- Manually count the stops as you turn the dial to change the shutter speed. To get 10 stops, you'll need to move roughly 30 clicks.
- Multiply your original shutter speed by 1000. In our case, that would be 1/100 * 1000 = 10 seconds.
- Use an app.
Now more than ever, us photographers have all sorts of tools that help us create more dynamic and more impressive photos.
For some photographers, the process of creating something jaw-dropping relies on the magic of Photoshop, Lightroom, and other similar programs.
There's certainly nothing wrong with that approach, but there are some things that post-processing just can't do.
One of those things is replicate a daytime long exposure that's achieved with a 10-stop neutral density filter.
If you want to start taking photos like the one above, follow along in this guide for step-by-step instructions.
What's a 10-Stop ND?
If you don't have a ton of experience using filters, you might be wondering what a 10-stop neutral density filter is.
The short version is that a neutral density filter's purpose is to filter out light. ND filters come in a variety of strengths, usually ranging from around 3-stops up to 16-stops.
The larger the stops, the darker the filter. So, a 10-stop ND filter is a very dark piece of glass or resin that blocks nearly all the light entering your lens.
Because it's so dark, it allows you to extend your shutter speed to great lengths - lengths that would otherwise be impossible without the filter.
It's so dark, in fact, that even in broad daylight, you can get exposures longer than a minute.
With all that time, you've got the ability to create photos that show tons of movement in clouds, water, passing traffic - you name it!
How Do You Use a 10-stop ND?
If you hold a 10-stop ND filter up to your eye, you'll quickly realize that you can't see through it.
So if you can't see through the filter, how do you use it?
Step 1: Plan and Set Up
The first order of business is to plan your photo shoot and get your gear set up.
When planning where to shoot, you'll need to consider movement, as discussed above.
Whether it's a river, waves at the beach, or clouds passing by, the scene must have something on the move if your photo is to have any impact.
Then, get your camera on a tripod, compose the shot, and zero in your focus.
Once the focal point is acquired, switch your lens to manual focus (MF) so it locks the focus in place.
If you neglect to do this, the lens's autofocus will encounter all sorts of problems once the ND filter is on the lens. Basically, since the lens won't be able to see anything through the filter, it'll constantly try to reacquire focus, and that won't do your photo any favors.
Step 2: Dial in a Baseline Exposure
Next, you'll want to dial in exposure settings for the scene but do so without the 10-stop ND filter attached.
This allows you to get a baseline reading from which to work once you have the filter attached.
Every scene is going to be different, and as such, the exposure settings you use will be different as well.
However, a good place to start is ISO 100, an aperture of f/8, and a shutter speed of 1/100 seconds.
Why these settings?
In the case of ISO, you want it as low as possible such that the sensor is least sensitive to light. That means that you can get even longer shutter speeds.
In the case of aperture, f/8 is a good bet because on many lenses, f/8 is at or near their sweet spot - or the point at which they are their sharpest.
In the case of shutter speed, this is just a placeholder, really, as that's the setting you'll manipulate the most to get the long exposure.
Step 3: Put on Your Filter
Now, the easy part.
Attach the filter to your lens. Depending on the type of filter you have, the process might be a bit different, so if there's any confusion, check the documentation that came with your filter.
Step 4: Math
To get a well-exposed image, you have to figure out how much you need to adjust your exposure settings to compensate for the lack of light now that the filter is attached.
Since a 10-stop ND has 10 stops of light-blocking power, that means you need to use a shutter speed that's 10 stops slower to compensate.
Now, this can be done in a number of ways:
Note that if you end up with a shutter speed that exceeds 30 seconds that you'll need to switch your camera to Bulb Mode in order to get a long enough shutter speed.
Step 5: Take the Shot
Now that you're all set up and the settings are dialed in, it's time to take your shot.
When taking long exposures, it's necessary to use a camera remote to trigger your shutter.
The vibrations you cause when you press the shutter button on the camera can reverberate, causing your image to be blurry.
To avoid that, use a camera remote to trigger the shutter.
Before you fire the shutter, though, be sure to cover the camera's viewfinder (I use gaffer tape). If you don't, stray light can enter the camera and cause exposure issues in the shot.
Step 6: Work the White Balance
Some neutral density filters are truly neutral and don't have any impact on the colors in the shot.
Other neutral density filters give the scene a blue or brown color cast.
If you find that your images have odd colors, you'll need to get into the white balance settings to try to rectify the situation.
In many cases, this might only require you to change the white balance to the Auto setting. In other cases, though, you might need to experiment with a custom white balance setting.
Step 7: Experiment With Exposure Settings
Now that you've got the basics down, you can experiment with your exposure settings to get more (or less) long exposure effects.
For example, if you wanted to extend the 10-second exposure we've been using, you can step down the aperture to restrict light entering the lens, and thereby extend the shutter speed.
If you changed the aperture from f/8 to f/22, which is a 3-stop difference, that means you could extend the shutter speed for 3 stops as well, from 10 seconds to 80 seconds.
Putting It All Together
There you have it - a quick and easy step-by-step process to follow for getting dreamy daytime long exposures.
It will take some time and practice to perfect your approach, but if you follow these steps, you'll be in a good position to start creating something pretty fantastic.
If you need a review, be sure to check out the video below by Joshua Cripps from Professional Photography Tips. He goes over each step outlined in this tutorial.