Why is such an approach need­ed? To make mag­ic in a pho­to, to cap­ture an object, to pull it out of the tur­moil of the sur­round­ing world, or, con­verse­ly, to show the dura­tion, the infin­i­ty of process­es. About what to shoot at long expo­sure dur­ing the day and at night, they told in this mate­r­i­al.

Light paint­ing, frozen time and motion cap­ture are all pos­si­ble with this tech­nique. Pho­to: bing.com

Basic tricks
With wiring
With­out wiring
Long Expo­sure Pho­to Ideas
peo­ple in the crowd

Basic tricks

Shooting with wire

base method. The mod­el is in motion — a mov­ing car, a run­ning ath­lete. The pho­tog­ra­ph­er “fol­lows” the sub­ject by mov­ing the cam­era so that it always remains in the cen­ter of the frame dur­ing the entire expo­sure time.

Recep­tion is indis­pens­able if:

  • you can not approach the mod­el / build­ing / object;
  • you need to cap­ture the dynam­ics and speed of move­ment;
  • you can not turn on the flash (for exam­ple, if you shoot dol­phins in the aquar­i­um).

How to take a long expo­sure pho­to? It is bet­ter to work in M ​​(man­u­al) or shut­ter pri­or­i­ty mode (TV or S). The size depends on the task and the speed of the sub­ject. For exam­ple, for a rid­er, an ani­mal, 1/30–1/60 sec is enough. And for a car, for exam­ple, 1/125 is suit­able. The slow­er the shut­ter speed, the more blurred the back­ground and edges of the sub­ject will be. The short­er, the sharp­er the frame.

It is opti­mal to choose equip­ment that works in track­ing aut­o­fo­cus mode (AI Ser­vo AF or AF‑C). If this option is not present, you can man­u­al­ly focus on the approx­i­mate loca­tion of the mod­el when you press the shut­ter.

If you can still use the flash, the pic­ture can be com­bined. Syn­chro­niza­tion must be set to the rear shor. The pho­tog­ra­ph­er makes the wiring, the flash fires at the end of the move­ment. As a result, the final action will be clear, and the pre­vi­ous ones will remain blur­ry.

An exam­ple of move­ment at a slow shut­ter speed when shoot­ing with pan­ning. It con­veys how fast the ath­lete is mov­ing. Pho­to: thefreedomtrader.com

Without wiring

There is a sec­ond approach. There is no need to move dur­ing the shoot­ing, only the mod­el moves. So often they pho­to­graph water, tracks of lights (from stars to high­ways), peo­ple.

Long expo­sure pho­tog­ra­phy is a won­der­ful artis­tic tech­nique. A pho­to from the City of Shad­ows series. Pho­to: Alex­ey Titarenko

At long expo­sure with­out wiring, beau­ti­ful night pho­tos are obtained. For exam­ple, if you need to shoot a build­ing with bright illu­mi­na­tion, but there is a road between you, along which a lot of cars dri­ve. If you take pic­tures at a short shut­ter speed, then there will be cars in the fore­ground. The pic­ture is ugly and over­flow­ing with unnec­es­sary objects. If you pho­to­graph the city at a slow shut­ter speed, there will be no cars. Only tracks of lights from the dimen­sions and brake lights will remain.

An exam­ple of such a tech­nique is jets of water that are washed out. So you can con­vey how fast the water is mov­ing. Pho­to: needpix.com

Long Exposure Photo Ideas

Light (freezelight)

Light source draw­ings, also known as freeze­light, are a pop­u­lar trend. The secret is that the cam­era will not cap­ture indi­vid­ual places where a flash­light, LED strip or sparkler is locat­ed. There will be a whole pic­ture in the frame, which can be cre­at­ed by a light source.

For such a pic­ture, you will need sev­er­al flash­lights glued togeth­er. Each one needs to be paint­ed in a cer­tain col­or or stick a col­ored stick­er on top. You can imme­di­ate­ly buy col­ored lanterns. The mod­el must not move, the cam­era must be placed on a tri­pod. The assis­tant with the lumi­nous tape turned on must run around the mod­el. It will move quick­ly and only a train of col­ored lights will remain from it in the pic­ture. Illus­tra­tion: YouTube chan­nel Jor­di Koalitic
To take such a pho­to, you need to set a slow shut­ter speed on the cam­era, and attach small lumi­nous flash­lights to the wheel. Illus­tra­tion: YouTube chan­nel Jor­di Koalitic

You can get the effect of scat­tered sparks by wind­ing lit sparklers to the spokes of the wheel. Impor­tant: long expo­sure light draw­ings should be not only beau­ti­ful, but also safe. There­fore, you need to remem­ber about fire safe­ty and be sure to keep near­by some­thing with which you can quick­ly extin­guish the fire.

So, using a slow shut­ter speed on the cam­era and sparklers, you can make inter­est­ing shots. Illus­tra­tion: YouTube chan­nel Jor­di Koalitic

Trails of lights for such shots can be obtained by tying a sparkler tight­ly to a wire. The assis­tant will have to run around the mod­el, unwind the wire to make waves, cir­cles. It is impor­tant to remem­ber that this is a fire haz­ardous object and must be used very care­ful­ly. For exam­ple, away from flam­ma­ble objects. You can make the process safer by replac­ing the lights with flash­lights.


Shoot­ing at long expo­sure with­out wiring helps to get beau­ti­ful shots of water bod­ies. There­fore, this tech­nique is often used when shoot­ing land­scapes. The stronger the rip­ples on the water, the longer the shut­ter speed will be need­ed to even out it.

Impor­tant: if there is a strong wind, and there are many small trees or shrubs around, then not only the waves, but also the leaves will become blur­ry. There­fore, it is bet­ter to choose calm days for film­ing.

Ocean, lake, water­fall, foun­tain — any place where there is water will do. Pho­to: resepkuu.my.id
In the water at slow shut­ter speeds, you can shoot not only land­scapes. An unusu­al effect will com­ple­ment the wed­ding shoot­ing or love sto­ry. Image: YouTube chan­nel B&H Pho­to Video

Read also:

Unusu­al ideas for wed­ding pho­tos in 2022

A long expo­sure pho­to of the water­fall can be sup­ple­ment­ed. For exam­ple, if there is a per­son in the frame, this will empha­size the pow­er, swift­ness, strength of the ele­ments and the fragili­ty of the human fig­ure in com­par­i­son with it. Pho­to: vsegda-pomnim.com

Water can be shot beau­ti­ful­ly both at slow shut­ter speeds and at short shut­ter speeds. The first will help to show the dynam­ics, the move­ment of splash­es or cur­rents. The sec­ond allows you to stop the action. The frame is sharp and clear.

You can clear­ly see the dif­fer­ence between the long (first image) and short (sec­ond) in the pho­to. Illus­tra­tion: British Acad­e­my of Pho­tog­ra­phy YouTube chan­nel

people in the crowd

The ghost peo­ple in the back­ground look very impres­sive. This way you can make beau­ti­ful long expo­sure por­traits of peo­ple, unusu­al shots for wed­dings and fam­i­ly pho­to shoots.

What should be done? Put the mod­el among the crowd. If this is a sub­way, a busy street, then the mod­el just needs to stand sta­t­i­cal­ly for a while. The flow of peo­ple is large, there is no need to invent any­thing extra. But if there is no crowd, you can take 3–4 assis­tants and ask them to quick­ly walk around.

In the pho­to, time has stopped not for the whole world, but only for two peo­ple. Illus­tra­tion: YouTube chan­nel B&H Pho­to
“Ghosts” on the street. Pho­to: tr.pinterest.com


Shoot­ing a car at a slow shut­ter speed with wiring is the method that we described at the very begin­ning of the arti­cle. It can be used to show move­ment. This method is dif­fi­cult, since you need to adapt to do the main thing — wiring, in order to get a clear object against a blurred back­ground.

An exam­ple of a long expo­sure shot. Pho­to: mobillegends.net

If you refuse wiring and shoot sta­t­i­cal­ly, you can get beau­ti­ful and spec­tac­u­lar streaks of light.

Bright plumes look beau­ti­ful against the back­drop of the city at night. Pho­to: improvephotography.com

You can get inter­est­ing pho­tos with a long expo­sure col­or trail at night not only near busy high­ways. For exam­ple, against the back­ground of a black sky, a spin­ning and lumi­nous carousel looks fab­u­lous.

An exam­ple of a snap­shot of a carousel. Pho­to: wallhere.com


Tak­ing pic­tures of the star­ry sky with a long expo­sure at night, you can get beau­ti­ful shots. For exam­ple, you can cap­ture the move­ment of the stars. Details on how to orga­nize such a sur­vey were described in a sep­a­rate arti­cle.

An exam­ple of a snap­shot of star tracks. Pho­to: en.wallpaper.mob.org


You can catch the move­ments of dancers, show expres­sion, speed, grace with the help of this tech­nique. You will need a flash and shoot­ing with wiring. This will allow you to catch the last move­ment of the dancer, and all the pre­vi­ous ones will remain a beau­ti­ful blur­ry train.

A spec­tac­u­lar shot can be tak­en both on stage and in the stu­dio. Pho­to: 2.bp.blogspot.com

We hope that the exam­ples in this arti­cle will help you cre­ate spec­tac­u­lar shots. Long expo­sure is a sim­ple tool that can be used to make almost any pic­ture dynam­ic and inter­est­ing.