Long Exposure Photography Basics

June 15, 2015  •  Leave a Comment

Have you ever wanted to capture the essence of motion or show a clear, glimmering skyline at night? Long exposure photography allows your shutter to remain open longer, letting more light in. It also helps to avoid the inherent noise that comes with high ISO images.

The MidwayThe MidwayA mother and children watch a midway ride. This image is Square. Available in sizes 5X5, 8X8, 10X10, 20X20.

Here’s what you need to get started with long exposure photography:

  1. DSLR camera in Manual mode
  2. Sturdy tripod
  3. Wireless shutter release remote control
  4. Camera set for back-button focusing: Use the shutter button for metering, only.

Arrive while it’s still light, so you can get your focus. Close the aperture down to about f/8 or f/11. Leave your ISO at 100. Adjust your shutter speed to what’s indicated by your camera’s meter. The darker it gets, the longer your shutter needs to stay open. Set your camera so it can operate with your wireless remote and take a picture. Review and adjust exposure accordingly.

Evaluative metering can become confused by very bright lights or by large expanses of darkness, like water or night sky. To cover yourself, shoot a few images that are brighter and darker than your meter indicates.  You can do this by “bracketing” your exposures.

Dallas High Five Highway InterchangeDallas High Five Highway InterchangeVehicles streak by in this night scene from one of Dallas, Texas's busiest interchanges: The High Five.Sizes: 4X6, 8X12, 16X24, 20X30 Also available 24X36 Note: This would look especially good printed on metal.

When it’s very dark and you are trying to focus on very distant objects or fireworks, turn off your Auto Focus and set your lens to focus on “infinity”.  Not all lenses offer this option.

Because your shutter will remain open for long periods of time, your camera will be quite sensitive to movement: Camera straps blowing in the wind, people walking on wooden platforms, a small bump—these can ruin long exposure shots. If it’s super-windy, hang a sand bag from your tripod. Or—try it another night.

You might eventually want to introduce a Neutral Density filter or shoot in Bulb mode, for uber-long exposures.

For now, you have the basics. Enjoy!

Sue Abrams is a Dallas-area photographer and owner of Sue Abrams Productions, a small creative services agency. Her photography website is www.sueabramsphotography.com.



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