usually, you’ll need a shutter pace of between ten and thirty seconds. For some photographs, you may even need to go for much longer. Each different determination you make might be in service to this aim.

A tripod is crucial. With out one, you won’t have the ability to get sharp photos at sluggish shutter speeds. So don’t go away house with out your tripod.

RELATED: Tips on how to Choose and Use a Tripod

Except you’ve got a compelling cause to not, all the time set your ISO to the camera’s native setting. For nearly all cameras, that’s 100. This offers you the slowest shutter speeds and the very best high quality photographs.

RELATED: What Is Your Digicam’s ISO Setting?

Aperture is a bit of trickier to set. With most lenses, you’ll begin to see a drop in picture high quality after round f/18. Round f/16 is often thought-about to supply the very best steadiness between a sluggish shutter pace and a pointy picture so it’s the very best beginning place for lengthy publicity photographs. You usually need a big depth of area anyway.

RELATED: What Is Aperture?

If you’ve set your ISO to 100 and the aperture to f/16 and you continue to aren’t getting a sluggish sufficient shutter pace for the shot you need, it’s best to think about using a impartial density filter as an alternative of a tighter aperture or low ISO mode. Impartial density filters go in entrance of the lens and block between one and ten stops of sunshine from getting into the digicam. For instance, should you get a correct publicity with a shutter pace of 1 second with out a ND filter, including a 3 cease filter will take the shutter pace wanted for a correct publicity to eight seconds; a six cease filter will take it to 64 seconds.

RELATED: How Impartial Density Filters Work and Tips on how to Use Them For Higher Pictures

Most cameras have a most shutter pace of thirty seconds. If you wish to transcend this, you’ll have to use Bulb mode and time the publicity your self.

RELATED: What Is “Bulb Mode” on My Digicam?

Different Ideas and Tips

The very best time to take lengthy publicity photographs are within the hours round dawn and sundown. Not solely do you get nice gentle, however since there’s much less of it, it’s simpler to have slower shutter speeds. You’ll be able to take lengthy publicity photographs at noon, however you’ll have to stack the ND filters.

The longer the publicity time, the extra issues will blur and the much less texture and definition you’ll have within the shifting areas of the picture. You all the time want to search out the appropriate steadiness for the look you’re after. Someday final 12 months, I went to shoot waves breaking over an area pier. I initially began with a shutter pace of eight seconds and this was the consequence. It’s not nice.

I used to be dramatically over estimating how lengthy a shutter pace I needed for the picture I had in thoughts. Here’s a shot I took at 1/fifth of a second. A lot better.

Mess around with totally different topics. Water is among the easiest and might result in gorgeous outcomes, however something that strikes can work. Vibrant objects that transfer at night—like vehicles or ferris wheels—are one other straightforward beginning place that look nice.

Lengthy publicity photographs work greatest when you’ve got one thing shifting contrasted with one thing completely stationary. That is why they’re so widespread with panorama photographers. Whereas the water appears cool in all of the photographs on this article, if it wasn’t for the rocks or landscapes, it might simply seem like a blurry mess.

Since it’s a must to decelerate anyway to take lengthy publicity photographs, they’re a good time to put critical thought into composition. It’s also possible to use them as a possibility to mess around with restricted shade palettes.

RELATED: Tips on how to Use a Restricted Shade Palette for Higher Images


Lengthy publicity photographs are extremely rewarding. They’re one of many few areas of images the place smartphone cameras simply can’t compete. Most lengthy publicity photographs are additionally landscapes, so make sure you take a look at our information to nice panorama photographs as nicely.

Picture Credit: Giancarlo Revolledo, Sebastian Davenport-Handley through Unsplash.

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