Tips and tutorials

5 Long Exposure Photography Tips You Should Not Miss

You are probably wondering what exactly is long exposure photography since you are reading this. So, let me explain what it is.  It’s the technique in which not only shutter is left open for a while, but also right choice of aperture, ISO, filters, lens and tripod are the most important factors to implement the better outcome. And, in this post, I would like to share some basic tips of  long exposure photography to get you started. These tips will help you avoid a poor outcome.

Requirments for long exposure photography

Basic Requirements are:

1) Sturdy Tripod
2) Neutral Density Filters (ND2, ND4, ND8. Each numbers represent the stops cut down by the filter)
3) Wired or wireless Shutter Release controller.
4) Wide angle Lens (Basic Kit lens 18-55mm is enough if you don’t have wide angle lens)
5) Lens cleaner.

If you want to know what ‘stops’ mean, read: Introduction to Aperture 

5 basic Long exposure Photography tips you should follow 

Tip 1- Clean your lens properly

Before mounting your camera on a tripod, check the condition of your lens. Sometimes, finger impressions and dust are encountered on the surface of the lens. So, I recommend you to use a lens pen to remove them. Otherwise, light trails will not be crisp, and finger impressions show up in the output. Below  is an example  that shows the presence of light flares if lens is not cleaned properly. So, unless you want to spend hours in front of photoshop to remove these artifacts, you should clean the lens.

common problem in long exposure photography

Tip 2 – Always Use Manual focus

In case of exposing your camera in low light, your camera will struggle in focusing the subject. So, I always prefer manual focus to ensure proper focus and sharp result. Although few lenses can auto focus in low light, it’s better to choose manual focus. It helps not only to understand the range of focus but also improves the point of view.

Tip 3- Avoid using  Auto White balance

White balance is considered as one of the most important settings of digital camera. It’s basically a way to “measure” the temperature of light and to “balance” out the colors of your photography for the desired results. You can see a list of various symbols and a word description for each symbol to choose under the white balance option. I always prefer to choose the appropriate option according to the situation instead of Auto white balance. Otherwise, unusual colors are encountered in the image. For example in the image below, tungsten white balance preset is chosen to add vibrant colors in seascape long exposure photography.

Read: Introduction to White Balance

long exposure photography at twilight

Tip 4- Always use Shutter release controller

A shutter release controller is a device which allows you to control the shutter of your camera without touching the camera itself. The primary use is to prevent camera shake during long exposures. Long exposures will magnify any shake in the camera, especially those created even by steady hands on the shutter release. So it helps to prevent the blur due to camera shake and get sharper results

Read: 14 tips to prevent blurry photos

Tip 5 –Always shoot in RAW

In one of my earlier posts, I have mentioned the advantages of shooting in RAW file format and how it gives you full control over post processing the image. Sometimes, it happens that, ‘spooky’ colors will show up in the photographs because of  the stacking of multiple filters. So, shooting in RAW is the best option to remove these unusual colors during post production. In the worst scenario, black and white conversion will help you out to make the better result. Here is the example for choosing the black and white conversion during post production.

Image before Conversion

long exposure photograph before conversion

Image after converting to Black and White

black and white photograph of a coast

I hope you will find these long exposure photography tips useful. I would suggest you to follow these before exploring any long exposure photograph. You will get the hang of long exposure photography if you experiment a lot. In my next post, I will explain the basic settings tutorial for long exposure photography.

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Srivatsan Sankaran

I'm Srivatsan Sankaran from Chennai.I have been pursuing my passion for photography for the past 3 years.. I began with Sony DSC-S600 and used it for landscape, portrait, etc. After 3 years , I transitioned to Nikon Coolpix and used it for 6 months. I learned a lot through a dedicated lifestyle for understanding the very nuances of photography.Currently I’m using Canon Eos 500D with kit lens and Macro lens.

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