Long exposure is used in photography for various purposes. It can help build exposure when shooting at night, or it can be used to create special effects in photography, for example, to show the contrast between the rapid movement of objects around one static one. We’ve put together some helpful tips to help you get the effect you want when shooting at slow shutter speeds.
Tripod anytime, anywhere
Long exposure is not possible without the use of a tripod. In the few seconds that pass between the click and the end of the shooting, the camera must be in a completely static position. This means that even the occasional vibration caused by inhaling or trembling in the hands can affect the entire frame. Therefore, when shooting at a slow shutter speed, we mount the camera on a tripod, and use the remote control to press the button. Yes, yes, because even vibration when pressed gives a negative effect. This means that you definitely need to stock up on a high-quality and most importantly, stable tripod.
Some pros recommend adding extra weight to the tripod. Even such items as sandbags are used, all this so that the camera does not flinch when shooting.
The Sirui ET-2204+E‑20 tripod is ideal for long exposure photography. Large and stable, it is made of carbon fiber and protected from rust and weather conditions. Convenient legs allow you to install this tripod on any surface and securely place the camera on it. The maximum load is 12 kg and the maximum working height when using the central shaft is 145 cm. The E‑20 multifunctional ball head is also included in the kit.
Of course, in order to successfully shoot a shot on the street, you need to take into account the weather conditions. Whether you want to shoot long exposure waves, snow, or even moving car lights, you always need to know what kind of weather (at least roughly) awaits you on location. It will be difficult to shoot such shots in rainy weather, in a cloudless sky, or in bright light. As with any shoot, it’s worth researching the area you plan to shoot in advance. This will give you an idea of what kind of weather you should expect and how the camera will behave in the available light. This is especially true for shooting water: beaches, waterfalls, rivers.
Build your composition in advance
Another reason to research a location before filming is to be able to compose the composition ahead of time. Choose the exact shooting point and view, and then imagine exactly how you see the frame. You will have to take into account all the details, and look not only at those elements that interest you in the frame, but also at the surrounding objects. This will help you to most successfully integrate a long exposure into a regular landscape photo.
When shooting, it is very important not to lose focus on a static subject. You can fix it manually or, if you shoot in autofocus mode, you need to press the shutter button all the way. And at this point it is especially important to catch the possible presence of light leaks. Leaks must be isolated to prevent artifacts. For this, by the way, Canon camera straps have a special rubber element. And if you use a different camera, then you can create an analogue of this element from improvised materials, for example, you can use black electrical tape.
Even small glare can spoil the frame, so you need to be very careful with their isolation. To do this, a hood will also come to the rescue, which can be selected depending on the diameter of the lens and its characteristics. Fujimi offers many different models, including the Fujimi FBET-74 for the Canon EF 70–200mm f/4.0L, the FBEW-73C for the Canon EF‑S 10–18mm f/4.5–5.6 IS STM, and more.
Whether you’re shooting at night or during the day, it’s crucial to keep track of all the lights and see if you can use them. How much light will be available to you when shooting, what light sources will enter the frame and affect its construction, etc. These are the questions you should ask yourself before taking the coveted shot. At night, this is especially important, because you have to work in difficult conditions and you never know exactly how the camera can behave in combination with one or another light source.
A test frame is always important, especially when all the hardware is already installed. The camera must be in manual mode (M) with Aperture Priority. Accordingly, depending on your idea, the aperture is also set. In order to select the ideal settings, you will have to shoot several text frames and carefully evaluate their results. If they are close to what you intended, then the settings are right for you.
A Neutral Gray (ND) filter is often used when shooting at slow shutter speeds. You need to choose the appropriate filter solely based on the result you would like to achieve. Be sure to remember that a strong filter (for 8–10 steps) will not allow you to use the Live View mode, that is, the task will become more complicated, although the camera itself will see everything perfectly. The benefits of such a filter will be clearly visible in the finished photo, it reduces the amount of light that hits the camera matrix.
Filters should be chosen depending on the diameter of the lens, so the Polaroid Fader ND filter (2–400) is suitable for a diameter of 72mm, and is able to reduce light by 1–9 stops. Thus, this filter can be used just for shooting at slow shutter speeds.
In addition to it, other filters can be used: polarizing, ultraviolet, etc. In the Polaroid model line, you can find any filter for any purpose.
Before taking a picture, do not forget to move the camera to B (Bulb) mode — bulb exposure mode. This mode will allow you to keep the shutter open for more than 60 seconds, and you can set any shutter speed. The rest of the settings cannot be changed. Start practicing with slow shutter speeds and gradually, you will learn how to shoot stylish shots at slow shutter speeds with all the available effects.
The last thing we can recommend is to shoot as much as possible, because only in this way, sooner or later, you can finally reach the goal and learn how to transfer what you see to the camera’s matrix.