The Photo


(Click here to view a larger version!)

The Equipment and Settings

  • Nikon D5200
  • Tokina 11-16mm f/2.8 @ 15mm
  • FotoPro C5i Tripod
  • 30 sec @ f/2.8 & ISO 100
  • Manual Exposure, Manual WB, RAW
  • B+W Neutral Density filter (10-stop)

How We Shot It

I created this image while doing a tutorial on how to use neutral density filters in landscape photography.  I had brought a 10-stop ND filter, a 3-stop ND filter, and a circular polarizer.  (A circular polarizer usually darkens your images by about a stop or two, in addition to it’s reflection-cutting abilities).

8SLR-Lounge-long-exposure-portraitNikon D5200, Tokina 11-16mm f/2.8 @ 12mm, Fotopro C5i Tripod,
30 sec exposure w/ 10-stop ND filter, ISO 100 @ f/8

I just happened to be at the beach at the same time as another photographer from our studio (Lin & Jirsa) was shooting a portrait session.  So, after shooting most of the afternoon without any human subjects, I decided to finish off the sunset with a portrait of sorts.

Unfortunately, I don’t know of any human beings who can hold perfectly still for 30 seconds! So, I knew this was going to require a little bit of trickery.

The first thing I did was I “covered my bases” with a dark exposure that gave me detail in the sky:


I captured this image just in case my 30 sec. exposure for the watery motion blur happened to blow out the sky.  I would be able to use an HDR technique in post-production.

[Related Article: 10 Common Long Exposure Photography Mistakes]

Fortunately I didn’t need that image, I managed to achieve a single 30 sec. exposure that got great detail in the shadowy tide pools below without blowing out the sky:


It was cutting things close, and required the full use of my camera’s dynamic range, but I was able to process this image for both the highlights and shadows.  But more on that in a minute.

[Click here to check out our SLR Lounge HDR processing technique DVD workshop!]


After I captured this 30 sec. exposure that I was happy with, I quickly un-threaded my 77mm B+W Neutral Density Filter and adjusted my exposure to capture an image in which my subjects were perfectly sharp.  The photographer who was actually shooting this couple’s portrait session posed them for me, with a simple “closed-up pose” because it allows them to hold pretty still and looked very romantic in the scene.  I landed at 1/13 sec. @ f/5.6 & ISO 100.

[REWIND: Watch my video on suggestions for portraits at very slow shutter speeds]


[To learn more about posing in natural light, click here to check out our Natural Light Portraiture Workshop DVD]


The Post-Processing

The first thing I did was process the original 30 sec. exposure:


I used the SLR Lounge preset system’s HDR presets, with a few additional tweaks to the highlights and shadows.  Basically with an image like this, you wind up maxing out your highlight and white recovery at almost -100, and your shadow/black recovery at almost +100.  Some cameras may not be able to handle this much crazy processing, or some photographers may prefer less of an HDR-y look, but I like the way it looks.  :-)

The next thing to do was to copy and paste these settings onto the other image where the couple was actually sharp, and then adjust them slightly if necessary to perfectly match this overall exposure and color.  Sometimes an ND filter can cause a color cast, so you may have to tweak your WB or Tint in order to get things perfect:


Last but not least, a little bit of cloning and layer masking in Photoshop was necessary, and voila!


As you can see, it was really a very simple process that only required simple cloning techniques in Photoshop. Of course, if I had wanted to do even less work, I could have yelled at everybody else on the beach to get out of my photo, but I prefer not to be “that guy” if you know what I mean…

If you have any questions, please feel free to leave a comment below!

Take care, and happy clicking,
=Matthew Saville=

 Learn HDR Photography

For more HDR education, be sure to check out HDR Tutorial by SLR Lounge. This comprehensive “gold standard” guide will give you a mastery of HDR photography, from the scene considerations to the actual shooting to the post production. Click here for more info.

Natural Light Portraiture

If you are interested in becoming a master at natural light portraits, (photographing couples) …then you should check out our Natural Light Portraits for Couples DVD Workshop!  This comprehensive video workshop collection will help you master everything about photographing people in a simple, natural light setting…  Click here to visit the SLR Loune Store and get more info.

The SLR Lounge Preset System

The SLR Lounge Preset System is designed to enable Lightroom users to achieve virtually any look and effect within 3-5 simple clicks. From basic color correction, vintage fades, black & white effects, tilt-shift effects, faux HDR, retouching, detail enhancing, and so much more. The sky is the limit with what has been dubbed the most powerful and intuitive preset system available. Click the link above to learn more/purchase!  The SLR Lounge Preset System is now available for both Lightroom 5 and Adobe Camera Raw. (Bridge CS6 and CC only, click for more info.)

You can also purchase the SLR Lounge Preset System as part of the Lightroom 5 Workshop Collection.