Long Exposures made easy

I get asked alot how do I get long exposures that mist water so I thought I would do a short post without will as little jargon as possible.

what you need

1. A tripod – get the best you can afford and it will last you for years. I have had my manfrotto for 7 years. If you dont have a dslr (a camera with interchangeable lenses) then you might get away with a smaller cheaper alternative.

2. Camera – Again you don’t need a dslr any camera with a manual setting (where you control the settings of shutter speed etc) even the iphone has apps for long exposure e.g. slow shutter app

above shot taken on my s95 point and shoot camera

3. Filters – basically its like sunglasses for your camera, they reduce the light going in your camera. You can buy screw in ones that are cheaper or a filter set. I use cokin z pro series,which is a filter set, however you can get cheaper versions of filter sets. They attach to the front of your lens. If you have a point and shoot these won’t fit however all you need to do is wait til it gets abit darker. If you can only buy 1 filter I would go with ND Grad (darker at the top than the bottom of the filter), they help stop you overexposing the sky.

Ok so you have the kit what now

1. Set up tripod and switch camera to manual, make sure your iso (this part of your settings is telling your sensor how sensitive it should be to light) is low as possible to start with).

2. Set your camera to timed shutter release so it will take the picture after a few seconds rather than when you fully depress the shutter button. This will help keep your pictures sharper as pressing the button can move the camera). You can buy a remote shutter release which is helpful but not essential.

3. Set your camera to RAW instead of Jpeg if it has this setting. RAW means that the pictures you take have more information and you can adjust them more after your shoot. Don’t have RAW don’t worry, jpeg will do its just a tip to help.

4. Focus on what you want. If you can switch from auto focus to manual do this, as once you have the filters on it may make it harder for the focus to lock on something.

5. Next turn your f.stops up F10 upwards (In basic terms it affects how much light goes to your sensor, it does affect depth of field etc but thats for a different post). Depending on how light your scene is and ability of lens / camera)

6. Your camera will have an exposure bar on it ””’I”” adjust the shutter speed so that the arrow is near the centre.see above (tip i tend to underexpose – arrow to the left of the middle as it will give you richer colours). to start getting misty water you need at least an exposure of 0.5secs. If you haven’t got this then its time for the filters as they reduce the light to the sensor so you will need a longer exposure!

If there is alot of contrasting light (beautifully bright sunset) then your camera may not be able to tell you the right exposure, don’t worry look at your shot, to bright? move your shutter speed closer to 0.5 a second in small increments. Too dark? make the shutter speed longer.

As you practice you will get your own system and be able to judge settings instinctively. No water? the above works for light trails and cityscapes at night.

Please comment whether you found this helpful, have questions and with reduced jargon.

I run 1:1 coaching and workshops in the central belt of scotland, if you are interested drop me an email.

more of my work can be seen here http://www.flickr.com/photos/7382165@N04/

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2 thoughts on “Long Exposures made easy

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