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What if there’s a way to capture moments by not just freezing them but by capturing every motion that happens while the shutter is open? 

Well, with long exposure photography techniques, you can easily seize the most state-of-the-art, ethereal and exquisite pictures of all times! Imagine having the skill to capture the soft waves merging into each other, the swift movement of the clouds gliding across the brilliant blue sky, or the moving urban lights flashing in a dark night. 

With the right technique, you too can become the master of such pro-level imagery. That’s exactly what we’ll walk you through in this guide to long exposure photography. Let us explain to you its fundamentals that will result in heavenly pictures that look like a dream! 

What is Long Exposure Photography? 

If you are wondering what is long exposure photography and what makes it different from the basic photography, we’ll simplify it for you. 

Long exposure photography technique captures passing time in a frame. It is a versatile type of photography that uses the speed of shutter to capture shots with detailed motion that would otherwise be deceptive to naked eye.

To do this, it all comes down to keeping the camera shutter open for a specific duration of time. Slow shutter speeds, preferably starting from half a second or upwards – and a steady gear are both equally essential for the perfect abstract shot. The amount of light that a lens is able to gather is also important for the picture dynamics – making long exposure photography in daylight a completely different aspect than that in night time. 

Long Exposure Photography Settings to Capture the Best Shot

To capture the ultimate photograph, you need to be able to play with the long exposure photography settings that complement the nature of the shot.

Regardless of what this nature is, there are three basic settings that you must comply at all times – whether you are a beginner or an expert:  

  • Your camera should always be in the manual/bulb mode. If your camera’s shutter speed is over 30”, it will probably switch to this mode automatically. This way, you have full control of exposure settings, including aperture and shutter speed. 
  • Turning off the image stabilisation option is essential, otherwise, your camera will try to compensate for any movements and add blur to the image – which defeats the purpose of long exposure photography. 
  • Always take pictures in raw so that you get the highest quality image. Any required edits can be made later on. 

We will now move on to the more specific settings you need to take care of and drop some extraordinary long exposure photography tips for you along the way. 

Shutter Speed Settings

As you must have already gathered, shutter speed is extremely crucial in long exposure shots. Both longer and shorter shutter speeds have different effects and understanding which one fits the situation is an important long exposure photography tip. 

If you want to take abstract and dreamy shots as well as soften your image to its maximum extent, go for longer shutter speeds. The exposure time can be as long as over five minutes – if that’s what it takes to get the best shot. A shorter exposure time, on the other hand, can be for one minute or less and lets you capture the sharp details within a dynamic shot. 

To figure out the best shutter speed for your shoot, we recommend using long exposure apps. All you have to do is enter the settings you’re using and the app will do the numbers for you. 

Focus Settings 

Without the right focus, the entire meaning of a high-quality image is ridiculed. Luckily, learning this photography essential is easier than you might think. 

Here are a few long exposure photography settings that will help you get that perfectly sharp image. 

  • If you are an avid photographer, you might already know that using the hyperfocal distance or focusing on the first third of your image is one of the easiest focusing techniques in photography. 
  • Using the zoom option in the live view mode is another long exposure photography tip that will help you find the sharpest point – whether you are using the manual or auto-focus. 
  • When auto-focusing, always switch back to the manual once your lens is properly focused. If not, the camera will keep refocusing.

Aperture Settings

Picking the right aperture is important in determining how much light passes through your lens. Let us give you a few long exposure photography tips regarding aperture for both daytime and nighttime shoots. 

Long exposure photography in daylight is a bit tricky because there is too much light and you might need to subtract some exposure stops using Neutral Density filters. If you don’t have any filters, you can opt for smaller apertures (like f22) but keep in mind: the smaller the aperture, the lower the quality of the shot. We recommend you to stick with the filters for this one. 

On the contrary, choosing aperture for long exposure photography at night is easier. Simply go for a wider aperture (like f/1.4), capture maximum light and you’d be good to go!

Once you have understood the importance of all these long exposure photography settings, all that’s left is some playing around and a bit of practice to capture the much-anticipated, perfect long exposure shot. 

Pick the Best Photography Workshop and Become a Pro!

With so many outstanding Sydney Photographic’s private classes and workshops, becoming an expert in your favourite photography genre is now easier than ever. 

Can’t decide which workshop aligns the best with your interests? Contact us now to get free professional consultation!