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As many people will know, I have recently being putting a few of my photographs on my Instagram feed. I will admit, I was surprised by a few people asking me to put a few photography tips on the blog. If there any photography tips you wish me to cover, I can always try to accommodate those requests. For this subject I am going to talking about ‘Long Exposure’. Believe it or not, long exposure photography is very easy with a bit of practice, time and knowledge of your camera settings, and finally a sturdy tripod.

Photography Tips and Long Exposure

1. Location location location: when it comes to setting up your camera for a long exposure photograph, it always pays to plan ahead and think about your subject. For the photograph below, I didn’t have to walk too far to get the ideal photograph. We were both in London so Angela could attend Brit Mums Live ’16.

London Eye - Long exposure

Fig. 1.  The Settings for this photograph were: Manual Mode | Aperture ƒ/9 | Shutter speed: 13 seconds | ISO100

When holding your camera off a tripod, there will always be chance of camera shake (blurry images) so a sturdy tripod is really essential for this type of photography. The results of using a tripod and using a slow shutter speed can produce stunning results. The tide of the Thames was still out and although the current was a bit choppy, a slow shutter speed will make the water appear smooth. The only downfall of using a slow shutter speed will blur any movement in front of your lens.

London Eye - Thames Boats Moving - Long exposure

Fig 2 Aperture ƒ/11 | Shutter Speed: 10 seconds.

While I was stood looking for another photograph, two pleasure craft moved in to view. Rather than looking directly at the blurry light of the London Eye, the blurry images of the pleasure craft draw your focus. Although distracting, they make you look closer to try and figure out what they are.

2. Use Manual Mode: Using manual mode on any camera can see daunting, however, I find I usually have more control of my camera when setting up for the next shot. Weather you are a Canon, Nikon or Sony user, using manual mode is very easy to find. It is represented by capital ‘M’ on the dial on top of the camera. Nikon_D5300_product_shot_101

For the purpose of using Manual, I have borrowed a Nikon D5300 image from the Nikon EU website. When using manual mode, there is a small horizontal thumb dial below the main settings dial. This horizontal thumb dial will mainly increase the shutter speed or lower it to your required speed. To change the aperture, there is +/- button near the main shutter release button. On this camera, I would need to press the +/- button and slide the horizontal thumb dial from right to left, or right to left to change the aperture size.

The small the size (higher the aperture number) more sharp your photographs will be. The ideal aperture size for night photography is between ƒ/9 to ƒ/16. Higher the ‘F’ number, the slower the shutter speed will need to be I.e Between 10 to 30 seconds (If you want to read more about Aperture and Shutter speeds, please read my old post on my old blog: – Depth of Field).

Big Ben and Passing Buss

Fig 4. Aperture ƒ/16 | Shutter Speed 10 seconds | ISO100.

3. ISO: Iso stands for International Standards Organisation. On a camera, the ISO is the cameras way of maintaining higher shutter speeds in bad light. However, there is something which comes in to play when increasing the ISO. The best way to describe this, is thinking of small grains of sand making their way on to your photographs. This is known in the photographic industry as digital noise. For all of the night photographs, which you will see on my post on Friday. My ISO was set very low, an ISO of 100. This ISO level is usually used during sunny days or daylight hours, but it also makes sure there is little or no noise at all on my photographs. Some of the higher professional model camera’s can lower their ISO’s down to 60 or 50.

Tripod Fuctions

4. Practice, practice and practice: You may of heard of the phrases, “Practice makes perfect” or “Try, Try and Try again”. Well these says are true when it comes to long exposure photography. Find a building or landscape location you want to photograph. You will need lots of time and patience. Don’t be afraid to look for tutorial websites either, that is how I learned about taking photographs at night. You will also need lots of practice and making the time go out when its dark, along with a patient wife.

London Eye - Long Exposure

Fig 6. Aperture ƒ/4.6 | Shutter Speed 2 seconds | ISO 100.

The next photograph, I used a set of lens filters to help with my long exposure. There are different types of filters on the market. Ones which can be screwed on the end of the lens, depending on the size and diameter of your lens. I used what is called a Neutral Density filter or ND filter for short. These filters can be as dark you want them to be.

Yarrow Valley Fishing Weir

Fig 7. Aperture ƒ/36 | Shutter speed: 2.5 seconds | ISO100

Because I  was using a very dark lens filter, I had to compensate with my shutter speed and brought it down to 2.5 seconds. This made sure my camera had enough light so it complete the shot and create the desired effect.

For this shot I also kept my aperture as small as possible to ensure that everything in front my lens was as sharp and crisp as possible. The end result of having a lens filter during the daylight hours, proves that a long exposure photograph can be done during the daylight hours. Luckily for me, the sun was setting but was still a bit over powering. The use of the lens filter soften the sun effect on this shot made this a great photograph.

Finally, remember to have fun. Not every one will find long exposure photography enjoyable at first. It took me awhile to enjoy long exposure photography and don’t always get the opportunity to head out especially when it gets dark late in the summer months. So when those opportunities do arise, I make the most of them in the best way I can.

Please let me know what photography tips you would like me to cover. I will do my best to make sure any technical terms are easily understandable.

Please like and comment below.

John M