How it was done - Zooming the Exposure

How it was Done – Zooming the Exposure


This is a technique I learned years ago in photography school and have been having fun with lately. Hope you have as much fun playing with it as I do!


Zooming during a long exposure tips

  • Works well on night scenes and ones with many light sources
  • Set up your camera on a tripod with a remote trigger or release
  • Set your camera to Manual mode
  • Set your focus by zooming in all the way, then lock the focus (using either back button focus or focus using Auto-focus and then switch it off to Manual focus)
  • Zoom out so you can see the whole image as you want it framed
  • Then start your exposure and zoom your lens out while the shutter is opened (you may need to practice a few times to make it go smoothly)
  • Experiment with different zooming speeds and timing, as example: if you exposure is 5 seconds do one with 3-4 seconds at the beginning, then zoom at the end; then do another when you zoom immediately and do most of the exposure at the end
  • Exposure must be 2 seconds or longer to make this work, otherwise it becomes really tricky to zoom
  • If it is too bright to get a 2 second exposure, make sure your ISO is as low as your camera goes and your aperture is set to your smallest setting (f/22 or f/32). If it is still too bright you may need to use a Neutral density filter to cut down the amount of light coming through the lens

Here are a few examples done using this technique.




I encourage you to experiment and play around with technique and other similar variations. Share your images in the comments below and if you have other tips please tell us!

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Darlene Hildebrandt is an educator who teaches aspiring amateurs and hobbyists how to improve their skills through articles on her site Digital Photo Mentor, online photography classes, and travel tours to exotic places like Morocco and India. To help you at whatever level you're at she has two email mini-courses. Sign up for her free beginner OR portrait photography email mini-course here. Or get both, no charge!

  • Raquel Golfarini

    Thanks so much for the tips! I’ve wanting to try this out for some time already. All of the samples shown here are really interesting and all have something special, as you’ve said, photography is very subjective and I totally agree.

  • marinsd

    San Francisco from Hawk Hill in Marin

  • Robert Lopez

    Here is one of mine in Fresno, CA

  • Lorri A

    Perfect timing, I was doing some zoom blur shots in mi garden this afternoon, trying to take my mind of the horror in Paris. Now I have a tweak to try, longer exposures and zooming just for a part of the exposure. I hadn’t thought of that, thanks!

  • Lorri A

    Absolutely LOVE the way the clock face is zooming out at you, brilliant!

  • Abhinav Sharma

    Here is one I did some time ago . Used the technique to create more drama to this skull I found in the forest.

  • Awesome !! zooming the exposer,,,creative work…

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