Learn How to Do Long Exposure Photography

When each frame takes a half a minute or more to capture, the road to learning long exposure photography can be a long one. Here’s a much-needed shortcut to get started with this classic photo technique.

What’s really great about long exposure photography near bodies of water is that it helps to simplify the scene. As Andy Mumford points out in this video, the water will usually add a lot of texture and visual noise to a regular photograph, distracting the viewer from the lines and forms that were important in the image. Many people enjoy these more simplistic, surreal looking photos that long exposures create.

The gear needed to create long exposures isn’t too complicated. Besides a tripod, a neutral density filter is needed to block some light from reaching the camera sensor, this way the shutter speed can be decreased all the way down to 30 seconds or even a minute or more. Beginners sometimes rely too much on stopping down the aperture of their lenses to f/22 for slower shutter speeds, but this creates softer images due to diffraction. You’ll want to find a neutral density filter strong enough that it can bring your shutter speed down to long exposure levels while still having the aperture in the optimum f/8–f/11 range.

For more help on long exposure photography, be sure to watch the full video from Mumford above.

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Michael B. Stuart's picture

I find that shooting long exposures is very relaxing as well. While photos are exposing there isn't much to do but breathe and take in the scenery. There is a bit of a shock when you only end up with 20 or 30 photos after the outing though when you're used to hundreds of photos to sort through.

Justin Howard's picture

Nice article. Long exposure photography helped me to learn so much about things like composition, framing, and exposure and this has, in turn, helped me improve my ability across other areas of photography l feel. It teaches you the value of organisation and the benefit of arriving at your location early, with enough time to allow for framing and set-up. It definitely is a trial and error process though. More than anything though, l think the experience of shooting within a limited window of soft light ("blue hour" or "magic hour" as they say) is very beneficial.

I might take one issue with your article however and that's the point about gear. I think it can actually get quite expensive when you factor things like wide angle lenses, filters (screw-on or system), tripods, remote shutter releases and other accessories.

If the makers of digital cameras would give us film like ISO settings of 3, 6 or 25 for our images it would be a lot easier. TechPan film ISO of 3 was very useful. Got rid of having to carry extra Neutral Density filters for some images.
High ISO is great but the makers ignore low ISO which would help some of us.