WEDDING SEASON SALE! 30% Off Training Systems!

Your content will be up shortly. Please allow up to 5 seconds
Tips & Tricks

5 Long Exposure Tips To Maximize Creativity

By Shivani Reddy on March 8th 2019

We teamed up with our good friends over at B&H Photo and Video to give you five long exposure tips to maximize creativity. We’re going to teach you how to master a creative technique called a shutter drag, otherwise known as long exposure photography. This will help you maximize and enhance the level of creativity that you bring to each and every single one of your shoots.

Watch the video below:

Gear That You’ll Need For Long Exposure Photography

The most important piece of gear that you’ll need for long exposure photos is a tripod. All of the tips below require a slow shutter speed, usually slower than 1/10th, which means that hand-holding your camera will result in shaky photos. The actual camera body and lens can range from starter kits to professional options.

Tip #1: Creating Silky Smooth Water

One of the most exciting aspects of creative photography is capturing scenes in a way that your eyes wouldn’t normally see them. To accomplish this, here are the steps you need to take:

  1. Set your shutter speed to 1/10th of a second or slower to catch the action of the waves and to create a cloud-like appearance to the water.
  2. Once you take a shot, analyze whether or not your shutter speed is slow enough to show the motion in the water and alter it depending on the desired look.

Tip #2: Light Streaks With Camera Movement

To learn how to achieve this, click here!

There are a number of techniques that we can use to capture light streaks by moving the camera itself. For example, the camera-twist technique incorporates camera motion and direct flash. To create this image, all we have to do is the following:

  1. Slow down your shutter speed to 1/8th of a second in order to let more ambient light into the camera.
  2. Then using an on-camera flash or off-camera flash, freeze your subject with direct lighting.
  3. While you press your shutter button, twist the camera to create motion.

Another camera movement technique we can try is a whip-pan, exemplified in the image you see above. Similar to our last technique, this requires panning the camera, but this time while it is secured onto a tripod.

  1. Place your camera on a tripod and unlock the panning knob in order to move the camera from right to left.
  2. Slow your shutter speed down to 1-2 seconds and use a flash to freeze your subjects while capturing the light streaks with motion.

Tip #3: Light Streaks With Moving Lights

Want to learn how to achieve this? Click here!

Unlike the previous technique, this requires moving lights instead of a moving camera. This look can be achieved using anything from sparklers to string lights, to passing cars.

  1. Place your camera on a tripod.
  2. Set your shutter speed to 1/10th of a second or slower to capture the motion of the light.

Tip #4: Capturing Subjects Under The Milky Way

One of the best uses of creative long exposures is for nightscape photography. Getting the proper exposure at night is challenging, but not impossible.

  1. After placing your camera on a tripod, choose a shutter speed based on the ambient available light.
  2. You can use our rough starting guide (seen below) to dial in your settings based on your choice of a zoom or a prime lens.
  3. You can use a flash to freeze your subjects but remind them to remain very still because we are using slower shutters when photographing the milky way.

Tip #5: Isolate Your Subjects Using Motion Blur

This technique uses a longer exposure to freeze time and create motion blur.

  1. Place your camera on a tripod and take a plate shot of your subjects using a faster shutter speed. This will serve as the foundation of your creation for your main subjects.
  2. Then, slow your shutter speed down to 1/10th of a second or slower based on the desired ambient available light.
  3. Next, take as many photos as you need of people filing in and out of the scene to make the frame appear full.
  4. And last, composite the image of the motion blur with your original plate shot to create the final image.

To master manual mode and other creative photography techniques, check out Photography 101, your A-Z guide to photography. Make sure to subscribe to B&H’s channel to see more of our collaborative content!

This site contains affiliate links to products. We may receive a commission for purchases made through these links, however, this does not impact accuracy or integrity of our content.

Shivani wants to live in a world where laughter is the cure to pretty much everything. Since she can’t claim “Serial Bingewatcher” as an occupation, she’ll settle for wedding/portrait photographer at Lin and Jirsa & marketing coordinator here at SLR Lounge. For those rare moments when you won’t find a camera in her hand, she will be dancing, eating a donut, or most likely watching Seinfeld.

Follow her on Instagram: @shivalry_inc

Q&A Discussions

Please or register to post a comment.