Tips for long exposure photography

Long exposure photography can give you some amazing results. From silky smooth water to beautiful nightscapes a long exposure image can be an image that gives us a view so different from what our natural eye sees. Sometimes opening up the camera shutter for just a few seconds can capture light in such a unique way compared to what our eye and brain see’s and I think that is the fascination with some long exposure photography. It can give us a creative and fresh view on the beauty that surrounds us all.

St. Huberts Star Trails 2.0

If you are ready to create some long exposure images here are a few tips before you head out at night chasing stars:

1) Invest in a sturdy tripod. With long exposure photography your shutter speed will range from a few seconds to minutes (or longer) so a nice sturdy tripod is key to getting a great shot. Even the slightest shake of the camera can make a noticeable difference with a 2 minute exposure.

2) Remember to use the mirror lock up feature on your camera. A SLR camera uses a mirror that is placed in front of the shutter. This mirror reflects light coming through the lens and into your viewfinder so that you can see exactly what the image is that will be exposed to the image sensor. When you click the shutter on your camera, it will flap up this mirror which in effect now lets the light travel directly to the sensor. The mirror is pretty heavy and does shake the camera a bit. Without locking up the mirror you might get some camera shake. Most cameras have a mirror lock up feature in the menu, just remember to first compose the shot and then turn the mirror lock up on.

3) Use a cable release or remote to trigger the shutter. Just the small vibration of your finger on the shutter can also cause a little bit of camera shake in the images. With these really long exposures it’s always important to remove any possibilities of your camera moving.

4) Remember to have fresh batteries in your camera. There is nothing worse than setting up an awesome night landscape shot, leaving your camera for an hour while you think how great the image is going to look and coming back to a camera with a dead battery.

5) And last but certainly not least, experiment! Experiment with a range of different shutter speeds. When you find a image that looks good try out many different exposures. What might look good at 4 seconds can look very different at 10 seconds or minutes. Try out at least 10 different shutter speeds when you are starting out to see the differences that time has on your photography.

If you have any great examples or long exposure photography please share a link by leaving a Facebook comment (below) or head on over to our Facebook wall.

Warp Speed

The iconography of time

long exposure photography
Image by Alex39

long-exposure-photo
Image by Jakob Wagner

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Author: Mark

Mark is a fine art wedding and portrait photographer from Northern California. He has been passionate about photography since childhood and started his studio 12 years ago to bring a fresh style of photography to the wedding and portrait world.

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3 Comments

  1. Great tips thanks! Going to give “warp speed” a try.

  2. Wow those are some beautiful photos!

  3. dont own an ND filter- limited budget. Never understood how I could incorporate them in my work. I dont shoot alot of rivers, but, oceans yes… I shoot mostly landscapes., and sunsets with the ocean. Should I get an nd filter? Or 2? What is a good starter brand,that won’t leave me broke. would I use that, with my circ. Polarizor? Help????? Thanks Marc, and everyone else.

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