An Extensive Guide to Long Exposure Photography

Brew up a fresh cup of coffee because Gordon Laing has an epic new video showing everything one needs to know to take some excellent long exposure photos.

Laing, the coffee consumer extraordinaire best known for his work on Cameralabs, goes into great detail showing how to set up a camera for long exposures, the different filters available for this style of image, considerations to make for the composition and what elements to include inside the frame, and shares other tips and tools that will help anyone achieve great images. At 21 minutes in length, this is the no-holds-barred guide to long exposure photography.

While some areas of photography can sometimes reward those who dive in head first without any sort of preparedness or lesson with highly creative results, the inherent length of time it takes to capture long exposure images — sometimes minutes per one frame — means it’s probably a good idea to sort out some of the basics beforehand.

What are your own tips for shooting long exposures? What’s your go-to gear for this work? Share with us in the comments below.

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Karim Hosein's picture

I do not like his ‘definition’ of long exposure. Long exposure is one in which the exposure time is magnitudes greater than the time of movement of objects across the frame. A long exposure shot can be as short as 0.25 seconds, or shorter, depending on the image in question.

Anonymous's picture

I guess in theory this may work, but in actual practice his definition is perfectly usable.

Karim Hosein's picture

Was not suggesting it was not, “useable,” just that, in practice, much shorter exposure times than he suggests can also be regarded as a long exposure shot, based entirely on the subject matter.

To wit, astro-photography often have 2-20 minute exposures, with no blur, no ND filters, etc. That would still fit his definition of long exposure, «1-4 minutes or even longer», but not mine. That is why the definition has to be in reference to the subject at hand.

Just to make it clear to beginners in this forum, to achieve the effect of the blur/smoothing, an exposure time of less than one second can still be a ‘long exposure,’ (and may still require ND filters to achieve), and an exposure time of 20 minutes can still not be a, ‘long exposure,’ (and not require ND filters), having no blur/smoothing. (Indeed, some long exposure techniques require no ND filters, but that is off-topic here).

It is not the absolute passage of time, but relative time to the rate of motion of the objects in the frame.

Anonymous's picture

"It is not the absolute passage of time, but relative time to the rate of motion of the objects in the frame."

Ah, gotcha. This is a very helpful way to describe it.