Long Exposure Photography

Long exposure, time exposure, or also known as slow shutter photography involves using a long duration shutter speed to sharply capture the stationary elements of images while blurring, smearing, or obscuring the moving elements. Long exposure photography captures one element that conventional photography does not, time.

Painting with light, drawing from a light source, and to shine a point of light directly at the camera, low light photography is something that has the potential to create some amazing results from inanimate objects.

Nikon D7100, Nikkor 50mm, ISO 100, 10/1, f/22
Nikon D7100, Nikkor 50mm, ISO 100, 10/1, f/22

Long exposures create a sense of mystery as it softly blur anything that moves. Clouds become streaks, water takes on a cotton candy like appearance and people either disappear or become ghosted figures, and the lights of cars become lights that move.

Nikon D7100, Nikkor 50mm, ISO 100, 10/1, f/22

The most important perk to using a very long exposure is that it simplifies composition. It strips down an image to the basics of lines, shapes, and tonality. These four street shots below were created by 10 seconds exposure over f/22 and minimum ISO of 100.

Nikon D7100, Nikkor 50mm, ISO 400, 10/1, f/22
Nikon D7100, Nikkor 50mm, ISO 400, 10/1, f/22
Nikon D7100, Nikkor 50mm, ISO 400, 10/1, f/22

Notice that ghosting is very visible and obvious in this shot because our model and a passerby suddenly moved while exposing the shot.

Nikon D7100, Nikkor 50mm, ISO 400, 10/1, f/22

When you are looking for subjects that make for good long exposure photographs, pick a scene that has both stationary objects and something that moves. The movement can be found in water, clouds, traffic and people.

Nikon D7100, Nikkor 50mm, ISO 200, 10/1, f/22

This shot is overexposed due to the camera is facing the main source of light, furthermore the light have entered the viewfinder because I didn’t put any cover. To prevent any light from leaking into the camera, cover your camera and lens with a dark cloth or the included eyepiece cap. During very long exposures, light has a way of sneaking into your camera, particularly through the viewfinder.

Nikon D7100, Nikkor 50mm, ISO 200, 10/1, f/22

While I usually do three shots of an image or subject and bracket each of one by half or a full stop, depending on the dynamic range of the composition, it is still important to always shoot on RAW as this will give you the most latitude when you are processing your images. Although I do not process my images that much, with only little adjustments to the brightness and contrast most of the time.

Nikon D7100, Nikkor 50mm, ISO 100, 3/1, f/22

Turn off the noise reduction in your camera because with these long exposures, your sensor will heat up, and you will see a lot of noise in your images. Using the in camera noise reduction tends to cause a loss of detail.

Nikon D7100, Nikkor 50mm, ISO 100, 30/1, f/22

It is most of the time better to deal with noise in post to have complete control over how much and how it is applied. In addition, using noise reduction doubles your exposure time.

Nikon D7100, Nikkor 50mm, ISO 100, 60/1, f/22

Noise reduction takes a second photo immediately after the first, only this time the shutter remains closed. Let your sensor cool off a few minutes between exposures. This will help to mitigate some of the noise that builds up when the sensor gets hot.

I took most of the shots in the streets of Kota Kinabalu tourism district, and prominent areas like Marlin Statue and KK Cafe View Point near Signal Hill where I walked alone for around 15 minutes in a medium lit stairs going up the hill to get the shot of city skyline.