Long exposure photography help!

Discussion in 'Photography Beginners' Forum' started by 0ptics, Dec 16, 2011.

  1. 0ptics

    0ptics TPF Noob!

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    Hello!

    So I don't know much about photography and basically am a beginner, but I always wanted to do long exposure photography. I recently purchased a Nikon D3100 (using kit lens 18-55mm) and found a spot where I wanted to take a picture of a bridge with cars and get that effect of streaks of lights, I was planning to do it around 4:30-5:00pm and from where I am that's when the sun is basically down and the sky it a dark blue and soon turning dark as night. I did some research and looked up some tutorials, but some extra advice/help would be nice. So far I noticed that majority of the articles mentioned that you need a digital camera with manual functions, tripod, and shuttle release remote (optional). But I wanted some help on switching the ISO, aperture, shuttle speed, etc.

    So far it seems like these are the general steps in long exposure...please correct me if I'm wrong and changes that are necessary...

    -Adjust the ISO level to 100/200 (or lowest level your camera allows), at least for night photography
    -Adjust aperture to f/8 or f/11
    -Adjust shuttle speed for 1 to 3 minutes (depending on the situation)

    I know it differs for every picture/setting but which adjustments would you suggest for long exposure photography? I'll definitely taking multiple shots with different adjustments and trial-and-error, but I wanted some suggestions. Also are filters necessary for night long exposure photography?I heard for daytime long exposure a dark tinted filter (sorry don't know what they are called) is necessary, but not for night.

    Again, I'm a complete beginner to photography and any help/advice would be much appreciated!
    Thanks
    0ptics


     
  2. SCraig

    SCraig Been spending a lot of time on here!

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    They are called "Neutral Density Filters" and you shouldn't need them at night.

    Your exposures sound about but I'd start at about 30 seconds and go up from there. Every situation is going to be different and there is only one stop of exposure between 30 seconds and a minute. It really depends on the amount of ambient light so just try things and see what works.

    You will also need a tripod to hold your camera. No way you can hand hold it for that long.
     
  3. MTVision

    MTVision Been spending a lot of time on here!

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    For daytime long exposures you want like a neutral density filter I believe - but not too sure.

    You want your ISO at 100 - 200 night or day I would think. All my nighttime long exposures have been at ISO 100. Shutter speed will vary and it's something you will have to experiment with. I saw this awesome picture of star trails and the shutter was open for an hour and a half. Don't limit yourself to a couple minutes!

    At 4:30 I would just play around with the shutter times. I'm no expert at long exposures but at night I usually use an aperture of around f/14. At f/8 you won't need as long of a shutter speed but at f/14 the streetlights (or x-mas lights) will look like twinkly stars.
     
  4. Big Mike

    Big Mike I am Big, I am Mike Staff Member Supporting Member

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    You can't just choose your exposure settings (ISO, shutter speed & aperture) like that...unless you are in full control of the lighting (which you aren't).

    So you need to measure the light somehow. Luckily your camera has a built-in light meter.
    If you want to shoot in manual mode, then yes, adjust your ISO to it's base level (100 or 200), adjust the aperture to the setting that will give you the depth of field that you want (you're probably shooting from far away, so F8 or F11 will probably be good choices).

    Now, for the shutter speed, 1 to 3 minutes may or may not work out. I'd guess that unless it's almost completely dark, those will be way too long. Besides, you can only set your shutter speed to a length of 30 seconds. Longer than that and you'll need to use bulb mode.
    So if you're in manual mode, adjust the shutter speed until your meter gets to zero. That may not get you the exposure that you want, but it will be close. So if you want it to be darker, use a faster shutter speed or a smaller aperture (high F number). If you want it to be brighter, use a longer shutter speed (or larger aperture).

    Rather than using manual mode, you could use aperture priority (A mode). Set the ISO to the base value and dial in the aperture....the camera will give you the shutter speed to get to zero on the meter. You can then use exposure compensation to change the exposure (it will change the shutter speed).

    Now, if you do all that, and your shutter speed isn't long enough to get the effect that you want. They try a smaller exposure like F22 or F29. That will sacrifice some image quality though.
    If you still can't get a long enough shutter speed, wait until it's darker.

    If you still can't get a long enough shutter speed (and/or if you're trying this in daylight) then you can get an 'ND' (neutral density) filter to put over the lens.
     
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  5. ph0enix

    ph0enix TPF Supporters Supporting Member

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    It's s h u t t e r, not shuttle :)
    Aside from what others have said, basically get out there and shoot using different settings and see what you end up with. It's a learning process. You can always reshoot if you don't like the results.
     
  6. MTVision

    MTVision Been spending a lot of time on here!

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    Haha! I didn't even notice the "shuttle" speed!
     
  7. 0ptics

    0ptics TPF Noob!

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    Ahhh alright thanks Big Mike (and other :D) for the information, ya I'll different take multiple shots with different aperture and shuttle speed. I just wanted some clarification on the adjustments and how long of an exposure is needed.

    Also if I do plan to do long exposure photography during the day, which ND filter should I purchase, since it depends on the lighting? I did a quick search on Amazon and most seemed to be 3 stops, how many ND filter stops are there (up ot 9, 10 stops?), kind of confused on how it is measured... :/

    Hahah ya I didn't even notice that I typed "SHUTTLE"...but yes that tis what meant XD!
     
  8. Dao

    Dao No longer a newbie, moving up!

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    Not quite the same type of photo, but around the time. So you know the idea. 10 sec exposure of a cityscape. If you need a longer exposure, you may need a ND filter, different time or smaller aperture.

     
    Last edited by a moderator: Sep 11, 2014
  9. DiskoJoe

    DiskoJoe Been spending a lot of time on here!

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    I agree with Dao. About 10 secs is all you would need at this time of day. In order to do shots for minutes at a time you would have to shoot much later when it is completely dark. At sunset. 5-10 secs is sufficient at iso 100 f8 - f11.
     
  10. spacefuzz

    spacefuzz No longer a newbie, moving up!

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    For cars moving at 60 mph you dont need a long shutter speed, several seconds should work fine. If you stop down to make it so much longer each light trail will have diminishing effects on the photo.

    ND filters are great, Id invest in one so you can play around with longer exposures at golden hour.
     
  11. 0ptics

    0ptics TPF Noob!

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    Ya after doing for research I definitely understand the basics to long exposure photography a lot better, thanks all for the help (and Dao for that vid), I guess I thought having a shuttle speed for a few minutes wouldn't be much, but I was wrong haha!

    Thanks again!
     
  12. Rockadile

    Rockadile TPF Noob!

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    Just try a bunch of different settings and see what works. You'll learn a lot from the mistakes.
    I see your from WA...I'm in Tacoma :thumbup:
     

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