Some topics instill trepidation in photographers – especially those who are just beginning to hone their craft. Long exposure photography often falls into that category, although there is nothing to fear as long as you’re open to experimentation and are willing to learn how to adapt to different situations.
In order to create long exposure images, you’ll need just a few specific tools. A trusty tripod is key and a DSLR camera capable of creating long exposure images. Photographing moving light, such as those adorning a Ferris wheel or a highway packed with nighttime traveling cars, takes a bit of practice as light travels at different speeds in each instance. As you practice, you’ll begin to get a feel for how – and when – to adjust your exposure settings.
Check your surroundings to determine how much available light is currently affecting your nighttime surroundings. If there is substantial ambient light from sources such as office buildings, signs and traffic, your selected shutter speed will be shorter. If the environment is an evening sky with little surrounding light, be ready to extend your shutter speed, possibly up to several minutes.
One way to practice nighttime exposure techniques is to photograph a highway with substantial traffic. Mount the camera on a sturdy tripod and select a location that provides a wide view of traffic. As you extend the shutter settings, you’ll notice that the light patterns of the traffic will change. For example, they might start to look thinner and more detailed as you increase the exposure time. This particular exercise is a solid way to learn how to adjust camera settings for nighttime photography. You can then move on to other more challenging environments and will be able to call upon this new earned experience moving forward.
Mastering long exposure photography is a skill that can improve your imagery in several other situations as it provides training for how to adjust exposure based on various lowlight situations. It is also one of the more artistic expressions of the craft and the stunning results created will certainly stand out in your portfolio.