Magical Long Exposures
Learning to open the camera’s shutter and maintain
exposure values is a skill that will set your images apart.
All it takes is a solid tripod and a few easy steps to achieve
stunning results that show the artful potential of your photography.
Daytime Long Exposures:
Smooth waterfall or cascading river.
Velvety smooth spindrift/ocean waves.
Removing people from a cityscape.
1. Camera on a solid tripod.
2. Add 6 to 10 stop neutral density filter.
3. Set camera to manual mode.
4. Set ISO to 100 or lower.
5. Set exposure from half a second to 5 seconds (Try them to see your preference)
6. Set F-stop to highest value like F-16 or 22, and then reduce until meter
shows good exposure.
7. Trigger your shutter either by 2 second delay (in your menu) or with a remote shutter release.
8. Check your histogram and adjust exposure, being careful to avoid highlights clipping.
Nightime Long Exposures:
Neon Ferris Wheel Blur
1. Camera on solid tripod.
2. No filters necessary.
3. Set camera to manual mode.
4. Experiment with exposures from 1-10 seconds with
high f-stop—raise ISO to get a proper exposure or
slightly underexposed image and histogram.
5. Focusing at night is tricky. Temporarily increase the ISO and use Live View and Zoom to focus on a fixed point of light, then remember to change ISO back to low value.
6. Trigger shutter using 2 second delay or remote shutter release.
The Milky Way
1. Attempt only in dark skies, far from city glow.
high altitude best, high pressure skies, moonless nights
all essential for optimum image.
2. Camera on solid tripod.
3. Use headlamp to see. Red light is good and preserves
your night vision.
4. Set camera to manual.
5. Start ISO at 2,000—you may have to go as high as 6,000.
6. Use “mirror up” setting to reduce vibration.
7. Use wide angle lens at fastest F-stop.
8. Understand that the earth is moving, and the stars are going to appear as “trails” instead of pinpoints of light, if your exposure is too long for the focal length
of your lens. Experiment with 30 seconds, 25 seconds, 20 seconds, etc. check your capture with zoom.
9. Focus using live view with zoom on the brightest star
in your frame. You will have to increase ISO temporarily to its highest value to find a star. Then
remember to lower the ISO to the lowest you can get
away with and still have a good histogram.
10. Your capture will need to be enhanced in Lightroom. Use exposure, contrast, de-haze and black point slider to make the Milky Way stand out.
You will also have to use sharpening and Luminosity to create the best choice between brightness or stars vs. darkness of sky showing noise.
Professionals take 2 to 20 images of the sky captured in close succession. When composited together they cancel background noise in the black sky while providing more light
pixels that can be manipulated in post to bring out the subtle color and brightness of the
Milky Way. Some photographers also take a separate
very long exposure or partially lit shorter exposure of the foreground—and add to the mix. Stacking is
done using the automated stacking feature in Photoshop.
Go lightly with the adjustments—The goal should be
to make the Milky Way look natural, not cartoonish.