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7 tips for Long Exposure Photography

Long exposure photography can seem to be something really easy to achieve, but this is not exactly the truth. In order to get good photos from the long exposure you need to remember few points. Today I want to talk about some tips that I use while photographing in long exposure , which by the way one of my favorite photography styles:)

  1. Tripod:

For me  tripod is vital in long exposure photography, one of the most important elements in order to get good photos. There is a limit for how long you can hold the camera in your hands without shaking. Mostly the lowest point of shutter speed  is 1\60 sec for wide angle lenses (unless you have some strong, iron arms) and “one point up” for lenses that are longer. For example my “longest” lens is 85 mm, so in order to get sharp photos from holding it in my hands the lowest shutter speed number that I can use is 1\100. In long exposure your shutter speed is going down, for example, in order to get smooth silky water your shutter speed need to be at least 1\30-1\15 sec and this brings us to  – Tripod.

As all the equipment in the professional photography world , good tripods are expensive. I’ve spent a lot of time in order to find a good but not pricey tripod in the end, I’ve read countless product reviews, pros and cons and in the end chose one that was good for me and didn’t cost too much.

In photography as whole and in nature (landscape, wildlife) photography in particular sharpness is everything! Photographers will do anything in order to get the sharpest  photos and tripods are crucial for this. So if you decide that it is  the time for you to move into professional photography world, take your time, read reviews in order to chose the best tripod for you. Pay attention to the material, height, how much weight can it handle and so on, don’t compromise on a good tripod, it is very important.

Another thing to remember is lens stabilizers. Some of the lens have this mechanism – stabilizer . What it does is pretty simple – when you hold the camera your hands shake, even if it’s slightly it still affects your photo, the stabilizer sets on a mechanism that regulates this shaking by shaking back and thus the photos get sharper. As I said sharpness is everything so you need to remember to switch off the stabilizer while shooting from the tripod. Why is that? Well, tripod is stable and does not  “shake” the camera, if the stabilizer is working it doesn’t know “who hold the camera” and continue to shake. It is important to remember to switch it off while photographing from tripod.

Old Jaffa city night view.


2. Timer and Remote:

Another important aspect of long exposure photography are timer and remotes. Because the photography mode is set on slow shutter speed any touch, even the slightest can ruin the sharpness and the focus of your photo, when you push the button to take a photo you shake the camera a little bit. In order to avoid that you can use some alternative ways.

  • Timer – any camera have a timer, you set all of your settings, chose composition and set on your timer. That way the photo wouldn’t be smothered and will be sharper. Timer is way better that shooting by using hands but it still has it’s problems. When you set the timer on you touch the camera and by that move it a little bit, the focus can run off and the photo will be less sharp. 
  • Remote is a better solution, after you’ve set your settings and composition you just use the remote control and don’t touch your camera up until it finished taking the photo. There are cable remotes and wireless once, I prefer the wireless. As for me it is the better solution for a long exposure photography with a good bonus  – most of the remotes are pretty cheap and good.

Power station Tel Aviv


3. Scene:

It doesn’t matter how good is your technical experience and knowledge never forget that the scene and composition is also very important. When in the day time you can recompose  right after you took a photo in night and long exposure photography it can take even more than 30 sec to wait until you can take another photo, so you might want to make a good shot right at the beginning. Try to find a good spot before it’s getting too dark, see what composition this place can offer and when the time comes – create great shots from the first attempt. 

Charels bridge, Prague


4. Technical side:

I will share with you some of my technical “regularities” at long exposure, some might disagree but for me those work the best.

  • ISO – I never get my ISO higher than 100, even though my camera can handle higher numbers  I still don’t do that. Why? Well at long exposure camera works extra, it gets hotter and that by itself can create “noises” I don’t want add to that extra ISO, so I keep my ISO at the minimum. 
  • Aperture – Well it is known that the higher the aperture number the sharper the photo will get, that is not exactly the case, in some lens after numbers 8-11 and up the photo becomes less sharp and more smothered. Therefore my ultimate solution is aperture f/5.6 -f/8 up until now it worked great for me. There are sites that can check from what aperture number photos get smothered at your lens, if you really want to know it’s limit.
  • Shutter Speed – Well it depends on how much light is out there, the darker it becomes – the longer will my camera shutter speed be. Also it depends on what my aperture number is.

Gedor beach, Israel


5. Focus:

Oh focus, what can be more important. No matter how great your composition, light, and settings if there is no focus – the photo is doomed. It is really important to get a good focus, extremely important especially if you shooting nature or urban landscape, you want as many details as possible to be in focus. So what can you do?

  • Aperture – Close it to the point that the photos will get sharper, don’t worry, it is long exposure photography you will compensate by extra time in shutter speed. That will assure you that most of the things are in focus.
  • Place – where is the best place to put your focus point? My advise is the lower part of the photo , if you know the rule of thirds then it will be somewhere the lower third is going through , that way most of the photo is getting focused.
  • Darkness – sometimes it is so dark that camera just cant find a place to take focus on. There are some solutions to that, one is infinity focus – if you have this option on your camera, it will allow you to focus in darkness. The other one that I chose since I don’t have the infinity focus, and I think it somehow wrong to do so, but I sort of have no option is that I get focused on some far away object that has light on it (even if it’s not on my composition) I secure this focus and use it on my photo, up until now it worked pretty good, but I’m not sure how “professional” is this move:).

Night Prague view


6. Bulb

Some cameras are limited on the longest time to shutter speed. For example what to do if your camera allow you maximum 30 sec of long exposure and you want a minute or more? Well for that reason you need to see if your camera have the Bulb option. This technology allow you to take a photo as long as your shutter is pushed down, it means as long as you push the shutter button down the photo will be taken. It is good for times when it’s too dark and 30 sec is not enough. 

Of course standing for one minute or more pressing the button with your hand is not an option, the photo will get out of focus and smothered and you will get tired from trying not to move, that is why in Bulb mode remotes are the solution, it will give great results.

National Park, Ramat Gan


7. Filters

Well this is a bonus part, there are filters that can help you to take long exposure photos even in the day time when there is too much light. ND filters with various stops that shades your lens by letting less light in allow you to use longer shutter speed. A great extension for nature photographer. The problem is that those are really expensive but you can’t go on the cheap version and I will explain why. When you buy a filter you add up another glass to your lens and you really want this glass to be at extra good quality so this will not hurt the quality of your photo. For my opinion it is better to be without a filter than having a bad quality one that will ruin your work.


In conclusion those are my ways of working with long exposure photography, if you really want to get better in that you should go there and experience it, no theory is better that the practice:)

Hope you enjoyed the post and that it was informative and helpful, see you soon:)

8 thoughts on “7 tips for Long Exposure Photography

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