3 Tips for Long Exposure Photography with a Digital Camera

Learn about long exposure photography from commercial photographer Dan Bracaglia in this digital photography lesson from Howcast.

A really popular form of photography is long exposure photography, which is really great for night scenes, for just kind of pulling out detail that the normal eye, your physical eye wouldn’t ordinarily see.

This is something that you’re going to need a tripod for if you want to attempt. Here’s an example of one that I shot. This is in Hoboken, looking out at a dock with seagulls. And the reason I did this as a long exposure, other than the fact that it was a night time shot, was to kind of give a very soft appearance to the waves in the water. If you extend out your shutter speed, really interesting things start to happen.

This one, in particular happens to be an eight second exposure, so it gave it just enough time for the water that was slowly coming in, just to smooth out and have a really nice sort of cottony flow. It’s also really popular with photographs of highways or street scenes, to get those long streaks of light. It’s important also to remember, you know, with a photo like this, that if you’re doing a long exposure, you’re going to need to compensate both your ISO and/or your aperture to make up for the fact that you’re letting a lot of light in over a long period of time.

Mine was for eight seconds, but there’s no reason you couldn’t do a 30 second exposure, a one minute exposure, a one hour exposure. Let’s say you were going to attempt a one hour exposure, you’d probably want a really, really high F-stop with a really tiny opening just to control that light as it comes in and maybe a low ISO.

It’s all about that equation just keeping everything balanced. But you know at night time it’s really easy to do that because there’s not a lot of light you’re working with to begin with. As long as you have something to stabilize your camera with, it’s really easy to try and there’s a lot of creativity that you can get into if you do decide to give it a try.

And those are just the basics of long exposure photography.