Friday, September 18, 2015

5 Things You Should know about Long Exposure Photography

Long exposure photography is extremely popular, yet also one of the photography techniques people find most challenging. I wanted to discus the things you should know about long exposures to help you get great results every time. I like to venture out at dusk or dawn to shoot long exposures, and I simply love the effect you get in the images. I get often asked how I do them, so I hope these tips will be of use to you.



5 Things You should know about Long Exposure Photography

1. How Long Should the Exposure be? 

Long exposures are usually shots that are taken with exposure times equal to or longer than a second. At this point, provided it is activated, a camera’s long exposure noise reduction system usually cuts in. Most cameras allow you to set exposures up to 30 seconds in length, but if you need an exposure longer than this you’ll have to switch to Bulb or Time mode. In Bulb mode the camera’s shutter opens when the shutter release is pressed (as normal) and it stays open for as long as the button is held down. In most cases this would be done using a remote release. In Time mode the shutter opens with a press of the release, but the button doesn’t need to be held down and the shutter is closed with a second press of the release. Bulb and Time mode can usually be used to make exposures of up to 30 minutes. Your camera’s manual will explain the maximum duration possible.


2. Long Exposure and Noise Reduction

Even though you may use a low sensitivity setting, long exposure images often suffer from noise. This noise is the result of inconsistencies in the sensitivity of individual pixels and the occasional ‘hot pixel’ and it therefore has a regular pattern that is specific to a particular camera. A camera’s long exposure noise reduction system works by capturing and analysing a ‘dark-frame’ which has the same noise pattern as photographic image and then extracting the interference from image. In order for this to work well the exposure of the dark frame has to have the same duration as the photographic image and when the long exposure noise reduction system is activated, it is captured automatically immediately after the ‘normal’ shot. This means that every image takes twice as long to create when the long exposure noise reduction system is used, but it’s worth it because the results are usually very good.


3. Essential tools for Long Exposure Photography

A remote release is essential for shooting long exposures because it allows you to open and close the shutter without touching the camera and making it wobble on the tripod (a tripod is also a must). Any wobble, especially at the start of the exposure, could cause slight blurring or loss of sharpness in your image. Cable or wired releases tend to be more affordable than wireless releases, but there’s a chance that any movement of the cable, perhaps caused by vibration created by wind, could introduce some blurring. Wireless releases allow you to stand further away from your camera and you don’t have a physical connection between you and it.


4. Battery Life and moving objects

Long exposures drain battery power quickly, so makes sure you have a spare or two if you’re planning to take lots of shots. One other thing is that during the long exposure time some elements in the scene which appear still, also move. The moon is a great example, it may appear stationary in the night sky, but it moves and it will be rendered as a cylinder shape in images created with exposures longer than a few seconds.


5. Neutral Density Filter for Long Exposures

Neutral density (ND) filters are often used to enable long exposures to be taken in quite bright light. A one stop filter reduces the amount of light entering a lens by ½ and extends exposure by 2x so it is often referred to as an ND2. Each additional stop of filter strength further halves the amount of light and extends exposure by two times. Hence a two stop filter extends exposure by 4x and is known as an ND4. This continues as follows: 3 stops = ND8; 4 stops = ND16; 10 stops = ND1024



I hope these points could help you to shed some light on the subject and I also hope you'll have a go at it. If you have any other questions, let me know in the comments below.

28 comments:

  1. Excellent Mersad. I would add that if you are taking exposures longer than five minutes and don't want to wait for the camera to reduce noise then just pop the lens cap on and take a quick shot this gives a dark frame and as the sensor is still hot will show hot pixels.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks Adrian for your comment, that's a good advice to keep in mind!

      Delete
    2. I forgot to say what to do with the dark frame.
      It's a minutes job or less upload both the dark frame and the image into PShop. I convert to Tiff first. Make sure the dark frame is on top of the image and then change blend mode to Subtract. Job Done.

      Delete
  2. I'm pinning this so that I can come back to it when I get around to tackling long exposure shots.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Very informative post, Mersad.
    I hope you will come join us at http://image-in-ing.blogspot.com/2015/09/allium-glorious.html

    ReplyDelete
  4. very interesting Mersad. I also will pin this post, so I can use it later.

    ReplyDelete
  5. Hello, Mersad, this post is so useful and helpful as you explained us not only how but also why. I like the images with low light or silky drape-like water but my favorite is the last image of all these wonderful shots. I will pin this post, too, so that I can get back whenever I need. Keep up the good work!

    Yoko

    ReplyDelete
  6. Hello mersad, as always your photos are awesome. Thank you for sharing the tips and info.
    Happy Friday, have a great weekend!

    ReplyDelete
  7. now we know how you make your low light stunning photos. i don't have a tripod or a remote or the most important tool Patience... but you sure do

    ReplyDelete
  8. This is a great tutorial, thank you for sharing. I will have to bookmark this post and refer to it often, although I am a bit uninspired by my new location in Saudi at the moment.

    ReplyDelete
  9. Thank you so much for the great information, Mersad! I'm printing a copy to keep in my desk!! Hope you have a lovely weekend!! Enjoy!!

    ReplyDelete
  10. I too have pinned this post so that when I get that gear upgrade, I can come back to it & then go create stunning images!

    Thank you for once again sharing your knowledge with us at Photo Friday!

    ReplyDelete
  11. I would love to tail you while you shoot, I would definitely learn from one of the best.

    Worth a Thousand Words

    ReplyDelete
  12. So, I bring you another visit, coming from Skywatch Friday. Your 2 first pictures are wonderful, I like the effect of frozen water.
    Greetings, Hilde
    http://stapjesonderweg.blogspot.be/2015/09/view-from-cerro-baul.html

    ReplyDelete
  13. Thank you for this! I am still learning much, as I go!

    ReplyDelete
  14. Excellent overview, and thank you!! I really like your night shots! A learning for me is to better understand my camera's noise reduction, as I get a fair amount of noise in my night shots. My only feedback would be to share your camera setting for these long exposure shots. It would be really helpful to know your ISO and other settings. Thanks again, Mersad!

    ReplyDelete
  15. Your night shots are gorgeous! Pinning this so I can tackle long exposure later.

    Amanda
    Trulyyoursa.com

    ReplyDelete
  16. Interesting, there are so many things to learn about photography

    ReplyDelete
  17. I am an amateur photographer.Recently bought my first DSLR. I find your post very informative as I am still learning. Right now i shoot only in aperture priority mode.

    ReplyDelete
  18. I'm just starting to take pictures and this was a big help. Your photos are gorgeous !!! I especially love the pictures of the lights along the shore.Thanks for sharing your awesome talent !!!

    ReplyDelete
  19. I haven't tried this yet, but this will be useful when I do get around to it. As usual - great photos!

    ReplyDelete
  20. Thanks for sharing this. I won't be able to employ all the tips, but I sure like the results!
    Greetings from Holland,
    Jasmine (coming in from the linkup #StillSaturday, nr. 11, nr. 12)

    ReplyDelete
  21. Great informative post, Mersad. And I sure am impressed with those last three shots!!!

    ReplyDelete
  22. Brilliant. Thanks for the info.

    ReplyDelete
  23. Brilliant. Thanks for the info.

    ReplyDelete
  24. Your photos are incredible. Thank you for the lesson!!

    ReplyDelete
  25. I really need to play around with this more. I love the results it achieves

    Mollyxxx

    ReplyDelete
  26. Remarkable shots! I've noticed that my new camera does not have the noise problem that my older one did.

    ReplyDelete

Subscribe by E-Mail for blog posts in your inbox:

Subscribe

Image Credits

All Rights are Reserved. The images may not be reproduced, copied, transmitted or manipulated without the written permission of the author.