How to Make the Perfect Long Exposure Photo?

Everyone interested in photography should at one point learn how to make long-exposure photos. The quicker, the better. Here is our tutorial to master this kind of photography which is guaranteed to give you some of your most beautiful work if appropriately utilized. 

Long exposure photography doesn’t necessarily have to be about nature only. Other sights fascinate people. Take, for example, massive neon lights and casino signs that you can find. American and European casinos are for playing cards and roulette, but they are often works of luxurious and flashy, in-your-face architecture. And those kinds of long exposure pictures are always full of life and excitement while nature tends to get captured in its more tranquil form. The only question is, it may be harder to make a perfect picture if there are always so many people in a particular area.

Watch the Weather Forecast

This kind of photography makes or breaks depending on the weather. All-weather (in which you can use your equipment) is good except for flat white skies. They are just too drab. On the other hand, clouds make excellent scenery. 

You will have to visit the location ahead of time. Take some time to scout the area. Long exposure got its name for a reason. It simply takes time. Maybe a photo planning app can help you with timing your picture.

When it comes to the right gear, you need a tripod. Everything else (except a camera) is optional. But a steady tripod is a good investment that will keep on giving for years. 

Lock Focus

After you refine your composition, set up your focus, switch your lens from Autofocus to Manual so the focus will remain locked, even in the case you accidentally press the shutter button. Set the aperture to between f/8 and f/11 (for landscapes at least) and choose the shutter speed your camera recommends.

Now it is time to add the neutral density filter. If you’re shooting in near darkness, then you don’t need it. If the filter is ten stops, you will not be able to see through the viewfinder. That is OK as we already made the composition and set the focus. The camera is ready even if you are blind. A possibility to consider would be Bulb mode. It allows you to discard your camera’s shutter speed limit, so use it if you can.

Take the Shoot

In the last step, you just make a simple calculation. Adjust the shutter speed to compensate for the number of stops introduced by the filter. To give an example, with a test shot of 1/15s and with a 10-stop filter, for a shutter speed of 60 seconds, you will need to decrease the rate by ten stops. No filter means zero F-stops reducing the shutter speed. Of course, all of this can be done online or with an app.

So, all done? Then press the button, and voila, you just created your first long exposure photo.