Due to the surreal and otherworldly effects, long exposure photography is often considered to be fine art photography. All you need is a DSLR camera and a sturdy tripod to start taking these gorgeous shots.
When you hit the shutter button, a hole opens to allow your camera’s image sensor to get a glimpse of the scene you want to capture. The aperture that you select in advance will impact the size of the hole.
Simply put, when you have a smaller hole, there is less light. Depending on the scene and the details you want to capture, then you can choose the right f-stop for your image. F-stop is the measurement of the aperture. While long exposure is going to impact what you capture, the aperture is key to determining the right amount of light to achieve the effect you want.
Taking photos with long exposure isn’t easy–and there are a lot of ways you could go wrong. Here are 5 essential tips to help you master the technique of long exposure photography.
- Balance Your Tripod
Having a well-balanced tripod is crucial for taking photos with long exposure. These exposures can go from several seconds to several minutes so it’s vital that your tripod is as sturdy as possible.
Make sure that your tripod is on firm ground. If the legs are on an uneven surface, take the time to adjust the length of each leg to guarantee the camera is steady.
Adding to the weight can also help your tripod maintain its position. Try hanging your camera bag from the tripod to weight it down. If you are worried about it unbalancing the camera, place a bag of uncooked rice on top of the camera.
- Choose the Right Conditions
For your long exposure shots to work, you must shoot in ideal conditions.
For outdoor landscapes, choose a time when there are dappled clouds in the sky and a strong wind. Without clouds or winds, there won’t be any movement for your camera to catch. For urban shots, choose an area where there is a lot of movement from people or cars.
- Using ND Filters
Using an ND (neutral density) filter can help enhance your photo and capture all the positives of long exposure photography. One downside to these filters is that they don’t allow a lot of light to come through unless the conditions are especially bright. Using this filter means that the auto-focus function on your camera might not work right away.
Start off by composing and focusing your shot without the filter. Then switch to manual focus and attach the filter.
- Selecting the Exposure
The exposure that you choose depends a lot on the lighting. If there is an adequate amount of ambient light, then select a shorter shutter speed. If you are shooting somewhere dark, then the shutter speed needs to be longer.
Other factors include the environment that you are shooting. For example, if you are trying to capture light trails on a busy street, the shutter speed will depend on how fast the cars are going.
The more you practice, the easier it will be to estimate the exposure you need for the landscape you are shooting and the effect you want to capture.
- Switching to BULB Mode
If you are using an exposure of 30 to 60 seconds or more, you will need to use the BULB function on your camera. Switching to BULB mode will enable you to open the shutter for as long as you choose, which allows you to shoot photos with very long exposures.
You will likely need a remote shutter to take shots with this long exposure. Even a gentle touch to the camera could cause the photo to blur.
The Bottom Line: Long Exposure Photography
Whether you are taking urban or landscape shots, using a long exposure can create stunning photographs with a soft, ethereal quality.
The technique of long exposure photography is a difficult one to master. With practice and a lot of careful planning, you can capture the beauty of this technique and reap the reward of breathtaking shots.
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