How to Do Long Exposure Photography?
If you’re interested in learning how to do some long exposure photography, then you have probably by now seen some of the amazing effects that can be achieved with this technique. In this guide you will learn how these effects are produced and also some tips and tricks to get help you get started straight away.
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Long exposure basically means slowing down the shutter speed of your camera, hence creating a longer exposure. When taking a photo on your camera, the shutter opens for a brief moment, allowing light to fall onto the image sensor, and then shuts again. The light that is absorbed by the image sensor in that time (exposure) is then converted into an image. Shutter speed, the amount of time the shutter is open for, will have a dramatic effect on the final image. To produce a crystal clear photo of a person or object in motion, the shutter speed needs to be extremely fast, so the image sensor only receives a single moment of the objects motion. Otherwise if the shutter speed is too slow, it will absorb information of the object/subject’s entire motion whilst the shutter is open and then try and combine it into a single photograph, resulting in a blurred object/subject.
In most cases you will always want to shoot with a fast shutter speed to ensure that everything in your shot is clear. It also stops any blurring from occurring because of camera shake from your hands. But there are some cases in which a slow shutter speed is preferable and can also create some very beautiful effects. Before we get to the effects, I will just briefly go over how a slow shutter speed can be helpful in certain situations.
Slowing down the shutter speed can be extremely helpful in low light conditions. Slowing down the shutter speed means that the image sensor is exposed to larger amount of light than a fast shutter speed. This means that a longer shutter speed will produce a lighter/brighter image. Therefore if you are shooting in low light increasing your shutter speed can be very helpful, as long as there are no moving elements in the shot.
But what you should also be aware of is that the same thing occurs in normal daylight conditions. Therefore slowing down your shutter speed in this case will also increase the lightness and will result in a washed out image. Therefore you need to compensate for that by adjusting the other elements of the exposure triangle, Aperture size and ISO. You can read more about how these relate to each other by clicking here. This will still only allow you slow your shutter speed to a certain extent, and if you want to slow it further you will need to employ the use of a filter (an extra piece of darkened glass placed in front of the lens) to limit the amount of light allowed into the camera. But that’s enough technical information, let’s get onto the effects!
Smooth Wispy Water
This is one of the most common effects, you will usually see it employed on waterfalls. It results in a nice smooth, wispy water effect opposed to the chaotic nature that a waterfall is like in real life. Here is a side by side comparison between a fast shutter speed and a slow shutter speed
This effect can be achieved by just slowing the shutter speed very slightly to about ½ a second. You can also use this effect on any body of water to smooth out waves, ripples, turbulence etc. and produce a very dreamy, smooth effect.
This is also a very common effect and quite possibly the coolest. This is done at night so you can often increase the shutter speed for much longer periods of time without risking washing out the image. This can be used on any glowing object at night, from car headlights to fireworks and even the stars in the night sky. Just use your imagination for this and experiment.
Similar to smoothing the water, you can also produce a similar effect with clouds. You will usually have to set the shutter speed for a more lengthy amount of time, in which case you may need to employ the use of a ND filter to avoid overexposing your picture.
One last thing I should mention is the use of a tripod. If you want to do long exposure photography a tripod is a must. You simply can’t hold your hands still enough to get a clear shot, if your using a shutter speed any longer than ½ a second.
That should be enough to get you started. Just get out there and start experimenting. The only limit with this is your imagination. I would absolutely love it if you shared your long exposure pictures with us here, so feel free to share in the comments below. Also please share or like this article below if you have found it useful.