Create professional long-exposure shots after dark with these 10 tips

Long exposure photography
(Image credit: Joey Kyber)

With long exposure photography, movement is captured stylishly, offering an expanded view of the ordinary and showing something that cannot be viewed with the naked eye. 

Even the most advanced camera technology can not produce these images alone, and the photographer must have the right knowledge, equipment and, hopefully, a trick or two up their sleeves. With these things, you will be able to get the most out of the camera’s long shutter speeds and create magical images.

10 pro tips for long exposures

1. Reduce vibrations - To minimize camera movement, always remember to pack your tripod and remote shutter release before you head out to shoot with long shutter speeds.

2. Think wide - Wide angle lenses are ideal as they capture more of the surroundings, making it easier to work out the long exposure characteristics.

3. Extend shutter speed - Make use of ND filters to increase the exposure times without the risk of overexposing specific elements in your shot.

4. Explore the scene - When shooting in low lighting conditions, it’s always best to check your location and familiarise yourself with the surroundings, especially before it gets too dark.

5. Compose freely - Try out different handheld views for the maximum flexibility in composing your shot. Secure your camera on a tripod afterwards.

6. Analyze movements - Observe your scene and pay attention to the direction from which the movement appears in front of your lens. That way you can enhance the effect of movement.

7. Create interplays - Shoot both the soft and hard elements in the frame next to each other to create visual contrasts and bring out the special features of long-exposure images.

8. Save time - Start by shooting at faster shutter speeds and higher ISO values. Then lower the ISO settings by one stop and double the exposure time until you find the right settings.

9. Combine knowledge - When you want to take creative shots that stand out, then forget all the rules. When using technical methods, be smart and think outside the box.

10. Stay patient - Creating long exposure shots according to specific visual ideas can take a long time. Be open to other photographic outcomes – sometimes they are the best.

Digital Photographer

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Kim Bunermann
Technique Editor

Kim is the Technique Editor of Digital Photographer Magazine. She specializes in architecture, still life and product photography and has a Master's degree in Photography and Media with a distinction from the FH Bielefeld University of Applied Sciences in Germany. While studying, Kim came to the UK for an exchange term at the London College of Communication. She settled in the UK and began her career path by joining Future. Kim focuses on tutorials and creative techniques, and particularly enjoys interviewing inspiring photographers who concentrate on a range of fascinating subjects including women in photography, the climate crisis; the planet, its precious creatures and the environment.

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