The Phoblographer’s Basic Introduction to Getting Started in Long Exposures

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Long Exposures are images that often make many viewers sit there in total awe. They tend to really emphasize photography’s greatest strength: capturing a single moment and slowing it down to one frame for all to look at. However, they do this by capturing a long space of time in a single photo. Many photographers that do long exposures also shoot pinhole images or do things like light paintings. But before you get up to that level, here’s a quick intro to the medium.


What Are Long Exposures?


Long exposure images are images that are generally shot over a period of seconds–which is what gives them the name. Long exposures are usually done when there is very little light in a scene or you want to capture motion blur. In the image above, News Editor Felix Esser caught the very soft look to the water by using a long exposure. If he used a faster exposure then he would have captured a much less milky scene.

In the lead image, News Writer Michelle Rae used a long shutter speed to capture the blur of car headlights.

All in all–long exposures are generally used to convey a sense of motion in a single image.

What Do You Need?


In order to shoot a long exposure image,  you’re first off going to need some sort of stabilization. While most folks will tell you to get a tripod, you don’t necessarily really need one. All you need is a steady flat surface that won’t move about. There are often makeshift areas of your environment that you can turn into a tripod–or essentially make it have the same functionality.

However, this only works if you’re very lucky and your environment is very forgiving. In most cases, you’ll need a good tripod and a solid steady ballhead.

How Do You Make the Most of Them Creatively?

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Zeiss 55mm f1.4 Otus long exposures (4 of 9)ISO 10030.0 sec at f - 13

In order to make the most of a long exposure, you really need a creative vision. You have to be able to look at a scene and figure out what it will look like when you slow down time and space. That’s something that will come with time. But what you may do later on is add more lights to your scene by mixing in flashlights or having models with LED lights work with you. Then there are even more ideas that can be formed when you incorporate flash work into light exposures.

But for the moment, get out there and start shooting.

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Chris Gampat

Chris Gampat is the Editor in Chief, Founder, and Publisher of the Phoblographer. He also likes pizza.