long exposures for creative images

Survey your assortment of photographs, and I’d wager that the majority can have been taken at 1/30th of a second or sooner. Often, we wish to freeze any motion, getting as sharp a picture as potential. Different occasions, nonetheless, we would wish to purposefully use lengthy exposures for inventive photographs.

Silky waterfalls, streaked clouds, oceans waves that look extra like mist – these are the pictures the place we would use shutter speeds that final a number of seconds or even minutes. However how a couple of middle-ground, say a 5-second publicity? What sorts of appears to be like would possibly that offer you?

Fun 5-Second Photos - Using Long Exposures for Creative Images
I needed to faucet into the frozen, non-moving ice and the shifting fluid water on this photograph. I wanted an ND filter to get me to the shutter velocity I needed. Canon 6D with Canon 24-105mm lens, 6-seconds, f/22 ISO 100.

For the examples on this article, let’s be a bit of versatile saying something between 4 and eight seconds is what we’re keen on.

Luckily, Lightroom can filter photographs by trying on the shutter velocity recorded within the Exif information. I used to be simply capable of see which of the over 105,500 photographs in my Lightroom catalog fell into that vary. It was simply 1,036 of these or .981%.

So, whereas maybe shutter speeds within the 5-second vary usually are not typically used for basic pictures, as you will notice, sometimes that vary is good for the look you search.

Tripod or hand-held?

The “inverse focal-length rule” says that to stop digital camera shake blur it’s best to at all times attempt to shoot at 1/lens focal size as your minimal for hand-holding your digital camera. For instance, utilizing your 70-200mm zoom lens for those who have been zoomed huge to 70mm your shutter velocity needs to be 1/70th or sooner like 1/100th of a second.

Zoom in to the complete 200mm setting, and also you’d finest be at 1/250th or sooner to stop digital camera shake.

Fun 5-Second Photos - Using Long Exposures for Creative Images
Preserving the nonetheless objects sharp whereas the water smoothed throughout this 4-second publicity required a tripod. It was shady and darker right here, however I nonetheless wanted an ND filter. Canon 6D with Canon 24-105mm lens, 4-seconds, f/20 ISO 50.

These guidelines apply right here. If you happen to intend solely to blur these issues that transfer throughout your 5-second publicity, you’ll undoubtedly want a tripod. Nevertheless, there is perhaps conditions the place you could possibly make a 5-second publicity with out one:

  • Your inventive intent is to indicate some digital camera movement blur. A inventive “swish-pan” is an effective instance.
  • No tripods are allowed the place you might be working. Crowded locations, sports activities occasions, indoor areas or different locations may not will let you use a tripod. Provide you with some workarounds – brace your digital camera towards one thing, set it down on a bench or one thing, and use the 2-second timer for a hands-off shot. Possibly you could possibly carry a beanbag or improvise along with your jacket. If smaller variations of a tripod are allowed, issues like a Gorillapod or Platypod is perhaps the reply.
  • Take into account mirror lockup to scale back vibration.


You’re acquainted with the “publicity triangle” proper? If not, observe this hyperlink to study it. It’s foundational data for all critical photographers. Briefly, it states that each one exposures are ruled by three issues, the “holy trinity” of pictures:

  • Shutter velocity (how lengthy the sensor is uncovered to gentle),
  • Aperture (the dimensions of the opening by which gentle enters),
  • ISO (the sensitivity of the sensor to gentle).

Whether or not you might be in Handbook mode, Full Auto, or another digital camera publicity mode, these three issues are at all times at work. Now, if we’ve already determined we wish a 5-second shutter velocity, we’re left with simply the opposite two to manage our publicity.

ISO and Aperture – which?

You might be seemingly going to wish to select one in every of two modes when practising 5-second exposures: Full Handbook (which gives you full management over all settings), or Shutter Precedence (Television on Canon and Pentax, S on Nikon and Sony).

Shutter precedence permits you to select and lock in a shutter velocity after which the digital camera adjusts aperture (the f/cease) and ISO (when you have that in Auto ISO). If not, ISO will probably be locked to no matter you set.

Now, you’ve locked in 5-seconds as your shutter velocity, must you use Aperture, ISO, or perhaps each to get the publicity proper? Like so many issues in pictures, the reply is, “it relies upon.”

Let’s converse to ISO first. We’re making an attempt to make a 5-second publicity. Doing so will enable fairly a bit of sunshine into the digital camera. In order to not overexpose the picture, dialing down the ISO will assist. Many cameras have 100 ISO as their lowest setting. Some can go all the way down to 50 ISO. The advantage of decrease ISO is much less noise. So, set to the bottom ISO potential, sure? Certain, however that by itself could not get you there, and there are different concerns.

Let’s think about aperture.

Setting the aperture (bear in mind the aperture is the “gap.” The time period f/cease is the best way we reference the “dimension of the opening.”) to a bigger quantity, i.e. f/11, f/16, or f/22 will let in much less gentle. That too could assist us get that 5-second publicity.

In fact, altering aperture additionally impacts the depth of discipline. We might additionally encounter a discount of sharpness if we use the smallest apertures due to what’s known as “diffraction.”

Fun 5-Second Photos - Using Long Exposures for Creative Images
Pre-sunrise. I didn’t have a number of gentle to work with, so a sluggish shutter velocity helped right here. It additionally smoothed the water a bit on the inlet on the Coquille River Lighthouse in Bandon, Oregon. Canon 6D with Canon 24-105mm lens, 6 seconds, f/5.6, ISO 1600.

Correct publicity whereas contemplating the implications of every “leg of the publicity triangle” is at all times a juggling act. If you happen to’re nonetheless a novice photographer who has at all times used automated publicity settings, I may need misplaced you right here. If that’s the case, I advised you learn up on these items:

Lower the sunshine

So, now we have our shutter velocity set at 5-seconds, our ISO at say 50, and an aperture of f/22. We test and see the picture will nonetheless be overexposed. What now? Nicely, as we would placed on sun shades on a brilliant day to chop the quantity of sunshine coming into our eyes, in pictures we use neutral-density (ND) filters.

These are available in numerous grades of darkness. A ranking system signifies what number of stops of sunshine they cut back. Every improve of ND 0.Three ends in one extra cease of sunshine discount. So an ND 1.eight is a six-stop filter.

Meaning no matter a superb publicity for the scene is perhaps with no filter, placing such a filter on will will let you alter to the now right publicity by six stops.

If all of this makes your head harm, I recommend downloading a free ND calculator app (Android / iOS) which is able to let you know the settings you want.

Lee Filters (who makes a 6-stop ND filter known as the “Little Stopper,” and a 10-stop filter known as the “Massive Stopper“) affords a pleasant free app. To make use of an instance, if I needed to shoot in brilliant daylight and the longest shutter velocity I might use was at 1/200th of a second, utilizing a 10-stop Massive Stopper might get me all the way down to that 5-second shutter velocity.

Another choice is a “variable ND filter.” These have two layered polarized filters, that when rotated, enable progressive darkening. They are often good, however generally introduce bizarre visible artifacts, create coloration casts and such, notably at darker settings and when utilizing wider focal lengths. Do a little analysis earlier than you determine to purchase one in every of these.

Normal round polarizing filters can work to a level as they are going to usually lower gentle by 1.5-2.5 stops. You’ll be able to stack filters too, however a phrase of warning right here – stacking filters runs the danger of vignetting the picture, or worse, generally stacked filters can get caught on the lens. This can be a positive approach to damage your day. A filter wrench is an effective software to have in your equipment.

ND filters can help you get a longer shutter speed if light conditions are bright.
In daylight circumstances, even with a small aperture and low ISO, you may not be capable to get to the longer shutter velocity you’d like and have the correct publicity. ND filters which lower the sunshine are sometimes the reply. All of those photographs have been completed with such a filter.

Appropriate scenes

Okay, techy stuff out of the best way. When and why would possibly you wish to take 5-second exposures? Let’s take a look at some instance photographs.

Flowing water

Use a slower shutter speed for silky water effects.
Silky water results are a favourite with photographers. Slower shutter speeds will let you get the look. Word the varied shutter speeds on these photographs. A beneficial observe is to bracket your shifting water pictures. The velocity, quantity, and proximity of the water to the digital camera will make a distinction when discovering that “good” shutter velocity to create the look you want.

Easy water, streaked clouds

Fun 5-Second Photos - Using Long Exposures for Creative Images
No matter strikes will blur throughout an extended publicity. Water, waves, and clouds will all have a distinct look. You needn’t at all times go for extra-long exposures both, notice the shutter speeds on these have been between 6 and eight seconds.

Particular Results

A longer shutter speed buys you time when creating special effects looks.
An extended shutter velocity buys you time for creating particular results photographs. The “smoke” within the first shot is definitely a chunk of dental floss moved through the 6-second publicity. I used sparklers and laser tips to create the opposite pictures. Word the shutter speeds are all 4-seconds.


Fun 5-Second Photos - Using Long Exposures for Creative Images
I discover 6-second exposures are sometimes good when doing fireworks photographs permitting seize of a number of bursts and a pleasant look.

Zoom throughout publicity

Fun 5-Second Photos - Using Long Exposures for Creative Images
Longer shutter speeds enable you time to zoom the lens through the shot, producing the sorts of photographs within the first two photographs. Within the third picture, it was the automobile that was doing the “zooming.”

Combining with flash

Fun 5-Second Photos - Using Long Exposures for Creative Images
Mix a slower shutter velocity with a pop of second-curtain-sync flash, and also you get a picture like this. The movement blurs through the ambient portion of the publicity, and the flash on the finish freezes that a part of the publicity. Second-curtain-sync flash pictures are two-exposures in a single. Canon 6D with Canon 24-105mm lens, 2-seconds, f/5.6, ISO 100.

Low gentle and night time pictures

Fun 5-Second Photos - Using Long Exposures for Creative Images
Earlier than dawn, after sundown, darkish days and nights – generally you go for a slower shutter velocity as a result of there’s not a lot gentle. Realizing when to “go sluggish” could make for some good photographs. All of those are between 3.2 and eight seconds.

Gentle portray

Fun 5-Second Photos - Using Long Exposures for Creative Images
An extended shutter velocity buys you time for gentle portray. The primary picture had a 4-second publicity, the second a 5-second publicity. Go learn my article on this enjoyable method.


Fun 5-Second Photos - Using Long Exposures for Creative Images
Whenever you don’t have a lightning set off, you do it the old style means – Level your digital camera the place you’ve been seeing the flashes and shoot many longer publicity pictures. With luck, you’ll catch a bolt or perhaps even a number of throughout a shot. Canon 6D with Canon 24-105mm lens, 4-seconds, f/9, ISO 800.

Now go “take 5”

Fun 5-Second Photos - Using Long Exposures for Creative Images
Capturing into the solar, a six-stop ND filter was necessary to get me to a 6-second shutter velocity right here. Canon 6D with Canon 24-105mm lens, 6-seconds, f/16, ISO 50.

So what’s the “proper” shutter velocity to make use of? When making lengthy exposures for inventive photographs there is no such thing as a absolute.

Use the shutter velocity that finest captures the imaginative and prescient you had when making the picture. Study to regulate aperture and ISO to get you to that velocity you need and ND filters when you need to. The bottom line is taking management of your digital camera.

As a grasp painter is aware of precisely what brush and stroke to make use of, you as a photographer could make masterful photographs when you recognize the correct settings and controls to make use of. If in case you have not usually labored within the 5-second shutter velocity vary, use the photographs on this article as inspiration. Now, go “take 5.”

Shop Amazon