Photography Tutorial: Long Exposure

Phil Ebiner
A free video tutorial from Phil Ebiner
Top-Rated Instructor, 2 Million+ Students
4.6 instructor rating • 154 courses • 2,328,445 students

Lecture description

In this video, you'll learn more about what long exposure is and why you would shoot long exposures.

Learn more from the full course

Long Exposure Photography: Shoot Your Own Stunning Photos

A quick start long exposure tutorial that will get you shooting beautiful photographs with your DSLR and iPhone cameras.

46:56 of on-demand video • Updated February 2021

  • Shoot amazing long exposure photographs
  • Know the right gear necessary for long exposure photography
  • Understand the right settings for long exposure photography in different camera modes including aperture priority, manual, and bulb
  • Quickly set the shutter speed using modern day techniques and apps for long exposures
  • Edit beautiful long exposure photos in Adobe Lightroom
  • Show off some of their best work as photographers with these new skills
English -: Hey everyone, let's get down to business. In this video I'm going to be talking about what exactly long exposure photography is, why we shoot long exposures, and the three basic ways to get long exposures. We're going to be diving into the settings and the gear in the next couple videos but I'm just going to be touching on the three ways that you can get long exposures. But first let's talk about the process. What is actually happening? Well, we learned in earlier photography and hopefully you kinda understand how a camera works that there's a shutter in your camera. The shutter opens and closes or flips down and flips up and that allows light into the camera body so light is coming through the camera lens and then a shutter opens and closes to allow light to expose your camera, your photo. If you're using a film camera it's exposing the film in your camera. If you're shooting with a digital camera you're exposing the digital chip that is in your camera. Now, some cameras are mirrorless cameras now and they don't actually have a physical shutter that opens up and closes to allow light. But still doing the same process of allowing light in for a certain amount of time. Typically, we're shooting at faster shutter speeds like one two-hundredths of a second, one-sixtieth of a second, one two-thousandth of a second. And that's because we want to capture an instantaneous moment in time, and to do that we need a very fast shutter. But the thing about shutters is that when you opend and close it really fast it doesn't allow a lot of light in, and when you slow down your shutter speed and you're letting it open for a little bit longer there's more light coming in which means your photo will actually be brighter. Now, if you're shooting at night or if you're shooting inside or anywhere that's dimly lit you're going to have to slow down your shutter speed to allow enough light in to expose properly. Now, long exposures is taking that to the extreme and really opening up your shutter for, literally, thirty seconds or a minute or five minutes or even thirty minutes to allow light into your camera. Now, you would use this in a variety of different settings. One of the primary reasons to use long exposures is at night. If you want to capture something in the middle of the desert at night. If you want to capture the stars moving. If you want to capture planes across the sky or lights streaking across your frame, you can open up your shutter for a certain amount of time. Now, of course, it depends on what you want, and it depends on how fast your subject is moving For example, stars don't move that fast so you're gonna have to expose for maybe thirty minutes to see a star moving around or the earth rotating and seeing the stars move across the sky. But for a car light streaking across your frame you might only need to expose for twenty seconds or five seconds. And so during night that's one reason to expose long because you just need more light so you have to lengthen your shutter speed. During the day, the reason gets more creative. With a long exposure we saw some pictures before. You can really see the motion of things. So maybe people walking by you can see them as a blur. Or with water, water is something that I love taking long exposures photos of because it makes it just kind of magical and it actually stops, it's not as much a crisp image of the water in motion, it's just this fluid looking motion and it just looks so great. And so there are three basic ways or times you can shoot long exposures. One, is at night or dimly lit situations so we talked about that, you can basically just do it with your camera and all you need to do is lengthen your shutter speed and you'll get a long exposure. The other is with your F-Stop. So your F-Stop, remember, or your aperture is the hole inside of your camera lens. It goes from small to big and the bigger it is the more light is entering. So the other thing with F-Stops is that the bigger it is, the smaller the F-Stop number. So the bigger the hole, like F-Stop 1.4 or 2 or 2.8, those are allowing a lot of light in. To allow less light in you close the hole, you use a higher F-Stop like an F-11 or an F-16 or an F-22 even and what happens is that because you're allowing less light in through the lens, you have to leave the shutter open even longer to compensate for that. So during dimly lit hours, like magic hour, which is the hour around sunset and sunrise where it's not that bright outside you can actually shoot a long exposure just by cranking up the F-Stop, making that hole smaller and bringing down the shutter speed so that it is open longer. But, of course, that has to be during a dimly lit time. It can't be during the day. So what happens when you want to shoot a long exposure during the day? That's the last time or the last way that you can shoot long exposures. And what do you have to do? You have to cut down the light somehow because there's so much light coming in from the sun. You actually use what you call Neutral Density Filters to block the light so you're literally putting a filter across your lens that cuts down the light that allows you to again slow down your shutter speed. If you didn't have those filters in there the photos would be just blown out too bright. But by cutting down the light manually with a filter it allows you to open up that shutter speed. So we're going to be diving into all these different ways in the next couple lessons. Especially, in the settings section but I just wanted to introduce this entire topic of long exposure to you. And hopefully by now you have a better grasp of what exactly is going on with your camera during a long exposure.