Long Exposure.

What is Long Exposure?

About Long Exposure

In simple terms Long Exposure means to leave the shutter open longer so we can blur moving subjects. We could say that any shutter speed that is slower than you can hand hold without blurring the picture due to camera shake is long exposure.

And the long exposure blurring of moving objects is not the same as you shaking the camera and causing blur. Obviously you will need to be using a tripod here. You may also want to use the 2 second timer or a remote shutter release.  And if your camera has an anti shake like Steady Shot in the menu, turn it off.

Shooting the light in closeup
A Dreamy Water effect for the sea.
Photo Exif Data - f10. 6 seconds. ISO-100.

Photographing Waves or Waterfalls.

There are two ways to go about shooting waves and waterfalls. The first is to use a higher shutter speed to freeze the motion of a water. Another way is to use a slower shutter speed to smooth out or blur the water motion.

Shooting the light in closeup
Using a longer shutter speed to smooth out the water.
Photo Exif Data - f10. 20 seconds. ISO-50.

Shooting the light in closeup
Using a faster shutter speed to freeze the waves.
Photo Exif Data - f10. 1/250th second. ISO-100.

Shutter Speeds and Exposure.

To freeze the motion of a wave, you need to use a shutter speed of at least 1/250 of a second, that said if you zoom close in on a wave, you need to use an even faster shutter speed, say 1/1200 of a second. Reason for this is the closer you zoom into a subject the less the DOF is.

Using f22 on a landscape gets the focus for the lens your using from minimum focal distance to infinity. But if you get a few inches away from a flower at f22 your focus distance is about the width of your little finger or less.

Shooting the light in closeup
A Dreamy Waterfall effect.
Photo Exif Data - f11. 1/5th second. ISO-100.

Smoothing The Flow.

To artistically smooth out the motion of waves use a slower shutter. The slower your shutter speed the smoother the water, we can do this for as long as several minutes in some cases. if your camera does not have a live view screen you will have to manual focus and lock it down before putting on the ND filter. The shot below is at 1/90th second and makes the water like thick cream.

Shooting the light in closeup
Using a shutter speed to cream the waves.
Photo Exif Data - f11. 1/90th second. ISO-100.

Using Slower Shutter Speeds.

The way to achieve a longer shutter speed, is to choose your lowest ISO setting ISO-100 and then as you go down through the aperture settings and you will see that the f-stop gets bigger and the shutter speed gets slower right down to the smallest aperture on your lens like f22 will produce the slowest shutter speed.

Using ND Filters.

If you’re photographing in brighter daylight, you may have to use a ND filter (Neutral Density) (best is a 10 stop) and you should buy the best you can afford as cheap ones tend to bring in a colour cast. The ND filter reduces the amount of light reaching the sensor which in turn slows down your shutter speed.

Shooting the light in closeup
Using a shutter speed to cream the waves.
Photo Exif Data - f22. 6 seconds. ISO-50.

Some very dreamy kinds of shots can be achieved but you must experiment as there are no set shutter speeds to get a certain effect. Remember that composition is still king of photography so look out for those elements that add interest to your picture such as rocks.

Using Bulb Mode.

Most modern cameras will have a bulb mode for longer exposure past the 30 seconds given by your camera. You will most likely need a way of calculating how long to leave the shutter open for. As the light conditions can change pretty quickly you will need longer or shorter times, a phone app such as Exposure Calculator can come in very handy.

Shooting the shadows
Making dreamy seascape shots.
Photo Exif Data - f13. 6 seconds. ISO-100.

Remember that researching a subject like Long Exposure by watching YouTube videos and then going out and getting lots of practice is the only way to learn. When you come home and go through your shots and you finds some keepers, take a look at the Exif data and see what you did right.