I am asked nearly daily on social media "how do you do Long Exposure photography?"
Well, the answer is really quite simple.
For Long Exposure or LE photography as we will call it you need two things...
Firstly a tripod.
Secondly a set of Filters.
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Long Exposure photograph at Giants Causeway.This was a photograph I took at the beautiful Giants Causeway as the wave washed down the rocks.
To understand LE photography always remember that a photograph is just captured light.
Each photo needs to be correctly exposed (to have enough light, neither too much nor too little). Our aim as photographers is to balance light correctly (something I will post about later).
A long exposure shot is simply one where the camera absorbs the image (light) for longer this then creates a blurred effect on moving objects like cars, stars or primarily water as seen in many of my photographs.
You can use this effect to manually create the surreal out of the ordinary, to capture an image is a wonderful feeling but to create something you truly love and can enjoy daily is an experience second to none.
An LE shot can be anything from half a second to minutes long. Most LE shots are within the 30-second mark though.
Long Exposure Know HowA long exposure photograph of Dunworley bay in beautiful West Cork
So here we go.
How do we reduce the light to the cameras? How does the camera interact with light? That's the first thing you must understand and its actually very simple. So stick with me :-)
The first method is a neutral density filter (darkened glass) this reduces the light allowed into the lens. This ND (neutral density) filter acts like sunglasses for your camera :-).
This sits in front of the lens blocking a percentage of the light and can be purchased in two main varieties. Screw on filters (physically screws on to the lens) or secondly a filter holder which can hold a few different filters at the same time and can be removed easily (very important).
You can purchase these in various strength's depending again on the effect you want and the light level you are shooting in. Which basically means you have darker glass and lighter glass.
A simple shotThis photograph is just a simple long exposure image of a few rocks popping out of the water.
The second way is to use the aperture of the lens, using a high aperture or F-stop eg. F16.
Now I know this sounds complicated again but think of it like this...
The aperture on your camera acts exactly the same as your own Iris in your eye. When its bright your eye closes so you don't absorb too much light and when its dark it opens wide to absorb as much as possible.
We can control the Aperture on the lens in either manual mode (I always use manual), A, AP or AV mode which is generally the Aperture Priority mode. The more we increase the F-number or F-Stop the more we close the "iris" hence less light. By decreasing the light in the camera it means we need to take a slower photograph to slowly let the correct amount of light in to create the photograph which in turn creates the desired motion blur.
Lastly, your camera can also by itself vary the exposure time required through the ISO setting. ISO just varies the sensitivity of the light receiver or sensor in your camera.
The ISO setting should be set to manual and at ISO100 or the lowest native or real ISO setting on your specific camera.
Combining a neutral density filter, high F-stop (F16) and a low ISO mean your camera in the aperture priority mode will need to take a long exposure to correctly expose the image.
Blue hour in Mizen HeadA long exposure photograph taken in Mizen Head.
It pays to experiment, so after sunset tonight why not try taking a photograph of the clouds directly overhead.
Firstly setup your Tripod and adjust your Camera's Iso to ISO100 or 200 whichever is your lowest. Point your camera upwards, zoom out fully and set the F-stop to say F16.
In aperture priority mode your camera will generally select the correct shutter speed. Take a few shots under different light and see the effect.
Tip: Having a building in the image will help ground the image. This will not create a beautiful photograph but it will help you to understand how it all works.
Ghost images are simply done by standing in the frame of the image while the photograph is being taken for a certain period of time but not all the exposure time. It's vital you stay completely still.