An introduction to long exposure photos (without an ND)

January 3, 2018 by Mike in Hints and tips How to tutorial 0 comments
An introduction to long exposure photos (without an ND)

Today I am going to show you an easy way to get into long exposure photography without an ND filter.

Now this won’t get you those classic daytime long exposure shots but it will teach you all about long exposure photography and how the settings change as the amount of light drops going into the camera. Long exposure photography is similar to night time and astrophotography, so hopefully you’ll get lots of value from this lesson.

All you need is a camera and a tripod, a few hours before and after sunset in a safe place and a bit of knowledge behind your menus in your camera. Also

First of all, you need to set up the camera properly. This is more of a learning exercise than a photo capturing session but if you go somewhere interesting, you could easily get a great image. It will also show you how the light changes from day to night.

With long exposure, the clue is in the name. It’s all about shutter speed and how long it is open, the longer the shutter is open for, the longer the light streaks are and the more smooth and dreamy water and moving clouds become.

So this is the idea:

Head out about an hour before sunset to where you’ve planned to shoot. Shoot through sunset and into the blue hour, then through until it is officially night time.

Here are the steps:

01. Set your camera mode to aperture priority (A/Av)

02. Set your ISO to 100

03. Set your aperture to f8

04. Make sure your exposure compensation is set to 0

05. Frame your shot up so you’re pointing 90 degrees to the sun

06. Set your focus and change it to manual focus

07. Change the drive mode to self timer with a 2 second delay

08. If you’re shooting a mirrored camera, find the lock up mirror mode

09. Switch your camera to shoot RAW (if your editing your photos, this will give you so much more latitude)

10. Turn off the Noise Reduction process, otherwise you’ll have to wait ages between shots

Then take a photograph.

If your photo looks over exposed (the highlights look blow-out/white), use your exposure compensation to fix this; dial it down into the negative figures, this will tell the camera you want a slightly darker shot than it has exposed for.

Similarly, if your photo looks underexposed, use exposure compensation to bring it up a little, by going into the positive figures.

Click here for a downloadable PDF of this list. Print it off and take it with you.

The main thing is to get your camera as solid as possible, so when it is taking the photograph, you’re not touching it and it isn’t moving. If there’s a little bit of wind about, try hanging your bag off the bottom of your tripod to make it a little more sturdy.

Then continue doing this through the sunset and into blue hour.

Notice how the shutter speed drops as the camera compensates for the dropping light. If you are near the equator like we are this will happen quickly but the further you are away, the longer you will have to wait.

You will go through the golden hour, which is always a good time to shoot, and then once the sun sets, into the blue hour. Keep shooting until you reach dusk. Notice how as the shutter speed drops everything moving in the shot becomes blurry. People moving become blurrs and blobs, water smooths out and clouds, if moving, become more streaky, and can give you nice leading lines in the shot.

As you’re not using a remote shutter release, you will be limited to the 30 second exposure time….or whatever the longest exposure time is for your camera. If you reach this and your images start to get dark, drop the aperture down to compensate for this. If you do get into this kind of photography, it would be worth buying a remote shutter release….then you can put your camera into bulb mode and take really long exposures!

One other bonus to this tutorial is that it’ll teach you where the sweet spot is when taking photos around sunset. Everyone thinks it is during the sunset; but for me, I’ve got some of my most favourite shots just after sunset in the blue hour.

Now the next time you go out, try this in manual mode. All you have to do is keep your exposure meter around 0. Do exactly what we did here, but manually adjust the shutter speed. As the light drops and you see on your meter that it is under exposed open up the shutter for longer.

One thing you’ll find is that if you don’t like the image due to it being too light or dark, you can play around with the shutter speed, aperture and ISO to get the exposure you want (as you’re in fully manual mode, exposure compensation won’t work).

If you enjoy these shots at dusk, it’s definitely worth buying an ND filter. If you want one, I’d advise getting a fixed one instead of a variable filter. You will get cleaner images then and all you’lll need is an ND conversion chart.

Thanks for all your support. If you want to see more tutorials, hints and tips, go to my youtube page, subscribe and turn on notifications for weekly videos.


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