Long exposure in photography; It is a technique that allows you to get great photos by extending the photo shooting time. The subject of long exposure is one of the most frequently asked questions of photographers who have started taking photographs, learned the basics and now feel ready to take them to the next level. In this article, I will try to touch on all the details about long exposure.

With long exposure photo; we can make the flow of a river, waterfall, clouds, movement of people or cars, movement of any object again more interesting. In long exposure, everything that moves during the exposure leaves a trace in the direction in which it moves.

The main things you need for long exposure photo;

  • Wired / wireless timer,
  • Tripod
  • Neutral density filter in daytime conditions

If our equipment is ok for long exposure photo let’s run to take amazing waterfall photos. Oh, be careful, do not drop your machine into the water like us:)

long exposure equipment

Although your long exposure option differs depending on the model of your camera, it is usually 30 seconds. If you want to make longer exposures than your camera allows you, you can make longer exposures using the ‘Bulb’ (abbreviation ‘B’) mode.

long exposure cameras

1 / 100-10 seconds to shoot the movement of sparks, 1 / 4-30 seconds to shoot a waterfall or river, 1 / 2-120 seconds for moving people / cars, 1-4 hours to shoot the traces of stars you may need to do it. These numbers can be much more according to your needs. During the exposure, you cannot wait for your hand to hold down the button, if any vibrations occur and you get blurred photos. Even if your tripod does not stand on a solid surface or there is wind, you will be more likely to get blurry photos.

neutral density filter

Neutral density (ND) filters reduce the light by a certain proportion according to the number it receives, enabling long exposure. With a ND 0.6 (2 stops) filter, you can make exposure for 1-2 seconds in daytime conditions and with a ND 3.0 (10 stops) filter for about 15-30 seconds.

neutral density tips

If you are exposed with a dark filter like ND 3.0, trees and branches swaying due to the wind will be blurred in your photo. In such cases, it will be more appropriate to shoot with a less dark filter for 1-2 seconds or to direct the frame to stationary subjects.

Another important problem with dark filters such as ND 3.0 is the wrong white balance calculation caused by the darkness of these filters. Incorrect calculation of your camera will cause your photos to be obvious and undesirable to color differences. For example, a photograph taken at sunset may turn into a very red or purple tone. Therefore, it is necessary to shoot RAW and then correct the white balance or colors manually. To partially reduce these chromatic aberration, be sure to close the screen of your viewfinder during shooting. By closing it, you can prevent the light entering through the viewfinder from reaching the sensor.


Another important aspect is grain, which is caused by long exposure. Activate the “Long Exposure Number” option of your camera when you are going to keep your exposure time longer than a few seconds. In this way, you can reduce the grain in dark areas.


If you do not have a ND filter, set the ISO setting of your machine to the smallest possible number and reducing the diaphragm you can do long exposure for 1-2 seconds. If you even have a polarizing filter, you can iuse it and reduce the light by 1-2 stops.

long exposure settings

You cannot use autofocus with dark ND filters in long exposures because your camera will have difficulty choosing the focal point as at night. You can fix this problem by doing the focus before using the filter and then switching it to manual focus mode. In addition, exposure is often less than usual with dark ND filters. You can overcome this problem with manual mode or by using exposure compensation. With trial and error, you can keep the correct exposure in the second or third attempt. If you are going to make very long exposures like star traces, since you do not have the chance to trial and error, starting the shooting by doing the calculation properly ensures that all your effort is not wasted.

Pablo Picasso

You can also use long exposure to paint with light. Note that light painting is also a separate field of photography.


Finally, let’s say you don’t have the budget to spend on expensive ND 3.0 filters, so I want to give you a cheap alternative. A friend of mine bought a welding glass from the hardware store and fixed it in front of the lens with rubber bands, and the quality of the photos he took in this way was almost the same compared to expensive ND filters. I think it’s worth it instead of $ 100.

If you need more ideas, technique, tips and tutorials you can check our Photography page here.


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About Me

Digital photography ideas, tips, techniques and tutorials for camera owners of all levels.