A Guide to Taking Sharp Images in Long Exposure Photography
Long exposure photography can result in some stunning images. However, it can be a tricky technique to master. Leaving your camera’s shutter open increases the chances that your photos will be over-exposed, blurry, or noisy (grainy). However, with the right techniques, you can soon be taking some fantastic photographs. We’ve outlined some of these tips, below.
Shoot Over Water
Composing your photos so that your subject is near water can result in some truly amazing shots. Landscape features and buildings will reflect into water at the right angle, creating an interesting foreground and great composition. With a long exposure, water often appears soft and almost dreamlike.
Choose the Blue Hour
The blue hour is a time just before sunrise or just after sunset when the sun is below the horizon. The light it creates has a wonderful blue/purple hue and is perfect for long exposure photography. It can create a beautiful backdrop to frame your subject in, result in a nice sharp contrast.
Choose the Right Lens
It’s always a good idea to bring a variety of lenses on your shoot. You may plan to use a specific lens during your shoot, only to find the conditions or subject isn’t particularly well suited to. Experiment with a few lenses to see which one gives you the best results.
Exposure Depending on the Situation
How long you expose your photos for depends on the situation. In some instances, you may want to try and capture motion such as the movement of water or clouds. For this, you’ll want a slightly longer exposure time. However, sometimes slower-moving natural elements can over-exposure with longer shutter speeds. You’ll need to balance aperture and ISO along with exposure time to account for this.
Use a Good Tripod
A tripod is essential for long exposure photography, but the quality certainly matters. A flimsy tripod that doesn’t support your camera or is affected by the elements can ruin the stability of your shots. For sharp images, you need a good tripod.
Turn Off Image Stabilisation
This may sound counter-intuitive, but many lenses create a slight vibration when image stabilisation is on. Although it is often barely perceptible, turning it off can give you that extra edge of sharpness in your photos.
Turn Mirror Lock Up On
DSLR cameras use a system of mirrors to capture a shot. When you look through the viewfinder, you can see what the camera sees through the lens using these mirrors. To capture the scene, one of the mirrors flips up to expose the sensor. This process can create shake in the camera. Locking it in the up position removes these vibrations (although this applies only if your camera uses a mirror system).
Set a Timer or Use a Remote
One other element that can cause camera shake and result in a slightly blurred image is pressing the shutter. To avoid this, you should use your cameras timer function or invest in a remote. This means the camera will be perfectly still when the picture takes.
Choose Your Frame
Consider composition when you’re framing your image. We already mentioned using water to create some interesting effects, but you also need to consider the elements that appear in the frame. Experiment with a variety of angles and frames to find out what works and what doesn’t.