Long Exposure Guide
by Pedro Kin
Meet Pedro. Pedro is a Portuguese landscape photographer based in Slovakia but you’ll often find him chasing the light in the most beautiful mountains, forests and fjords of Europe. Favouring the cold landscapes and the raw nature of northern Europe, the weather does not stop him from going after the perfect shot — be it the northern lights in the Lofoten Islands, a snowy beach in Lithuania or a powerful waterfall in Iceland. When not travelling the world with his camera, Pedro is found back home helping others improve their photography and editing skills through personalized one-to-one online courses.
Here he offers his expertise on how to achieve the perfect long exposure shot.
Long exposure is when you leave the shutter speed open for a certain period of time, usually, a few seconds but a fraction of a second can also be considered a long exposure, long exposures can also be called Slow-shutter speeds or time-exposed.
You need a camera that ideally allows you to use in manual mode, so you have full control of your settings while doing long exposures, you also have filters that will enable you to do long exposures during the day. I have used many filters in the past, but currently, I use Formatt-Hitech and VFFOTTO filters, I use Square filters and also round I have many types but for this guide, I will talk only about ND filters (Neutral density) I will not cover the Graduated filters, and you also will need a tripod, you can find my tripod here.
Every situation is different and depending on what I want to archive I work my scene differently, If I want to blur water, I usually use a CPL filter (Polarizer) or an ND4 if I want to blur and capture the movement of the clouds I use a 10 to 15 stop filter depending on how long I plan on doing the exposure, during the night and at certain times of days I don’t need to use any filter, I will show you some examples.
On this particular photo, I wanted to capture the moving clouds and the reflection on the water because the reflections are sometimes dim during the day it does help to do a long exposure to get, on this particular photo I used the VFFOTO x3200 (15 stops) and I did a 127s exposure at f8. On this specific situation, I didn’t use my ten stop filter because the clouds were not moving fast enough, I decided to try the ten stop, but the results were not to my liking.
After posting this image online I got many questions and this is the reason why I decided to do this guide, this image was taken without any filters, this photo was taken at around 1.30AM, yes in Iceland in the summer you have light all day long, the way I got the water so silky was with a 4s exposure at f16, sometimes just because you have filters doesn’t mean you have or should use them, it really depends on your goal, and while many people think you always need a super long exposure to have the water like this that is simply not true, It would even be enough a 0.6 of a sec in such a place, the water moves very fast so you don’t need a super long exposure to capture the silkiness on the water.
Here is an example that a super long exposure won’t allow me to have such results, while in waterfalls it doesn’t really matter if you a 10s exposure or a 2s exposure when it comes to the waves the story is different, this particular image was captured without any filters and at a 0.4 of a second at f9, the reason I did only 0.4s is if I would do a longer exposure then I wouldn’t be able to see the waves around the icebergs, it simply be all white without any differences.
In this un-edited imaged above, you can see what happens when the exposure is not right, the water is silky, but you don’t see the waves around the rocks, I didn’t edit this photo but you can have an idea what kind of results you can archive, this photo was taken at f13 with an f2.5 sec exposure.
Sometimes you just want that silkiness is the water and it is ok to use longer exposures, it all depends on what you want to archive and what vision do you have for a particular image, the settings I used was a 42s exposure at f11, this photo was taken in 2009 and since then I have changed a lot, but here you can see a different approach the sea but has the foreground changes I use different exposures to archive my goal.
For more guides, workshops and reviews, visit Pedro’s website.