Tips for Long Exposure Photography

A few days ago, someone had posted on a local Facebook photography page if anyone could  give them some pointers for a project they were doing which had to include motion blur. 

Allowing motion to show in photos through blurred lines and images can completely change the feel of a photo. It can also help set your photo apart from all the others.

In the photo above, a longer exposure smoothed out the river and also gives the feeling of the water rushing by. This adds more interest to the photo, which without the blur of the water, would be just another photo of the Main St Bridge.

In the photo above, the blur of the river makes it look as though the water isn't moving much at all and gives off a sense of calm, unlike the photo of the bridge where it looks like the water is quickly moving down river.

One of the most important things is to ensure only the parts of the photo that blur are the ones that are moving. This photo of the skyline over an apparently calm body of water wouldn't be nearly as nice if the camera was shaking and the whole skyline was blurry.

Here are some things to keep in mind when experimenting with long exposure photography:

1. You'll need a camera with the option to adjust the shutter speed. Depending on what I am shooting and how much ambient light is available, I generally start shooting with a shutter speed of 1 or 2 seconds and then make adjustments as needed until I get the look I want.

2. Bring a tripod. No matter how hard I try, I cannot hold a camera perfectly steady for half a second or longer. 

3. Use either a shutter remote, a cable release, or the timer function on your camera to trigger the shutter. By pressing the button on the camera yourself, even on a tripod, you can shake the camera a little, which will translate to a blurry photo. Sometimes, if it is windy, I will also put some sandbags or my camera bag on the legs of the tripod to give it more support and stability.

4. Remember, the longer the shutter stays open, the more light is coming in, so you will either need to adjust your aperture to compensate or add an ND filter on to your lens so you don't overexpose your photo.

Using a long exposure is also what gives #fireworks such a cool look, like in the photo above. And it is a necessity if you want to try your hand at light painting.

If you have any questions, leave me a comment and I'll do my best to help.

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