This morning we ran a great long exposure image on Facebook and asked if any of our fans there had ever given long exposure photography a try. It’s a style of photography that requires a good bit of planning and patience to put together — not to mention a lot of trial and error. Still, the effort is well worth it because the reward can be astounding. Long exposure photography can show the vibrant night life of any city, can make a solitary street corner come to life, and can show the motion of the Earth as it spins its way around the Sun. Now, though long exposure requires a bit more forethought and planning, don’t let it scare you. With a few simple tips, you should be on your way to learning how to master this tricky but amazing field of photography.
1) Invest in a solid tripod — Holding the camera really still won’t cut it. Even the steadiest human hands quiver a little bit. So, get a good tripod and make certain the camera is mounted firmly on it. If you’re photographing where the ground is soft, push the tripod legs into the soil. If the ground is hard, then try to anchor the tripod well. In an urban environment, set your camera up far from any place where trains pass by.
2) Don’t be afraid to experiment — Maybe you don’t want to capture water rushing so that it looks like smoke. Maybe an atmospheric sunset isn’t your thing. You can still get some great images taken using long exposure photography and a light pen, a flashlight, a match, or a glow stick. Just keep it moving in the pattern you want to show on the final image.
3) Beware of light — Most long exposures are done at night or in dark rooms. However, it is possible to get some really great long exposure images by day outside. However, if you are going to do this, you’re going to need a neutral filter to keep the image from being over-exposed.
4) Set up somewhere you can control — If you’re doing photography in the city, then you would hardly leave your camera and tripod standing on a street corner. Same thing for the outdoors — make certain that you know the area well enough and either will be around to monitor the camera or can block out unwanted visitors of the feline and canid variety.
5) Check the weather — If it’s going to get windy, this is not the time for outdoor photography. If you’re going to try to capture that brook in the forest, you should check to see if it will be raining or sunny. Rain can do funny things to long exposure photos and sometimes the effect can be stunning. Other times, it just leaves the photographer shellshocked.
For more tips and for a good look at the beautiful images long exposure photography can bring to the table, visit Tuts+.