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6 Tips for taking your own long exposure photographs

Last week, when it was baking hot and everyone was sweating enough to fill their own swimming pool (oh no, wait, it’s pretty much still that hot), I shared a desktop wallpaper with you featuring one of my long exposure photographs.

This week, I thought I’d share a few tips for how you can take your own long exposure images. Careful though, they can be addictive.

Long exposure photography works by keeping your camera shutter open for a longer period of time than usual, so that any stationary objects in the picture stay still, but any moving objects in the picture come out blurry, smeared or sometimes completely disappear. The longer you have your shutter open, the more blurred the moving objects become.

I first shared these tips on Twitter, but now I’ve brought them all together here to make them easier to find.

Of course, if you want to blur everything in the image, don’t use a tripod and you can get some interesting abstract effects.

I use a variety of neutral density filters so that I can choose how much light to block from the camera. The darker the filter you use, the longer shutter speed you’re going to be able to have. It means you can take your camera out during the daytime and still get a long enough exposure to blur the shot.

Water and lights make particularly good long exposure images. Try photographing them with varying shutter speeds to get different effects.

If you’re shooting in an area where people are walking about, or traffic is constantly getting in the way, try using a long shutter speed to make them disappear. Again, experiment with different shutter speeds as a ‘ghosting’ effect of moving people can be really spooky.

Image noise (where you can see grain on the image), can show up in long exposure images. Sometimes it’s fine and adds to the ambience, but if you want to avoid it check the settings in your camera and turn on any noise reduction options. You can also remove noise (to varying degrees of success) with a photo editing program. The longer the shutter speed, the more grain you’ll get.

So, armed with a camera, and a few tips, go for it. The most important thing is to experiment, try different things out, see what you like, and enjoy some of the surprising effects you can get from long exposure photography.

But how slow should you go? How long is long enough? The more images you take the more you’ll get a feel for it. Take plenty of images, at plenty of times of day. Don’t limit yourself, and if you love it… some photographers even use shutter speeds that last for months. For the extreme end of long exposure photography, check out some of Michael Wesely’s work.

Have a go, share your results in the comments, and if you have any tips to add then fire away! Happy slow-shutter-shooting.

Want prints? Check out my stores at Redbubble and Society6 for prints and other fancy things.

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