There’s something soothing and beautiful in long exposure photos. If you’d like to start making wonderful long exposure images of your own and get it right, Andy Mumford has plenty of great tips for you. In this video, he shares lots of useful advice: from the essential gear you’ll need, to camera settings and composition tips.
Long exposure photos work particularly well when there’s water or clouds. By slowing down the shutter speed, they turn into smooth surfaces that add an abstract and soft look to the images. But before you start shooting, you should get the proper gear for this kind of photos.
Sturdy tripod – your shutter will be open for periods from a few seconds to a few minutes. So, a good tripod is a must to avoid camera shake
Cable or wireless trigger – use a remote or a cable release to fire the shutter. This way, you’ll avoid touching the shutter button and causing the camera shake. If you don’t have a remote, 2 sec or 5 sec self-timer is a good option, too.
Neutral density (ND) filter – Andy recommends using a 6 or 10 stops ND filter. It reduces the amount of light that hits the sensor, so you can use long exposure times and get proper exposure.
Graduated neutral density filter – this filter is dark at the top, but not at the bottom. It lets you darken the sky so it doesn’t get overexposed since it’s brighter than the ground. At the same time, the bottom part of the photo will remain untouched.
Making the exposure
When you compose the photo, make sure to check the edges of the frame. Make them as clean as possible so there are no distracting elements. Attach your ND filter and set up the camera.
As for the camera settings, make sure to use manual mode so you have full freedom of controlling the exposure. Set the ISO to its lowest value and use the aperture between f/8 and f/16 for a large depth of field without diffraction. Finally, adjust your shutter speed manually according to the light and the strength of the density filter you’re using.
Calculate the shutter speed in relation to the base exposure and the ND filter you’re using. You can use an app for that, or do it in your head. Andy suggests adding or subtracting one stop by halving or doubling the exposure time. Here’s an example:
- Base exposure = 1/15
- +1 stops = 1/8
- +2 stops = 1/4
- +3 stops = 1/2
- +4 stops = 1 s
- +5 stops = 2 s
- +6 stops = 4 s
So, to take a shot at f/16 with a 6-stop ND filter, Andy needs a 4 sec exposure.
These are only the basic steps, and from here on, you’ll still need time to learn and experiment with long exposure photos. But the information from this video is certainly enough to get you going and help you make some splendid long exposure shots.