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Employing long exposure photography techniques is a great way to create an image that makes others go “Wow!”. If you’re unfamiliar with long exposure photography the major ingredient needed is low light conditions, which will require your camera to expose for longer periods of time. In fact it’s even possible to use filters to reduce the amount of light that comes through your lens so as to produce long exposures even during the brightest times of day. Long exposures enable photographers to create an abstracted or surreal visual experience as opposed to reproducing a scene as we might see with our naked eye. In this regard long exposures allow you to artistically create something from a subject or scene that might otherwise seem ordinary with more standard photographic techniques. With that in mind here are 5 tips to transform your photography with long exposures:
Use long exposures to create an ethereal atmosphere. Weather conditions are often thought of as static, but in reality they shift and change slowly. In many instances these changes occur too slowly to be held in our visual memory, but our camera can record these changes. Misty, foggy or smokey scenes can be created with moving clouds, surf, etc.
We are often so rushed that we seldom pause to take note of slow moving subjects. Once you start to look for slow moving subjects you quickly open a door to a new world of photo opportunities. Clouds, shadows, stars, plants and even people or animals make great long exposure subjects.
While your camera shutter is open your sensor or film is in essence a canvas. Normally that canvas is open very briefly but with longer exposures the light running over your sensor acts a brush. If you let a scene unfold before you with your shutter open it is “painted” onto the sensor yielding blurs of light. If you work in an environment where there is little light you can manually paint light into a photo with strobes, flashlights, cell phones, etc. to create a unique image.
Back in the days of film there was a phenomenon where the color in your image could shift in long exposures from reciprocity failure. Different film types would experience reciprocity failure at different exposure times and produce varying types of color shifts. For many photographers these color shifts were seen as something to avoid, but many artist have employed this phenomenon to create very neat photographs. If you’re still shooting film this may be something you want to experiment with. If you’re shooting digital you can get color shifts by creating or using pre-made presets in Photoshop or Lightroom.
When you show someone something new that is under their nose all the time it reawakens their interest in it. Highlighting one or a combination of the visual effects previously discussed with long exposures of ordinary scenes will catch eyes. To find that eye catching photo you’ll need to experiment though as the net effect(s) of a long exposure may not be apparent until you view it.
To learn more about long exposure and slow shutter techniques check out my new eBook Photographing the 4th Dimension – Time .