Just as the name indicates, long exposure photography is a form of photography in which long exposure is used to take a photo.
The limit of exposure can be quite different depending on the image stabilizer and / or the choice of focal length. Since I often take photos with a 50mm focal length, I get into a critical range from an exposure time of about 1/50 of a second. Depending on the image, the ISO value thereby increases or I extend the exposure time even further and use a tripod.
When is long exposure suitable?
Long exposures can only be realized if the image permits it. I like to use long exposure times, while taking pictures of abandoned buildings and factories. The image cannot be moved so I have enough time to photograph everything as I imagine it to be.
With long exposure times, I’m also able to achieve different image effects depending on the object on the image.
In daylight, however, you should work with gray filters to avoid overexposure.
What equipment do I need for long exposure
A solid tripod is essential for taking pictures with longer exposure times . These are available in a wide variety of designs, and it might be a little overwhelming to settle for one.
If you want a high level of stability , then you should go for the ones that are a bit heavy as compared to the lighter ones. Heavy tripods are more resistant to vibrations and wind, but the weight can be a bit of a challenge during longer photo tours.
2) The remote shutter
A remote is not absolutely necessary, but could be extremely helpful. The advantage of the remote shutter in situations of long exposures is that they do not come into contact with the camera and therefore can not trigger any vibrations that could potentially cause blurring in the photo. Of course, you can also set the self-timer on the camera to 5 seconds and then release it directly on the camera, but this method isnt very reliable and does not totally protect the camera from shaking.
From experience there is always a little risk that occurs due to the connection of the camera through a cable; when moving the shutter release, slight vibrations can still be transmitted to the camera body, so you should be extremely careful here if you want to achieve longer exposure times without blurring.
Long exposure during the day
It could be a bit problematic if you want to take long exposures outdoor during the day
especially when the sun is out. There is simply too much light available. Even with the lowest ISO number and wide aperture, it is still always challenging.
The solution to this problem is to purchase an accessory known as a gray filter, also known as neutral density “ND”filter
In simple terms, a neutral density filter is a filter that does not allow a certain amount of light to pass through and thus darkens the image. This in turn gives you more leeway to extend the exposure time .
When buying, in addition to the quality, make sure that the filter fit your lens – so check beforehand what diameter you need. Or you could buy one for the lens that has the largest diameter in your collection, you can then buy adapter rings for the lenses with a smaller diameter so that you can use the filter on the different types of lenses you have.
Type of camera to buy
You don’t necessarily need a high-end camera for first attempts at long exposure. Only two properties are necessary here. First you need a camera in which the exposure time can be manually adjustable . In addition, there should also be a way to attach tripods . Most cameras, even smaller compact ones, usually have a recess with a thread on their underside in order to attach suitable tripod plates to them.
Best way to achieve long exposure
1. Adjust camera settings
There are some special features that you should set on your camera first, especially on SLR cameras , in order to get even more out of your long exposure.
The most important setting with SLR cameras is the mirror lock-up , which should be activated. The mirror folds down some time before the actual picture is taken. This avoids vibrations caused by the mirror, which could lead to camera shake. Another, extremely important point is the noise reduction with long exposure , especially with exposure times over one second. If the sensor is exposed for several seconds, its temperature increases. The higher its working temperature, the greater the image noise and the number of hot pixels increases. This can be prevented with long exposures by activating the option mentioned above. A little disadvantage to this is that since the camera has to make a dark print, the exposure time is doubled . With exposure times that are already very high, patience is required, especially if you want to capture the evening winter mood at -10C °
Tip: If the camera is exposed to high temperatures for a long time, it is better to take a short break and let the camera or the sensor in it cool down for a while. This also prevents excessive image noise in front.
Last but not least, there is the “remote release” mode, which the camera must be in so that it reacts to the remote release and releases it accordingly when you press it. In addition, the autofocus on the lens should be switched off if you want to focus manually. If your lens has an integrated image stabilizer , this must also be switched off , as it can cause unwanted camera shake when activated.
2. The image composition – choosing perspective, image detail etc
This important point should generally be observed when taking photos – not only with long exposures. Depending on the image, you should think about the design of the picture before pressing the shutter release. Relationships between foreground and background, perspective, image detail, proportions or focal length are some of the most important aspects to which attention should be paid here.
What makes the whole thing about the correct position of the camera in order to get the best image effect seem even more important here is the fact that with long exposures you can’t just “press the shutter button” and immediately see whether the selected image section is correct best is. The tripod has to be set up and the camera mounted, the recording of the subject itself takes a long time, in extreme cases several minutes. Afterwards it can be annoying to find that the camera should have been positioned a little further to the left or that this or that focal length would have been better.
So first of all: Walk around the room with the camera, look through the viewfinder / on the display, experiment with different perspectives, find the best image section for you – only then should you set up the tripod and position the camera on it safely, stably and firmly .
3. Focus on the desired picture element
Third, I always take care of the sharpness in the image or which point I want to focus on. With regard to long exposures, I usually do this manually – I use the magnifying glass to zoom in on the area that should be in focus and then carefully turn the focus ring of the lens until the desired focus is achieved. It is important at the point that the autofocus (usually a small switch on the lens)is exhibited otherwise the camera will naturally focus automatically when the shutter is released.
Next, the values for aperture, ISO and time should be set – these are all important parameters with which one can influence the exposure of the photo.
I almost always set the ISO value to ISO100 or 200 – so I keep the image noise in check or as low as possible. The aperture should be set depending on the desired image effect in relation to the sharpness (wide open = shallow depth of field, wide closed = high depth of field, see also under ” Hyperfocal distance ” for the latter). You can use the camera’s internal exposure meter (I usually leave it set to multi-field) as a guide, which indicates whether the image may be overexposed or underexposed when an exposure time is set. However in the case of strongly contrasting subjects (e.g. bright window in a dark room), the camera’s multi-field metering mode can only guess what should be adequately exposed. Here you can use a different metering mode or exposure compensation to make the exposure meter work more reliably.
When the most appropriate exposure time has been selected, I produce a test shot and check the display to see whether the picture is too underexposed or overexposed. If this is the case, I adjust accordingly and use a lower or higher exposure time. Usually I take 2-3 pictures of a subject, in some cases more pictures with different exposure times . This is also called exposure bracketing . This way I still have the option of choosing a different exposure variant later during post-processing.
Tip: Some cameras can also automatically create bracketing series from 3 or more images. If you choose an exposure time of 2 seconds in this mode, for example, the camera will automatically take 2 more pictures one after the other – depending on the setting, picture 1 is then exposed for example 1 second and picture 2 for example 3 seconds.
Another reason I like bracketing is that in some cases, especially with high-contrast shots, I like to experiment with HDR . Several differently exposed images are placed on top of one another in order to have all areas of the image; both dark and light exposed in a balanced way. Used in doses, this can have a positive effect on the mood of the picture.
Just pressing the shutter button is not recommended for long exposures.
Before you press the remote; among other things, you should ask yourself these:
Is the camera firmly attached to the tripod?
Is there a strong wind blowing around the camera right now?
Have I let enough time pass since I made settings on the camera?
If you can be relatively sure that the camera is not moving, and all other things are in check, then you’re good to go.