How To Create Realistic Long Exposures in Photoshop

Long exposure photography is a staple of the craft and a right of passage for beginners, but if you have some photos or a time-lapse that wasn't a long exposure and you think it might have looked good as one, look no further.

Long exposure is one of those techniques you learn and try very early on for most of us. When I bought my first camera, I only went on a few outings with it before I bought a Gorillapod and went to a bridge at night to take a long exposure of the light trails from cars. I was in love with the results, which looking back were indeed some way above my ability level and understanding, and I set about creating more.

Nowadays, long exposure photography is a tool I pull out when the right situation arises, but there have been times where I have got back to my computer with a set of images, usually landscapes or waterscapes, and I've wondered why I didn't think to try a long exposure. Sometimes it's due to how cumbersome and annoying it is to take them, particularly during the day where you will need an ND32 filter, or some welding glass at the least. However, for a while now you have been able to create realistic-looking long exposures in Photoshop, and it's a nice technique to have in your back pocket when a photo isn't quite working, or it was too bright to expose for tens of seconds.

Do you think Photoshop long exposures are realistic? Have you ever created a long exposure in Photoshop? Share your results in the comments below?

Rob Baggs's picture

Robert K Baggs is a professional portrait and commercial photographer, educator, and consultant from England. Robert has a First-Class degree in Philosophy and a Master's by Research. In 2015 Robert's work on plagiarism in photography was published as part of several universities' photography degree syllabuses.

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I know it's not Sony or Apple but this is news if any of you want to post about it while it's brand new.

As time goes on it becomes less photography and more Photoshop, that's no longer photography.

Here it is a PS image faking a long exposure I edited a while ago

Fortunately Photoshop allows us to avoid the cumbersome and annoying part of being a photographer