Long exposure problem!


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Dec 27, 2015
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I know it's most likely all over the internet, and I've looked through some tuts but, none have helped. "Multiple exposure" was an idea, but, sadly my camera doesn't have the capability.

So here we go: I was at the beach today. And I was trying to capture some long exposure pictures of the sea, so the sea would look misty. Like a dense fog, and as I was taking the pics, (btw these were taken in the day, so it was bright. But not bright as there were clouds all over the show..)

As I set the shutter speed to about 15 seconds, and the ISO to 100 (I mixed with the ISO to pretty much all the different numbers) I checked the image and it was completely white, I think I know why, As there was too much light getting in, the only way I could get an image with a bit of the 'fogginess' was at a shutter speed of like 3.2 seconds or something... Is there a way I can take long exposure pictures (long shutter speed seconds) in day light.

So how can I take a long exposure picture in day light? I'm talking 8 seconds or more.

First of all, you can stack different exposures in post production and even if you camera can do it on it's own,
you can do it a lot better yourself, so, it's a non-issue.

Image overexposed? If dropping the ISO to the lowest and stopping down your lens aperture to F/22 or more
if the lens supports it so you can have the desired shutter speed doesn't work, you need a ND filter for your lens.

First question people will ask you here is what gear you're shooting with.
Were you in Shutter Priority or Manual Mode? It sounds like you might have been in Manual mode and gotten some settings off (possibly the aperture, which you didn't mention.) What happens when you put it in Shutter Priority and turn the speed to 8 seconds?
I have a canon 1200d fitted with a
Tamron 70-300mm F4/5.6 DI LD Macro (Nikon AF) lens

So the aperture doesn't go far enough in number terms. To be fair, I don't think my camera is capable of taking the picture, as my lens is not got the aperture capability... I am a bit of a noob to photography, and I'm quite young.. But may I ask, how does the aperture come into play with this sort of stuff, how does the aperture work in the product technically? Thanks!

Cheryl, I think I probably was on manual, so I may have had my aperture set to a wrong number... I don't think my lens has the aperture capability anyways... Thanks for the help though!

So it seems I need a ND filter? So I can take long exposure pictures in the light.

Thanks guys
That aperture number is the widest it can go, not the narrowest. The narrowest is likely still somewhere around f22, as was suggested earlier. I would try it in Shutter Priority before purchasing a filter, you might not need one.
Thanks again, I will have a look right away.
Oh right, my bad! My aperture goes up to 32 f stops.
Understanding Exposure by Bryan Peterson - this is the book you want, buy/loan from the library and give it a read. It will cover case studies like the shot you're after as well as introduce you to how to balance aperture, ISO and shutter speed to get exposures that you want in a more complete way than you will online.

As a guide for the shot you want:
1) Go very early in the morning or late in the evening. Ideally in the "golden hours" (google that term). This gives you less natural light to work with, but that is ok because you're going to have the shutter speed slow so the camera will have plenty of time to gather in the light.

2) Set a low ISO (small number); set a slow shutter speed (as you have); set a decent aperture. By decent I mean small so that you gain greater depth of field, but not so small that you get softness from diffraction.
Remember a small aperture is a big f number and a big aperture is a small f number. So think in the range of around f8 to f13 or f16. Once you get smaller (bigger f number) than around f13 to f16 you will start to see your photos soften because of diffraction.*

3) Check the meter. Check your manual for how to read the meter; you want the little black speck in the middle of the meter. Adjust settings accordingly; either letting in more light (slower shutter speed - smaller f number (bigger aperture) or higher ISO) or reducing light (faster shutter speed - bigger f number (smaller aperture) or lower ISO).

4) If you still have too much light then you will need to use a filter called a neutral density filter. This reduces the light entering the camera lens. For a slow shutter speed it means you can work in greater ambient lighting whilst still getting a slow shutter speed.

a) Note that there are also variable neutral density filters which block light from only half the frame; this is useful for the type of photo you are after because it is often the case that the sea and the sky will be very different in terms of brightness. Thus a "good" exposure for one might under or over expose the other. Thus you'd use a variable neutral density filter to even out the light values between the two (and of course because the horizon will be straight or near to straight so far as the camera is concerned the line just has to match up to that).**

*Sharpness in lenses is linked partly to aperture. It will increase from wide open (smallest f number thus widest aperture a lens can do) up to around the f8 mark and then will start to soften, remaining usable to around the f13 mark or so.
It will vary lens to lens, but that is the rough concept. Remember this is only talking about sharpness in relation to the lens not in relation to handshake or motion blur.

**Note there are two kinds of filter; round/screw-in and square/rectangular. The former are just a screw in filter to your filter thread on the front of the camera; great for a neutral density filter, but (as you can no doubt imagine) if you've a variable neutral density filter the variation line will end up down the middle with a screw-thread filter. So you'd want to use a square one which slots into a filter holder; thus letting you put the line of variation where you want in the scene. Lee filters are one of the best but they are pricey whilst Cokin make a more affordable range.
Note avoid the ultra cheap filter "bundles" as they are often single element uncoated low grade filters that will harm your shots.
I think it is good that you had an idea on what you wanted to do. It sounds like the long exposure so the waves are not defined, but rather smooth out and give a mist like look above the water.

Next time in the planning you want the ND filter, a tripod and some practice with manual exposure and plan the trip so you are not there at the brightest time of day.

Also, with long exposure you may have some thing move that you don't want moving. The clouds usually look better with a shorter exposure, so either a fully overcast sky or merge two images are a couple ways to get there. Best is to just keep trying. On a sunny day at the beach you could be at the Sunny 16 rule - ISO 100, 1/100th second and f/16. Going to f/32 (your smallest aperture, and not the best due to diffraction) is just two stops less light so that only would let you drop the shutter by two stops to 1/30th second. To get to a few seconds in shutter speed requires that ND filter and of course the tripod. I would use ISO 100, f/16, and then an ND filter to allow around a 2 to 4 second exposure.

Even then you might want something like a Lighthouse in the shot as the subject. If you want a boat then you will need to take a shot of the boat without the ND filter and the faster shutter speed and then merge just the boat into the long exposure image.
Thank you for that little snippet on HOW to take a picture, with steps, it helped a lot thank you.

Thanks dave I'll be sure to use that filter. In order to gain some seconds. I'll keep checking back at your f stop rule along with shutter speed. Is there like a ratio ?

For example, 1 second: f/32 etc. I don't know exact figures, but, is there a reliable ratio? I'll look into getting an ND filter.

Thanks to all who have helped so far.
There is no ratio, other then gaining a full stop of light by prolonging the exposure time can be "killed off" by
closing down the aperture by the same full stop. That would be the change from 2.8 to 4, from 4 to 5.6, from 5.6
to 8 etc. You can google this stuff for above F/8.

Most lenses produce best images around the F/8 mark, you'd want to look up specific reviews and image samples
for the lens that you own, but not going over F/11 is a safe bet. If you need to go over (smaller) then that, get the
ND filter.
Is there like a ratio ?

What you want to know is the Exposure Triangle. For example, when you adjust one setting, what do you need to do with the other settings to keep the same exposure. You want to have an idea of why you want to use any particular settings.

As you found with the beach shot, the light is often not right for what is required and what your camera is capable of capturing, and that is when you need to plan ahead for the correct natural light or plan on modifying the light in some way by physically adding and/or removing light from the scene so you can use the best compromise of camera settings.
To get a good exposure but still blur moving water (waves, ripples, or water flowing in a stream/river) when there is bright sunlight you need a 10 stops or so worth of Neutral Density (ND) filter on your camera lens. You could use one 10 stop ND filter, or stack a 3 ND and a 6 ND to get 9 stops more density.

A Stop

A stop of exposure is a fundamental photography concept.

A 'stop' is a doubling (2x more light) or a halving (0.5x less light) of the amount of light that reaches the recording media, be it film or an electronic sensor.

Since exposure is a triad of adjustments (shutter speed, ISO, lens aperture) you can change 1, 2 or all 3 of the triad of exposure settings.

If you want 1 more stop of exposure (more light) you can adjust just one of the 3 by 1 more stop.
Or, you can change 2 of the 3 by 1/2 more stop each for a net gain of 1 stop of exposure.
Or, you can adjust all 3 by 1/3 more stop for a net gain of 1 stop of exposure.

You can also change the triad of settings and have no change in the exposure.
If you change 1 of the 3 settings by 1 stop more exposure and change a 2nd setting by 1 stop less exposure the net change is zero.

Suppose you subtracted a stop of shutter speed to help stop subject motion, you could add a stop of lens aperture to keep the exposure the same. However, adding a stop of aperture will also affect the total Depth of Field (DoF) by a small amount. So, if you don't want the DoF to change you would add a stop of ISO instead, however, adding a stop of ISO will increase, by some amount, the image noise in the photo.

Note: DSLR cameras are set by default to adjust the exposure settings in 1/3 stop increments.
Most DSLR cameras let you change that to 1/2 stop or 1 stop increments.
However, the advantage of 1/3 stop step increments is more precise control of exposure.
Unless you have incredible experience shooting manually from “back in the day,” there’s pretty much no way for you to tell what exact aperture, shutter speed and ISO combination you need for a certain shot. It all depends on the light in the scene. That is what the light meter in the camera is for.
There is, however, a well known ‘rule’ on this matter, called Sunny 16. This rule tells you what settings you need to use to get a ‘correct’ exposure in broad daylight: aperture set to f/16, and shutter speed set to the reciprocal of the ISO (1/ISO). If you understand the stops in these parameters, you can figure out how far off your desired shutter speed is from the shutter speed that will give you an image with well balanced tones. Of course, with the weather being overcast the day you shot, the rule itself doesn’t apply—maybe it does with f/8, for example, I’m not sure at all.
This was in another thread recently. A Good, quick overview

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