- Use Long Exposures to Create More Unique Landscape Photos
- Basic Essentials for Long Exposure Photography
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Looking at breathtaking long exposures like the one above, you can't help but be mesmerized.
The alteration of time as we perceive it can turn any old scene into something much more visually impactful.
The key, of course, is understanding what to do - and what not to do - to get a great long exposure photograph.
Let's explore a few long exposure mistakes you need to avoid.
Long Exposure Mistake #1: Using Low-Quality Filters
One of the best ways of getting the long shutter speeds you need to blur movement is to use a neutral density filter.
Neutral density filters like the 6-stop Formatt-Hitech ND Filter shown above, have a consistent level of filtering throughout the glass to block light from entering the lens.
These filters come in all sorts of shapes and sizes, and have different filtering power as well.
For example, compare the 6-stop filter above with the 1-stop filter below. Naturally, the darker the filter, the more light that's blocked out and the longer the shutter speed can be.
The whole point of a neutral density filter is to reduce light without impacting the colors of the scene.
If you utilize high-quality filters like those from Formatt-Hitech, you'll get just that - beautiful colors and gorgeously blurred movement.
However, cheap filters often change the colors of the shot, which means you'll either have a degraded image or you'll have to spend more time in post-processing trying to fix the problem.
The moral of the story is that since the filter goes in front of your lens, you want to get the best filter you can afford.
After all, what's the point of having a nice camera and a solid lens if you just cover it with a cheap, poorly made filter?!
Long Exposure Mistake #2: Using the Wrong Aperture
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In order to extend the shutter speed to the appropriate time you need to blur movement, you have to decrease how much light enters the lens.
Of course, to do that, you have to use a smaller aperture.
But there is such a thing as using too small of an aperture...
Most lenses have an aperture range that goes to f/22, which is a really, really small aperture.
The problem, though, is that at f/22, most lenses - even very expensive ones - show signs of diffraction, which reduces the sharpness of the image.
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A better method is to shoot in the sweet spot of your lens.
Finding the sweet spot is easy, but it's generally somewhere between f/8 and f/11.
Doing so will ensure you get the sharpest image and also have good depth of field.
And since these apertures are middle-of-the-road, they also help limit the amount of light entering the lens to facilitate those longer shutter speeds that you need.
Long Exposure Mistake #3: Using Image Stabilization
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Though it might seem prudent to use image stabilization to reduce movement while the shutter is open for a long exposure, it's actually a primary cause of poor long exposure images.
The reason for this is that with such long exposures, your camera and lens need to be on a tripod for stability.
When you use image stabilization for a camera that's on a tripod, the image stabilization system might still try to compensate for movement.
Ironically, that means that the stabilization system actually causes vibration, thereby making the shot less sharp.
Having your camera on a good, solid tripod and using a camera remote is all the stabilization you need for long exposures, so turn image stabilization off!
Long Exposure Mistake #4: Not Accounting for the Wind
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When taking a long exposure, the wind can wreak havoc with your results in a couple of different ways.
First, if there are elements in the foreground that move in the wind (i.e., plants), they will be blurry due to their movement during the exposure.
You can't exactly stop the wind, so adjusting your composition to move those elements deeper into the shot will lessen the impact of that unwanted movement.
Secondly, even with a sturdy tripod, the wind can still cause the camera to vibrate.
There are a number of things you can do to mitigate this problem.
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For starters, if you have a lens hood on your lens, remove it. Do the same with your camera's strap. Both of these accessories can catch the wind and cause unwanted movements.
Next, avoid extending the center column of your tripod as much as possible. Raising the center column brings the tripod's center of gravity upward as well, which makes it less stable.
Finally, add additional weight to your tripod if possible.
Many tripods have center column hooks specifically for this purpose. Hang your camera bag, fill a tote with rocks or dirt - anything you can do to help weigh the tripod down will help you get better results.
If you adhere to these quick tips, I think you'll find that the quality of your long exposures is increased!