The Complete Guide To Long Exposure Photography

The Complete Guide To Long Exposure Photography

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Car trails, water like silk, milky way, startrais and moving objects: These are just some of the uses that can be made with long exposure photography

Long Exposure Photography is a photographic technique that has become very popular during the lasts years. This kind of photography technique uses long shutter speed times to exalt every feature of the passage of time…  but this is not all, in fact long exposure photography is what allows each photographer to free their creativity

The basics of Long Exposure Photography is the Shutter Speed and  the amount of time the camera’s shutter is open, in long exposure photography, photographers uses low shutter speed, this means that the camera registers anything that moves while the shutter is open. More this time is long more the camera will record

 

 

WHAT DO YOU NEED FOR LONG EXPOSURE PHOTOGRAPHY

Long Exposure Phtography needs few things to purchase before start. Some of them are not essential but are highly recommended for the best result of long exposure photography

– A Dsrl Camera with manual mode

– Tripod

– Shutter Release

– ND Filters

 

Tripod

With the camera is the essential requirement of long exposure. Without the tripod it would be impossible to do anything that does not have a high shutter speed, for this reason I always recommend to spend some extra money and invest in a good tripod with a good load capacity and mobility. It will be a very important purchase for every landscape photographer not only for the use of long exposure

Shutter Release

It ‘a very recommended accessory to avoid interacting with the fingers on the Camera to avoid unwanted vibrations, in fact especially on very long exposures is a usefull accessory to avoid having to press the button continuously during the bulb mode and in general to work in cleaner way. For some types of long exposure such as startrails it is a essential accessory. Today they are instruments that have a low cost and with some extra money you can buy triggers with very advanced functions. For example, I use the Pluto Trigger which allows many applications and greatly facilitates the shooting phase in the long exposure

ND Filters

ND filters are very helpfull in Long Exposure Photography requirement, they will change in better the final result, imagine that you can lengthen the shooting time at your convenience and so you can capture beyond the possibilities offered by sunlight, this is exactly what do ND filters do. They are very useless to take a long exposure in daytime or extend your time for long exposure

Anyway there are many ND filters various types, screwed or square with many variations, from the cheapest to the most expensive. Now I am currently using square filters because is the only ND possible for my wide angle lens, in Long Exposure Photography this is the lens that I use most does for my 24-70 I use a  screw-on filter. Square filters are on average more expensive but they allow greater versatility of the others because they can be used more than one at the same time

What about ND filter stops? currently I have a 3-6 and 10 stops that correspond to the strength of the filter, more stop the filter has, more it will be able to lower the exposure. For example, I use the 10 stop for very long exposures and when I need to firmly lower the solar light while I use the other two filters essentially at sunset or with a lower illumination. This setting of ND square filters gives me a lot of versatility besides the possibility of using them at the same time and therefore adapting to many situations

 

SHOOTING LONG EXPOSURE

After seeing what is the necessary equipment to make a long exposure we pass with the analysis of all the main measures to take a long exposure. Since long exposure photography can have different applications, in this article I will talk about long exposure applied to what I do most like for example a landscape. In long exposure photography it is particularly important to have in mind the final result, what we want to achieve. If our intent is to take a waterfall, a sky with moving clouds or the sea with silk effect we should take a series of measures depending on what we have to photograph. So let’s start by seeing all the necessary steps and the main measures to efficiently achieve a long exposure



Study the location

It’s the first thing to do, study and scouting the location is the rule to get the perfect shot. Usually to find out some sites, how to reach them and how they take a look at first glance to google maps but in the long exposure many things change. You have to keep in mind the composition of the photo, understand whether, insert or not some objects that could moving, this can be of decisive importance for you shot. The movement is the one that most distinguishes this phase, the more you take it into the clearer you will have the work to do for the final result

Wheater

Another important component that significantly affects the final result of the long exposure is precisely characterized by the weather. Obviously, even here a lot depends on what you intend to photograph, for example if you are in a forest to photograph a waterfall no matter if there will be many clouds in the sky because they will not fit in your frame but in general weather conditions with clouds and wind are to be preferred in long exposure photography because they enhance the characteristics of this technique. A look at the weather should always be given in every kind of photography, particular attention deserve rainy days at sunset where it usually stops raining and the sky opens up giving incredible colors

Compose the image

The goal of composing the image is to give the viewer more elements in a landscape is what captures the attention and characterizes the most. Getting this is not always simple, you must try to never be too trivial bearing in mind what is our final goal. Compose the image of a long exposure is perhaps the most beautiful and most interesting part, we should understand what is the part that most interests us in the photo to catch it. It is closely related to the following two points

Set the Focus

When I wrote the article 10 tips to improve your landscape photos  inside one of the points is manual focus. Basically the same applies here too with a clarification, if you use filters you must clearly focus before you put the filter on the lens otherwise we will not see anything. Therefore, before you compose and shoot your image, I strongly recommend using manual focus using the live view function to zoom in, using manual focus is very important to capture sharpen images

Test Shot

Set the Camera on Manual mode (I also use Aperture mode for less than 30′ long exposures). Set the aperture between f/8 and f/13 and take the “Test Shot”. You need to reach a correct exposure shot, check the histogram to see if the light is correct, avoid to see only the display, it is too bright and it can make you wrong. To check if the histogram is correct try to take a shot that it stand approximately on central values, there are not a universally correct histogram but if it looks too much on the right or on the left the image is too bright or too dark

Once the test shot is successful, appoint the shutter speed you used for that shot. Making test shots is also important to understand the shooting parameters, if we use filters, in fact, once mounted, you have to understand which values corresponded and go by trial can waste you time. For this reason there are several apps to do this, for example Long Exposure calculator  is one of this

Remove the Camera Strap

This is a passage that many people do not consider but that I have actually understood over time that this can really make the difference. Imagine being in an extremely windy place, the vibrations that the wind causes on your camera strap can cause it to bang repeatedly and violently against the camera and affect the quality of your long exposure. When I photographed the north coast of Spain there was a wind so strong it moved all my equipment away. Removing the camera strap could not be a fast operation and that’s why I moved to an easy removable camera strap

Now I am using the Cross Shot Breathe  strap camera by Blackrapid, which allows me to have an excellent camera strap that does not load the weight of the camera on the neck but on the shoulders, is equipped with adjustable length that allows you to adjust it according to your own height and have your camera easily at your fingertips

The camera strap I am using allows a combination with an important accessory the FastenR Tripod that allows you to hook the camera directly to the tripod plate in this way you can easily switch from the shoulder strap to the tripod by removing the strap camera and very quickly

Take the Long exposure

Finally it’s time to shoot, with the mode set at first you only have to resume your long exposure but I want to repeat what are the basic parameters of the long exposure. Manual on Bulb mode, Iso 100, opening values ​​between f8 and f13 (of course it all depends on what we want to photograph)

Usually a long exposure to really be such requires long shutter speeds, so we will hardly be under 30′ time for which the camera switch in Bulb mode. Using a remote shutter or camera trigger is important for this and avoid being glued to the camera with the risk of a blurred image. For this reason as I mentioned above I use Pluto Trigger which is a smart remote shutter, with Pluto Trigger many functions are facilitated through the mobile control and offers a series of other applications for startrail, HDR, Time Lapse in an easy and intuitive way

 

Pluto Trigger has also the Smart Sensor function that uses the sensor in your mobile to activate the camera for shooting. The accessory is small and light and you can easily attach it to the flash slide, whereas other triggers that I used required a slot on the tripod because otherwise it does not know where to keep them

Final words

The most beautiful part of long exposure photography is certainly to admire the final result, it is very fun to make it. But we need to consider all the aspects before starts.  Long exposure photography requires great precision, in fact instead of take the usual number of photos, we will take a few photos with long time exposure.  This means  to keep in mind the passage of time that the long exposure photography affects to the light conditions, especially during golden hour and blue hour light change quickly and with shots long even 200/300 seconds you will not have the time to try to make the same shot. All these parameters to check and speed of execution require practice over time and clear ideas, so all the best thing is to put everything into practice and make you ready when you need it

 


Venice Moving III

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The view from the Rialto bridge in Venice. Rialto Bridge is one of the most busiest and visited in the lagoon city, between gondolas and boats passing under it, even the bridge itself is always full of people practically at all hours of the day, but with a little patience a space to take pictures is always free 🙂

Compared with the other photos called  “Venice Moving” I changed the type of movement moving from a movement of gondolas due to the wave motion to a movement of passage in the canal under Rialto

I took this picture with a series of long exposures and a nd 3 stop ND filter. Among the various results I particularly liked this with movements clearly visible unlike other light trails

 

WORKFLOW EXPLANATION

This is a single exposure work, I make the first changes with the luminosity of the store lights, decreasing the effect. With a brush and using a new layer I replied the original color above the light trail of the boats to makethem more visible, then I changed the layer mode soft light to give a lighter effect

I fixed contrast using luminosity masks applied to lights, darks and midtones, using my panel I launched details and  dodge and burn to lighten the darker part of the image and softy lighten the buildings

I fixed the color cast and I add some warm/pink filter to give a different look at the image. As final step I applied a small vignette to the frame

As always I hope you will find this info usefull. I’m always happy to ear it from you!

 

TECNHNICAL STUFF

Camera: Nikon D-800

Lens: Nikon 14-24mm f/2,8 (Shot at 14mm)

Single exposure

ISO: 100 at f/16

Software: Photoshop CC2017

Extensions: TTS Fast Panel

 


Venice Moving II

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Always from the famous Piazza San Marco, looking at the Grand Canal I take this long exposure from he gondolas dock located in the square

Compared to the previous shot I changed point of view, this is as I mentioned above in the main dock of San Marco, I love the stark contrast of the movements of the boats opposed to the static of the dock

Also here I used a ND64 filter applied to 5 exposures brackets to this shot, to have a  dark sky from the underexposed frame and I very smooth water from the overexposed one

 

WORKFLOW EXPLANATION

I used the most bright image as top layer and applying luminosity masks to have a nice view of long exposure on the sea and on the gondolas,  I lowered the exposure of the sky and part of the water using the darker image

Once this done I applied a warm filter to increase the yellow effect of the sunset decreasing the opacity around 20%. After a use of dodge and burn under the dark areas of the docks I fixed darks and brights using luminosity masks applied to curves

With TTS Fast Panel I fixed details and contrasts, also applying a slight orton effect to the image. I darkened the image and raised the vibrance of the colors excluding the effect from the blue of the gondolas that became too intense

As always I hope you will find this info usefull. I’m always happy to ear it from you!

 

TECNHNICAL STUFF

Camera: Nikon D-800

Lens: Nikon 14-24mm f/2,8 (Shot at 16mm)

Five Exposures ( -2; -1; 0 +1; +2)

ISO: 100 at f/16

Software: Photoshop CC2017

Extensions: TTS Fast Panel

 


Venice Moving

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Finally my first post of the year! This 2018 I start with a photo of Venice that I took some time ago, a city that  I literally love and where I’m often the lucky to come back. This photo was taken from the famous Piazza San Marco, looking at the Grand Canal in the direction of the Giudecca Island, which is right in front of it

Here there is a beautiful view on canal and one of the different mooring points of the famous Venetian gondolas, the long exposure from this point is not perhaps the most original thing ever but personally I had never taken it, I can even check on this 🙂

I used a ND64 filter applied to 5 exposures brackets to this shot, to have a  dark sky from the underexposed frame and I very smooth water from the overexposed one. When I shot it was late afternoon, just before sunset, fortunately in Venice despite the thousands of tourists every day this is a picture that you can do without too much difficulty

 

WORKFLOW EXPLANATION

I take this picture from 5 exposure brackets, I used them to digital blend the images obtaining the starting frame to the edits. The whole area around the poles was full of chromatic aberrations, which I had to manually remove with so much patience

I used dodge and burn to recover dark areas under the gondolas, I used luminosity masks to darken the sky and recover the shadows. Using my panel I launched high details and orton effect to slightly decrease the effect giving at the same time a soft dreamy look

I increased the yellow colors of the sky adding Skylight filter of Color efex pro, I added contrasts removing the dark areas from the selection to avoid too much darks around the gondolas, as final step I addded a vignette removing the effects near the gondolas

 

TECNHNICAL STUFF

Camera: Nikon D-800

Lens: Nikon 14-24mm f/2,8 (Shot at 16mm)

Five Exposures ( -2; -1; 0 +1; +2)

ISO: 100 at f/16

Software: Photoshop CC2017

Extensions: TTS Fast Panel

 


Morning Glow

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I captured this beach in the morning twilight, the photo is a long exposure of 20 seconds I did using a filter nd64 (6 stops). Cilento area has beautiful landscapes made up of mountains but also many beaches

When I take thi shot I was impressed and Ireally liked this beach, the view of the sea that was lost in the morning glow of the clouds on the horizon

 

WORKFLOW EXPLANATION

This is a sinlge exposure so I don’t blend images but I made a ETTR, so the final picture was a bit overexposed but I used luminosity masks to decrease lights in the highlights and in the foreground to reach the effect I want from this

I  used Dodge and burn  to made some adjustments on the rocks and on the water, using my panel, I increased details and sharpen and by using a blue filter I increased the blue and purpe colors in the picture to give more cold look. With orton effect I increased the glow effect in the frame trying to give a dreamy look at the picture

Last edits was to increase contrast to give a more dark look on the rocks, emphatizing lights using again dodge and burn, the latest touch was adding a small vignette to the borders

I really hope you will like this and you will find this information usefull. I’m happy to hear this from you 🙂

 

TECNHNICAL STUFF

Camera: Nikon D-800

Lens: Nikon 14-24mm f/2,8 (Shot at 14mm)

Single Exposure (20 seconds)

ISO: 100 at f/9

Software: Photoshop CC2017

Extensions: TTS Fast Panel

 

 


The Rocky House

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I love Cilento, a mountainous area in southern Italy located in the province of Salerno that also offers beaches, waterfalls, rivers and characteristic villages. When I return to these areas I never miss the opportunity to take from this location, a house built on the rocks. I enjoyed this spot for many years now and every time I return to these places cannot miss the opportunity to take photos in that place

I made this shot at sunset with my 64 nd filter to capture all the water movements on the rocks, since there was still light high I did not use a value too high the shot is in fact of 30 seconds made with f9 in the direction of sunset

 

WORKFLOW EXPLANATION

I don’t make a digital blend for this, with the use of luminosity masks I simply fixed the lights and darks to make it more clear and have a image neutral. With  Dodge and burn I made some adjustments on the darker parts of the rocks and the brighter parts of the sky, after this with clone stamp tool I remove some spots and a small boat on the horizon that becomes too blurry. With my panel I launched high details, orton effect to make some glow effect and sharpen

With luminosity masks applied to a cold filter I add some blue colors at the sky. I fixed contrast saving the rocks located below avoiding that become too darks, to make this just remove from a midtone selection the darks selection. As final touch I increased a little more the highlights and created a small vignette to emphatize the sunset

As always I hope you will find this usefull, I’m happy to hear this from you 🙂

 

TECNHNICAL STUFF

Camera: Nikon D-800

Lens: Nikon 14-24mm f/2,8 (Shot at 18mm)

Single Exposure

ISO: 100 at f/9

Software: Photoshop CC2017

Extensions: TTS Fast Panel

 


The Flow

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I took this photo in the natural oasis near the river Bussento, all the valley around the river is a dense bush downhill. I struggled not a little downhill to reach this location where a series of small waterfalls are explained in the river, the way is very impervious but the downhill, and especially the uphill 🙂 surely worth it!

I created this image with my nd1000 filter for about 60 second time long exposure, I used 7-shot bracketing function to have a full range of exposure, underexposed shots were very useful to save the leaves moved by the wind

 

WORKFLOW EXPLANATION

I take the two best exposures and I blended them using luminosity masks. With dodge and burn I recover some underexposed spot in the frame and I fixed lights around the water flow. I incresed the yellow colors of the leafs using my filter autumn colors, you can find it inside TTS Fast Panel free downloadable here

With a warm filter I added more yellows to the highlights and more glow adding a slight orton effect. I increased the highlights coming to the top using luminosity masks applied to lights and always using lm, I increased darks subtracting lights to avoid to overexpose the other lights in the frame

I really hope you will find this usefull. I always love to hear that from you!

 

TECNHNICAL STUFF

Camera: Nikon D-800

Lens: Nikon 14-24mm f/2,8(Shot at 14mm)

Seven Exposures (-3; -2; -1; 0; +1; +2; +3)

ISO: 100 at f/16

Software: Photoshop CC2017

Extensions: TTS Fast Panel

 

 


By the Sea

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I take this shot on the seafront of Palinuro, this small beach looked out over the sunset and did not miss the opportunity to shot in the  sun direction. Taking shots in  direction of the sun provides a very important point of energy to the whole picture. I used my nd64 filter to capture water movements in bracketing mode to have various lower exposures for blending sunlight and sky

 

WORKFLOW EXPLANATION

With the exposure taken I make a blend using luminosity masks, I save all the water part and I recover the exposure on the sky and the sun. With dodge and burn I recover some overexposed parts of the water and darkened some glows around the mountain. Using TTS Fast Panel I launched details and sharpen and with orton effect I increased the glow effect in the photo

I used a warmer filter to increase the sunset lighting, I also fixed colors using hue saturation and increasing/decreasing the luminance and saturation of them, the color correction component affects very much of this kind of pictures especially on colors and water illumination. As final touch I added a small vignette to the frame to increse the dark look of the picture

I hope you will find this usefull. I always happy to ear it from you!

 

TECNHNICAL STUFF

Camera: Nikon D-800

Lens: Nikon 14-24mm f/2,8(Shot at 14mm)

Five Exposures (-2; -1; 0; +1; +2)

ISO: 100 at f/9

Software: Photoshop CC2017

Extensions: TTS Fast Panel

 


Golden Blue

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I like Santander, both within the same town and just outside, offering lots of photographic spots and beautiful places to see. This is the case of the Magdalena Peninsula, a city park located on this small natural place

The place occupies a well-kept park with an area dedicated to see local sea fauna, museums and panoramic views. I found this little beach right in this peninsula where I shot some photos. For this shot  to avoid direct sunshine I took 7 bracketing shots with an nd64 filter

 

WORKFLOW EXPLANATION

I started blending the images, I discarted the too overexposed and underexposed shots to obtain a base shot. I created luminosity masks contrasts and I added some warm look using a filter

With TTS Fast Panel I increased details, sharpen and I use it for launch dodge and burn with I fixed some lights and shadows around the rocks, I also used a little orton effect and I added some more contrast and a light vignette to give more dark look at the image

 

TECNHNICAL STUFF

Camera: Nikon D-800

Lens: Nikon 14-24mm f/2,8 (Shot at 14mm)

Seven Shots

ISO: 100 at f/14

Software: Photoshop CC2017

Extensions: TTS Fast Panel

 


Sea guardian

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I’ve always loved photographing lighthouses. Wherever they are, always are a great photographic spot. When I decided to go to Santander this was one of my selected location in the area and I absolutely did not disappoint my expectations, the Cabo Mayor lighthouse is one of the most beautiful and suggestive I have ever seen. Located at the end of a large city park, the scenery that you can admire from here is the true idea of the power of the sea

To take the shot of Cabo Mayor lighthouse used  my nd64 filter, i also did the tests with nd1000 but the light was too poor to get the best results. Using the nd64 (-6 stops) filter I could keep exposure time under 30 seconds and use bracketing shots to allow easier digital blending of images. Another thing why I avoided too long exposure times given by a nd1000 is the presence of strong wind that made me not at all quiet at an exposure time of over 1 minute

 

WORKFLOW EXPLANATION

I blended the images using luminosity masks, I increased warm colors in the highlights using a photo filter applied to apply image mask. As a first step with blended image I fixed the landscape perspectives with the transform tool. Stepped up contrasts using curve tool and added details and sharpen using TTS Fast Panel. I also launched with the panel orton effect to give a more dreamy look and with dodge and burn I darkened and lightened some parts around the fields and on the rocks. As final I added a vignetting to darken the edges of the photo

I hope you will find this usefull. I always love to ear that from you 🙂

 

TECNHNICAL STUFF

Camera: Nikon D-800

Lens: Nikon 14-24mm f/2,8 (Shot at 14mm)

Three Exposures

ISO: 100 at f/14

Software: Photoshop CC2017

Extensions: TTS Fast Panel


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Hi, my name is Giuseppe Sapori, a professional photographer and author of this website, created by yours truly to show my work and share with you the techniques I use. My expertise is in the field of Landscape Photography... (Read More)

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