Tips for the Perfect Long Exposure

Over the past few years, long exposure photography has become increasingly popular - and it's easy to see why! A well-executed dreamy long-exposure shot can be a highly impactful shot to add to any avid photographer's collection. For those of you who haven't quite mastered it yet, you're in luck - we've broken the process down into 8 simple steps!

Though long exposure photography can be used in any setting, the most effective is often landscape photography, so this is where you'll want to start out.

Photo by Scott Grant on an X-T1

Step One
Check the weather forecast! If the skies are completely cloudless, kick back with your mates and relax - too much sunshine will ruin your perfect long exposure shot. Check the forecast heavily to make sure there's no rainy storm headed your way before you set out.

Step Two
Scout your location ahead of time. Have a look around to see where the best spot is that will give you optimum composition for your shot. Try to see how the shot will look for your mind and look for harmonious composition elements like moving objects, and try to predict how the clouds and sea will move. Try to avoid the sun as it will create an overexposed area in your shot, but if you can't, wait until it's behind a cloud.


Photo by Masami Tanaka on an X-M1

Step Three
Set your tripod up to ensure you get a nice, still shot. You may also want to consider using a shutter remote if you have one.

Step Four
Refine the composition of your shot, and lock the focus. Make sure your shot is set up just how you want it, and then manually lock in your focus so that it comes out just right.


Photo by Jára Sijka on an X100

Step Five
Set your exposure to Manual (M) mode or Aperture Priority (A/Av). Set your aperture for the scene (f/8 or f/11 is best for landscape shots), and take a test shot. Your test shot is complete when you get a correct exposure. To determine if the exposure is correct, check the histogram (your display is often too bright to be reliable). Once you are happy with your test shot, write down the shutter speed that you used.

Step Six
Add your Neutral Density (ND) filter. If this is very strong, e.g. 10 stops, you may not be able to see through the viewfinder or live view, but rest assured if you have followed steps one through five, your shot will come out just right.


Photo by Randall Cipriano on an X-E1

Step Seven
Change your settings to Bulb mode (B) to keep your shutter open for a longer period of time. Do not change any of the other settings you used for your test shot, or all your hard work will be wasted!

Step Eight
It's time to get snapping! Using the shutter speed you wrote down in your test shot, calculate how long your new shutter speed is when you factor in the number of stops in your ND filter. Don't worry - there are conversion tables and apps that can help you out if you're keen to do math-less photography!

Now that you've got all the steps you need to figure out the right settings, snap away and capture those dreamy, sought after, long exposure shots! Then share them on our Facebook wall and you could be selected for Photo of the Week!