Long Exposure Photographs Are Simply Amazing

long exposure photographs
Use a long exposure to dramtically transform your scene from a snapshot to a work of art.

If you’re looking to transform your images from snapshots into stunning creative photos, try experimenting with long exposure photographs. All you need is a camera that supports bulb exposure mode,  a tripod, and in some cases a dark filter. In twilight conditions, long exposure photographs are pretty easy. Set your lens aperture to f/16 or f/22 and then set your camera’s ISO value to its the lowest possible setting.

To capture long exposure photographs during the day, you’ll need to add a dark filter to your lens. These filters, called a solid neutral density filters, enable you to capture a long exposure photograph during the day. In either case, keep in mind that you’ll need a solid tripod to make a long exposure photograph.

How Long Exposure Photographs Transform Your Images

Here are just a few ways how a long exposure photograph delivers maximum impact, especially in places that are popular with photographers. Use a long exposure and deliver dynamic images with the “wow” factor you can’t capture with a snapshot.

Capture moving lights and create dynamic images at twilight
long exposure photographs
Passing cars at the Chicago Theater, Chicago, IL

All I needed for this image was to set a low ISO on my Nikon D810 camera and then use a small aperture on my lens. The moving cars did the rest of the work for me, and created beautiful streaks of light and color as they whizzed by my tripod.

Transform moving water into silky-smooth flows or create the sense of negative space
long exposure photographs
A long exposure photograph at Buckingham Fountain, Chicago, IL
long exposure photographs
A 75-second exposure at Lake Skaneateles, New York

These shots were taken in daylight conditions and required the use of a solid neutral density filter. In order to nail the shot, I calculated the exposure manually based on the filter strength. Because I used a long exposure, the water becomes smooth and empty, even though it was a windy morning on the lake. In addition, I used black and white to make the image more interesting.

Convey a dynamic sense of motion in travel photos
long exposure photographs
River taxis at dusk, San Antonio, TX

If you’re traveling, nothing transforms a scene like  moving people or vehicles blurred by a slow shutter speed. Moreover, this image really delivers a powerful sense of motion and is why I carry a small tripod when photographing cities. Even though they can be a pain to carry, your tripod will be the difference in capturing epic photographs.

Make moving clouds a dynamic element in landscape photos
long exposure photographs
Long exposure photograph of clouds moving over Independence, CO

This photograph is the result of a 164-second exposure.  Because the scene was bright, I had to use a 15-stop solid filter on my lens. I love how the moving clouds became wonderful wisps in the sky.

Want to learn more about long exposure digital photography?
Long Exposure Photograph Guide
The complete guide to long exposure photography by Jason P. Odell, Ph.D.

Check out my complete PDF guide to long exposure photography, Stretching Time, or sign up for my email newsletter to get tips right in your inbox each month.

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