Chapter 14: 10 Tips For Long Exposure Photography – The Ultimate Beginners Photography Guide

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Welcome to the fourteenth chapter of Free Online Photography Course – The Ultimate Beginners Photography Guide.

In the last Chapter 13: Tips For Low Light Photography we took an in depth look at tips and things to do for achieving professional looking content and to improve your skills to take photos in low light conditions. Similarly to our last chapter/article in this Chapter 14, we will take a look at tips and things to do for achieving a good quality and professional looking content while doing long exposure photography. So let’s get started!


Introduction To Long Exposure Photography

Long exposure photography is also known as slow-shutter photography or time-exposure photography. The technique has its roots in the early days of photography, when rudimentary technology made it necessary for photographers had to keep an image exposed for several hours to get any result on film.

Modern-day long exposure photography uses the same technique, which relies on keeping the shutter open for an extended period of time. Thanks to advances in camera technologies, the resulting images feature stationary subjects in clear focus while moving subjects appear blurred.

Photo by Lily Banse on Unsplash

Long exposure photography can take ordinary images and make them feel otherworldly. We’ve all seen images where long exposures make clouds tumble across the sky, headlights streak across darkened landscapes, and the Milky Way seems to waltz overhead.

Creative photographers are also taking the technique to new levels, using long exposure techniques in the studio and outdoors to enhance landscape and portrait photography.

Though it requires some skill to achieve the best results, long exposure photography is an exciting technique to add variety to your portfolio.

So to make it possible, this article/chapter is dedicated to improve your skills in long exposure photography especially, if you are a beginner photographer. Follow the tips mentioned below in this article/chapter to achieve good quality professional looking long exposure photography content.


Top 10 Tips And Tricks For Long Exposure Photography

I will make it as simple as possible for you to understand as this article/chapter is especially meant for beginner photographers. Just follow below mentioned 10 easy tips to get better at taking long exposure photography.

1. Invest In A Tripod

First and the most important thing to do when taking long exposures is that you want to make sure you avoid all camera shake or vibrations. Many people find that handshake can register in any exposure longer than 1/60th, and some long exposures can last for several minutes. So, either invest in a sturdy tripod or find a solid flat surface to place your camera on.

2. Use A Remote Shutter Release

Even the subtle movement of pressing the shutter button on your camera can introduce unwanted movements to your long exposure images. A remote shutter release or cable release allows you to press the camera button down remotely without having to stand over the camera and hold your finger in place. This helps reduce fatigue and eliminate movement, helping you capture better long exposure shots.


3. Set Your Camera On Manual Or Bulb Mode

Many DSLRs and Mirrorless Cameras have multiple pre-programmed camera modes that can set your shutter speed and aperture for you. But these modes will also be automatically metering for you, which is unlikely to get you the results you’re looking for. So instead opt for Manual mode, or Bulb mode if you will be doing an exposure of over 30 seconds. When using Bulb mode the shutter will stay open from when you press the shutter release button, to when you let go.

Image by Faizal Sugi from Pixabay

4. Make Sure You Visualise Your Composition Beforehand

Before you change any other settings on your camera, it’s important to visualise the scene you want to capture. This is a good time to take some test shots with regular exposure to make sure that the composition of your image is spot on. There is nothing more frustrating than waiting for a long exposure, only to find that it’s a boring shot.

When setting up your test shots imagine the movement you want to capture beforehand, whether it’s water, light, objects or people. Then consider what stationary subjects help to highlight that motion.

I recommend taking test shots as it also has many other benefits such as, you can lock your focus instead of using auto-focus because it can cause the lens to hunt for focus, so switch to manual focus and set the focus of your composition before attaching a lens filter which make me come to our next tip:


5. Consider Using Lens Filters

ND filters, or Neutral Density filters, are thin pieces of glass that screw onto the front of your lens. They stop light from reaching the camera sensor which allows for longer exposure times. They are helpful for long exposures during daylight hours, as the sun can be a strong light source to contend with. By reducing the light, ND filters also allow you to open up your aperture more during long exposures.

Important thing to remember while using an ND Filter is that low-quality filters can have a negative effect on your final image, like distortion and colour cast, so do some research before you purchase and also use ND Filters only when it is necessory as even some good-quality ND Filters can introduce glare in your image. You can also use a lens hood to avoid any unnecessary glare produced by ND Filters.

You can also use a polarising filter, like an ND filter, is also a piece of glass that screws onto the front of your lens. It is an essential piece of gear for a landscape photographer because it helps to cut down on glare on wet surfaces in a scene, can help the sky pop, and minimises haze. They also help you slow shutter speeds down because of their tint. They won’t act in lieu of an ND filter if you need to remove a lot of light from your scene, but they might help you get a few extra stops from your shutter in some scenes.

6. Shoot At Lowest ISO As Possible

Although newer cameras can shoot with relatively little noise at higher ISOs, long exposures can create noise. So shoot with the lowest ISO possible on your camera. Many cameras come with long exposure noise reduction features, but at higher ISOs using this feature can make the noise worse. Although post-production can remove some of the noise of long exposure, shooting at the lowest ISO possible for your shot can prevent the noise in the first place.


Talking about noise makes me come to out next tip:

7. Beware Of Noise

Even at low ISO, super long exposures can introduce noise in the form of hot pixels. You may not be able to see these when viewing the results on the LCD screen of your camera, but when viewed at 100 % on your computer monitor, you may find a number of bright red/green/blue pixels in your image.

An effective way to remove them is to take an exposure of identical length, at the same ISO, with the lens cap on. The hot pixels will be identical in all shots, almost like a finger print of your sensor, so by replicating the exposure with the lens cap on, you will generate an entirely black image, with the same hot pixels, to subtract away from your chosen image during post-processing.

Photo by Aral Tasher on Unsplash

8. Beware Of Weather And Choose The Right Conditions

If you’re working outdoors, know how the weather will affect your composition and the gear you need to pack. Choose the right conditions. Ideal conditions for long exposure photography are when there is dappled cloud and a strong wind. If there are no clouds, or no wind, there will be nothing to add movement.

If you want to capture an image of the movement of the sky, avoid cloudless days which won’t give you an exciting composition. Shooting around sunrise or sunset, when the sun is low in the sky, can add additional contrast to your image.


9. Cover Your Viewfinder To Avoid Light Leaks

Although light leaks rarely occur with regular exposures, with longer exposures the images are subject to light leaks through the viewfinder. Even a small leak can create big issues like hazes on an image with a long exposure. Don’t cover the viewfinder with your thumb, as this can create camera movement. Instead, try covering it with gaffers’ tape or a custom viewfinder cap and compose your image in your camera’s live view.

10. Shoot In RAW

It really doesn’t matter what you are photographing, shooting in RAW has many benifits. Shooting long exposures can be tough, especially the first few times. Shooting in RAW will give you more latitude to recover a slightly overexposed image and will give you greater control in your post-production. If you’re shooting in JPEG, your final image will have less data and be more difficult to recover if it has technical issues like overexposure.

Some brands of filter are known to leave more of a colour cast on the final image. This is a great reason (one of many) to shoot in RAW, as the colour casts can often be corrected during post-processing. Sometimes, for particularly long exposures, it may just irreversibly compromise an image and, in those instances, a black and white conversion is often the best way to overcome it.


Shooting Long Exposures sure can be tough some times and can take extra time and planning. If you just  get the basics down the results can be breath-taking.

With the right equipments you can take a good quality professional looking long exposure photograph by following the above mentioned 10 easy tips and will soon be able to adapt these tips to your own working style.

This is the end of Chapter 14: Tips For Long Exposure Photography of the Free Online Photography Course – The Ultimate Beginners Photography Guide. You can subscribe to The Black Light Studios website to stay tuned and get notifications on the upcoming chapters. In the mean time you can check my other posts on this website.

This is it for this post. Thank You! for visiting The Black Light Studios, I hope you find this article helpful to you and got the information you were looking for. Stay tuned for more posts like these by subscribing to The Black Light Studios website. If you have any suggestion or feedback comment down below or contact us through the contact form via contact menu.

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