The most exciting part of photography is that it wrestles with your creativity, pushing you to capture moments in life in unorthodox angles and lighting. One way to experiment with your style is to play around with different creative techniques, such as the shutter drag, which is more widely known as long exposure photography. 

Long exposure photography is defined by slowing down the shutter speed to capture the motion of moving objects or to reveal more details in dark environments. When done right, the results often have an ethereal quality in your shots. 

Shooting with a shutter drag can be hit or miss, but all it takes is practice and a few handy tips to go by with every time you go behind the lens, such as the whole nine yards below: 

Long Exposure Photography


1. Understand your exposure triangle 

The essence of photography is to capture light, so having the ability to control how much light enters the lens can make a world of difference in your photos. You can achieve this by getting the ins and outs of a well-known topic called the exposure triangle, which interconnects the ISO, shutter speed, and aperture. 

Using the exposure triangle allows you to reduce your ISO and the size of the lens aperture, both of which can increase your exposure. At the same time, as more light enters the scene due to the shutter drag, you can still properly capture your subjects in crisp quality – be it during the evening or bright daylight – due to the balance between the exposure triangle.


2. Use a sturdy tripod

Shooting long exposures can only be achieved by using a sturdy tripod. There is no way that anyone would be able to hold a camera steady by hand for even a couple of seconds. If you don’t have a high-quality tripod, you can rest your camera on a wall or on something like a bag. Alternatively, you can hang a bag of stones on the base of a flimsy tripod to stabilize the shot.

Long Exposure Photography

3. Extend exposure time by using a neutral density (ND) filter 

Allowing your shutter to stay open for longer periods can risk overexposing your shots. Fortunately, you can solve the problem by using Neutral Density (ND) filters as sunglasses that can minimize the amount of light going through the camera sensor. 

The darker the filters, the stronger it becomes at reducing light at longer exposure times. This means that using a ten-stop ND filter can turn your 1/125 shutter speed into a full eight-second exposure for your artistic shot. 


4. Use a remote release to avoid camera shake

Using your own hands to press on the shutter button for long exposure shots inevitably leads to camera shake. This will compromise the quality of your image, so it’s best to invest in a remote release when dabbling in long exposure photography. Or alternatively, you can set your camera on a timer.

Long Exposure Photography

Long exposure photography is an exciting technique as it can add a magical touch to your photos, especially during the night where there is a clear distinction between dark and light. Capturing water creates an ethereal result as it becomes like a silky fog while capturing the night sky leaves you with a breathtaking shot of star trails. 

Fortunately, learning how to master long exposure photography is highly accessible even to rookies. If you’re looking to book a photography tour or workshop, get in touch with us today to see how we can help!

Kav Dadfar is a travel photographer and author of almost 400 articles on photography. He has years of experience shooting assignments and his images having been used by some of the biggest brands in the world.

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