Long Exposure Photography Ideas
Although there are countless long exposure photography ideas to explore, in this article I’ll show you a few examples, but first let me explain what long exposure photography is.
It’s the process of exposing the camera sensor (or film) for an extended period of time.
This is quite normal in low light situations because of the low amount of light that reaches the sensor.
But what if we wanted to extend the exposure time in day light?
Neutral Density (ND) Filter
Certainly, with an enormous amount of light reaching the sensor it would be impossible without overexposing the image.
In this case we would need a Neutral Density filter, or ND filter, that reduces equally the intensity of light entering the lens; Hence, allowing to extend the exposure time without overexposing.
Although my personal choice of ND filter is LEE Filters Big Stopper which reduces the exposure by 10 stops, yet there are several different brands to choose from and they all make them with different strengths such as 1 stop, 3, 5, 10 or even 15 stops.
Long Exposure Examples
There are a great number of examples when to apply long exposure.
I, personally, like this technique because I find the end result more captivating. There are other times when I just want to get rid of people or moving objects.
In landscape photography, it also creates a sense of movement by making clouds look creamy or by softening the water of the sea, rivers and waterfalls.
Long exposure is challenging and fun to accomplish. It also makes me slow down without rushing the shot and appreciate the scenery more.
In this article you will find a few long exposure photography ideas.
Certainly, one of the most common long exposure photography ideas is found in Seascapes.
By using a slow shutter speed we can capture an image that shows a prolonged period of time in one single frame rather than a frozen moment.
It allows the image to show the movement of the water and give a feeling of serenity and tranquillity.
A fast shutter speed instead would show the power of the surf hitting the rocks on the beach.
Long Exposure Photography Ideas for Waterfalls
Similarly, one of the greatest long exposure examples is to make a waterfall look smooth and silky.
Furthermore, photographing waterfalls, for an extended period of time, gives a sense of peace and quietude.
It lets the imagination play an important part. It also removes the loudness of the water falling with power.
It’s important, while photographing waterfalls, to avoid direct sunlight on the water, as it would blow up the highlights in the water and would create white patches with no details.
So, the best time would be early morning, or preferably with an overcast or a cloudy sky.
I, sometimes, use a polarising filter to remove reflected glare due to the light from the sun bouncing off the rock’s surface. It also makes the water transparent.
I use a Circular Polariser from LEE Filters which will reduce exposure up to 1⅔ stops.
Above all, one of my favourite long exposure photography ideas is to take photos of rivers, usually with bridges.
The ND filter allows me to increase the exposure time and, consequently, enables me to smooth the water to a point that the river looks frozen. I find it more appealing and entrancing.
Water reflection is a lot of fun.
By using an ND filter to control the length of time and, therefore, the effect of the reflection, it’s even more fun!
For instance, a 5 second exposure gives a different result compared to a 10 or a 15 second exposure.
The longer the time, the more detailed the reflection will be.
Long Exposure Photography Ideas for Night Photography
We don’t need a Neutral Density filter with night photography, in other words, we’re already shooting in low light.
Due to the low amount of light that hits the camera sensor, it’s crucial to have the camera mounted on a tripod in low light conditions to avoid unwanted camera shake effect.
Light Trails from Cars
Photographing light trails from cars is one of my preferred long exposure photography ideas.
The final image is always surprising.
Despite the fact that we cannot expect the effect of the light trails captured in the image, we should always plan the composition of the picture in advance by envisioning where the light trails will fall into the frame.
But always remember to keep it as simple as possible and most importantly… be safe!
For the next image I wanted to try a technique used by some photographers to accentuate the energy of traffic. I took 8 long exposure shots and I stacked them together in Photoshop.
Quite frankly, I realised I didn’t really need to do that because the traffic in Bangkok is already insane – no need to emphasise it.
In fact, my pictures were very similar to one another. So, after having chosen my favourite one out of the 8 shots, for the sake of trying this technique I just took bits and pieces from the other images.
The following picture is the final result.
Ferris Wheel Light Trails
A safer example of long exposure is to photograph ferris wheels at night. Again, the end result is always unexpected and impressing.
Long Exposure Photography Ideas for People
There are times when we don’t want people in our frame. How annoying to have people taking selfies in your shot!
Therefore, by using a Neutral Density filter we can substantially reduce this problem. So, we can motion blur people to make them look like ghosts.
Distracting Moving Objects
Similarly, the same principle goes for unattractive floating objects that pollute the water in front of us like rubbish or debris.
Another example of long exposure is to photograph moving clouds to make them look creamy.
The sky looks more awesome!
Still wondering why using these long exposure photography ideas?
Because the outcome is often exciting and highly rewarding. It’s an advanced photography technique but with time you will get the hang of it.
So go out and get long exposing!
For landscape photography of Southeast Asia, please, visit my Scapes page.
You may also want to check out my other travel articles on my blog posts page.
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