Friday, January 31, 2014

Pro-Tip #14: Get Creative: Long Exposure Photography

Golden Arch Sunset - f/13@30 sec., 9 stop ND filter

     Last month's Pro-Tip was about getting creative so your images will standout from the other 880 billion photos that are expected to be taken in 2014. An easy way to turn an ordinary image into an extraordinary image that standout from others taken in the same location is with long exposure photography. So what is it and how would it make my photos stand out?
     A long exposure can be thought of as any shutter speed where the photographer cannot hand hold the camera without getting unwanted blur due to camera shake.  These are typically shutter speeds longer than 1/30th or 1/15th of a second.  The aim of long exposure photography is to introduce some creative blur as a result of a moving subject.  Moving water is a classic subject of this technique as are star trails and traffic head and tail lights.
     A couple of pieces equipment will be need to help you capture long exposures; 1) A camera support, typically a tripod, will be needed because hand holding your camera will not be possible, and; 2) A neutral density (ND) filter will be useful in photographing brighter scenes and allow you a choice of longer shutter speeds.
     What camera settings should I use for the best blur? Well, this is where taste and personal choice come into the creative process.  Blur will be affected by three major factors, 1) Speed of your moving subject, 2) The distance between your lens and moving subject, and; 3) Shutter speed. Because you are looking for long exposures you will typically be setting your ISO to its lowest setting and your aperture will typically be closed down to its smallest setting which will give you the slowest possible shutter speed for your lighting condition.  If you are unable to get a slow enough shutter speed you can add a ND filter.
     Personally, I like to try various shutter speeds as each will give a different look and feel to the moving subject and it is hard to tell which you might like best by looking at the back of your camera.  The above image was a 30 second exposure but I took others from 0.3 seconds to 20 seconds and liked the results of several others in addition to this one.  You can see the others in my on-line gallery at Greg Clure Photography.
     My intent is not to provide you with everything there is to know about long exposure photography, as books have been written on the topic, but rather to get you to think about using it as a means of getting a different result and ultimately a better result than the standard fast shutter speed snap shots that will be taken by others. Be creative with slow shutter speeds and capture some unique and more interesting images.

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