Long exposures give photographers the ability to flex their creative muscles and move past a traditional photo. Leaving the shutter open for a few seconds rather than a split second means the camera exposes movement in the photo. This may mean a stream of clouds going across the sky in the daytime or a streak of car taillights at night. Successful long exposures require a bit of extra planning and some additional gear.
Long exposure basics
To take a long exposure, photographers need to change their camera settings so the shutter remains open for an extended period of time. This causes the stationary objects to remain in sharp focus while blurring objects in motion while the shutter is open. For example, capturing stars so they make trails in the sky may require the shutter to be open for 15 minutes or more, while softly blurred clouds could mean leaving the shutter open for less than a minute.
Keeping the camera still
Because people use long exposures to capture motion, any movement of the camera can distort or blur the image. Photographers use a couple of tools to reduce camera shake.
Placing the camera on a sturdy tripod helps to keep it still. This does not eliminate camera shake entirely, however. A strong wind may move the camera so slightly that the photographer does not notice or walking near the tripod while the shutter is open can shake it slightly. Photographers often reduce the possibility of camera shake by pushing the tripod legs into the ground slightly for stability or draping tripod sandbags over the supports connecting the tripod legs.
Remote shutter release
Pressing the shutter release button on the camera causes it to move slightly no matter how careful the photographer is. A wired shutter trigger, or one that stays connected to the camera by a cable, typically causes the least amount of camera movement, although a wireless remote is still better than pushing the camera's button manually. Photographers should ensure the remote shutter release has the capability to lock the shutter, which means the photographer presses the button once to open the shutter and again to close it after the desired duration.
Neutral density filters help photographers to achieve the look they want in long exposures, especially during the day. They block some of the light from entering the lens, helping the subject of the photo appear clearly. Because of their light-blocking capabilities, they often keep cameras from auto-focusing properly. When using neutral density filters, a photographer should set the tripod and camera in place, compose a photo, set the focus, and then attach the filter to the front of the camera lens.
Night shots rarely require neutral density filters, but the darkness often interferes with auto-focus. Photographers can focus to infinity in many cases, eliminating the problem while still getting the look of motion in the photos.
Avoiding noise in the photos
A common problem with long exposures is noise, or graininess, in the photos. To help combat this, photographers can set their camera's ISO to 100, or as low as possible while still achieving the look that they want. Some DSLR cameras also have on-board noise reduction settings that photographers can activate before taking long exposures.
Choosing the right time of day
Some long exposure shots have clear-cut time frames, such as shooting star trails at night. Other shots require careful planning depending on the look that the photographer wants. For example, getting blurred wave caps on the ocean can be beautiful in bright sunlight or with the warm light created at sunrise and sunset. Photographers should arrive at their chosen locations earlier than the ideal light to give themselves time to compose the photo and get their settings right.
Some photos may take more than one try. The orange hues of sunrise and sunset only last a few minutes, so photographers may only have one chance to take a long exposure at those times of day. However, getting a cloud trail over buildings during the day provides multiple opportunities for photographers to achieve the desired effect.
How to buy long exposure photography tools on eBay
Sellers on eBay offer a wide selection of camera equipment to help you achieve the perfect long exposure photographs. To find the right gear, you can type your keywords into the search bar found on every page. For example, searching for "camera tripod" gives you the most choices, but you can narrow the search by features or brand names, such as "Manfrotto tripod". Adding more keywords, such as "ball head heavy-duty camera tripod", helps you to find a specific item.