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Long Exposure Photography – [Beginner’s Guide]

Long exposure photography is an intriguing technique employed by photographers to catch everything that happens while the shutter of their camera is open. Daytime-long exposure photography can be used to bring a scene to life. Long exposure images of the night sky are fantastic and capture the universe wonderfully. Everything you do with long exposure will be excellent.

The only drawback is that mastering long exposure photography can be challenging. You’ll need the correct equipment, to explore and discover how the process works, as well as to grasp a little more about the science underlying long exposure photography.

In this guide, you will learn how to do long exposure photography, how to set up for long exposure photography, and how to control your focus and shutter settings effectively.

What does Long Exposure mean in Photography?

Long exposure photography is a technique in which the photographer leaves the camera shutter open for an extended period of time. Typically, significantly longer than when taking a standard image.

Taking photos, for example, usually necessitates a shutter speed of between 1/5000 and 1/40 of a second. This is how you get a sharp photo in a fraction of a second. When you use a slower shutter speed, usually starting at roughly half a second, the shutter stays open for much longer, allowing you to capture significantly more information.

Long exposure photography is leaving your camera’s eye open for a longer period of time in order to capture more information. For the greatest effects, this is normally done with a tripod. Long exposure photography necessitates that the camera is totally steady.

By leaving the camera shutter open for more than half a second, you can capture motion in a still shot, such as water, clouds, and animals. A long exposure image can capture more information than your eyes can comprehend.

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The end result of a long exposure shot is so stunning that some people believe it was altered. The human eye cannot comprehend everything that is going on inside one of these photographs, making them unreal.

How do you Photograph Long Exposures?

Long exposure photography can be done in a variety of ways. It will take time and patience to master this form of photography as you establish your own style and flow.

However, if you’ve never done it before and are looking for a place to start, use this basic approach to get started on your path to being a photographic master.

Step 1: Get ready.

This may sound corny, but it’s true. Have a location in mind and a time of day in mind for your long exposure shots. Then get there early to prepare.

Choose your location, ensure that the timing and lighting are ideal, examine the environment around you (such as the direction of the clouds and the height of the ride), and prepare your equipment.

Step 2: Ensure that your tripod is stable and in a secure location.

Position your tripod such that you may leave it there for the duration of the photoshoot without being harassed.

Step 3: Check your settings.

Before you begin taking photographs, you should switch your camera to manual mode or bulb mode and fine-tune all of your settings. It is also vital that you disable picture stabilisation. We’ll go over the right settings in greater detail later.

Step 4: Get in focus.

You must have a precise focus in order for your images to be tidy and sharp.

Step 5: Change the shutter speed, aperture, and ISO.

You should set your exposure value to 0, which you can do with the light meter that came with your camera. Make sure you’ve already decided on your shutter speed.

Step 6: Take the first shot.

This will be your practice shot. Take a photograph of your subject, double-check for proper exposure and focus, and change your shutter speed as needed.

Step 7: Fine-tune your ND filters.

Depending on the filter you’re using, adjust the shutter speed once more. Mount the filter carefully so that it does not interfere with your camera’s focus ring. It is also critical to cover your viewfinder so that no light enters your sensor.

Step 8: Take a new shot with your filters in place.

Examine the image, make any required adjustments, experiment with the shutter speed, and repeat the process. Examine your histogram and focus. Take more photos. You’re really getting into it now!

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As an aside, make sure you utilize either the shutter delay or the shutter release to avoid vibrating your camera.

What are the Long Exposure Photo Settings?

Regrettably, there is no one-size-fits-all guide sheet for the ideal settings. Depending on the conditions and subjects, the settings for your long exposure images will change. However, there are a few recommended settings for beginners to memorize.

General Options:

The most critical aspect is to photograph in manual or bulb mode. You should also shoot in RAW if you want high-quality image files. Disable image stabilisation. When shooting lengthy exposures, image stabilization will cause blurring in your images.

You need also to enable the metering mode, which is known as Matrix Mode on some cameras and Evaluative Mode on Canon cameras. This will assist your camera is focusing on the area of interest.

Focusing Options:

When it comes to focusing, the most important thing to remember is to do it before applying any filters to your camera. ND filters reduce light and make it difficult for most cameras to focus. This is why you should always focus without a filter, take a test shot, and double-check your focus before adding your filter.

To find the sharpest spot in your scene, always use the zoomed-in Live View. Focusing on the hyperfocal distance or the initial third of your shot is one of the simplest ways to acquire the appropriate focus in almost any situation. If you’re using autofocus, make sure you switch to manual focus before shooting any photos.

Settings for the shutter:

Long exposure photography revolves around the shutter speed. Changing the shutter speed can have a significant impact on your images. You’ll most likely have to experiment a lot to get the ideal shutter speed. The greatest advice is to pick a shutter speed that works for your existing illumination and what you’re attempting to accomplish.

Longer shutter speeds produce more ethereal and dreamy atmospheres by softening all motion within the photograph. Exposure periods of more than 5 minutes are required for ultra-long exposures with the most dramatic backdrops. It is crucial that you are in bulb mode when performing this.

Shorter exposure lengths of roughly one minute will still display details of moving objects, but not in an extremely dramatic way. A shutter speed of one minute or less will produce a dynamic impression as well as a compelling, striking photograph.

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Of course, numerous factors can influence your shutter speed. It will depend on whether you are photographing at night or in day, if you are attempting to remove individuals walking by your shot, if you are dealing with sluggish or quick clouds, and even if there are city lights in the background.

Many of these options must be learned through practice.

When Should I Use Long Exposure Photography?

You are free to take long-exposure photographs whenever you wish. However, depending on whether you take shots at night or during the day, the results will be drastically different.

Long Exposure Photography at Night

Long duration of exposure Long exposure photography will be the norm at night. Because there isn’t enough light coming in, you need to keep the shutter open for longer to provide enough light to your sensor. Photographing the Milky Way, the Northern Lights, or even meteors will require a lot of patience.

Nighttime long exposure images, on the other hand, have a dreamy, almost hallucinogenic look that may be fantastic when done correctly.

Long Exposure Photography in the Day

The most difficult aspect of capturing long exposure shots during the day is that all of the light might result in overexposed images. Simply said, the shutter absorbs too much light and can spoil images. This is why most daylight photography necessitates the use of ND filters or Neutral Density filters.

Nonetheless, prolonged exposure Photographing landscapes and cityscapes during the day produces stunning, dramatic images. The water appears to be moving, the vegetation is sharper, and the sun appears brighter. To say the least, it’s amazing.

Just keep in mind that daytime photography necessitates a shutter speed of less than half a second. If you leave your shutter open for more than one second, moving water will get fuzzy and your entire photograph will fall flat.


Long exposure photography has a lot to teach you. You must learn how to use suitable filters, how long to leave the shutter open, how to properly focus your camera, and even which cameras are best.

Fortunately, getting started with long exposure photography is simple. Just remember to experiment, try out different shutter speeds, and have fun both at night and during the day.

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