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Long Exposure Workflow


An easy workflow to help with Long Exposure

1. Find your subject and set up your tripod

2. Work out your composition and turn camera to manual

3. Set you ISO to 100, your F-stop to either F8 or F11 and your shutter speed will be dependent on your camera's exposure meter. You'll see this through the view finder, normally at the bottom of the viewfinder - having the exposure at 0 means it's exposed correctly. Anything to the right is over exposed, anything to the left is underexposed. It is usually better if landscape photos are slightly underexposed. To minimise light further and therefore slow down the shutter speed, you can stop down to the narrowest F stop for a longer shutter speed, so maybe F16 or F22. 


4. You can take up to a 30 second exposure without using a shutter release cable, anything longer than that requires your camera to be in BULB mode, and a shutter release cable to be attached to the camera.


5. If you can, remove your camera strap so that it won't knock your tripod if windy. Make sure your tripod is sturdy.

6. Auto Focus your shot as normal, then turn the lens to manual focus. Zoom in on live view to manually check your focus is correct.


7. Set your camera to a 3 second delayed shutter, this again prevents any camera shake. Take the shot if up to 30 seconds.

Adding a ND filter for longer exposure shots


To work in BULB mode, you will need a light blocking filter, ND filter. There are various ND filters on the market - three to consider are screw on, magnetised or drop into a square holder attached to the lens. There are pros and cons for all of these options, so research which style is more suited to you. You will also need to purchase a shutter release cable, which is less than £10 to buy via Amazon. 

1. Follow steps above.  

2. Assess how the image looks, if you want more silky water (if that's your photograph), then you need to slow down your shutter speed. During daytime it is essential to have ND filters for long exposure as the sunlight, even behind clouds, will be too strong without. I would suggest at least an ND6 and and ND10 in your pack if you were going to purchase some. 

3. Calculate your shutter speed based on what a "normal" exposure would be without the ND filter. Make sure your focus is correct and on manual. Then add your ND Filter. There are plenty of long exposure charts to calculate your shutter speed, but the easiest option is to download a free app called Big LEE Stopper. This app allows you to choose either a 6 stop or 10 stop filter. You turn the dials and enter the "normal" shutter speed and choose the filter you have on your camera. The app will then tell you how long you need to have your shutter open. For example, a 30 second shutter speed with a ND10 filter will give you a 8 minute shutter speed.

4. Use shutter release button to start the exposure and use a stopwatch to time your exposure. Some cameras have stopwatches, or you can use your iphone. The LEE app has a timer too.

5. Take the shot. You may need to take several shots to get the shutter speed "right" for how you want the image to look, but make sure the exposure is correct regardless of shutter speed.

Once you get practise this workflow, long exposure will be easy and lots of fun!! It just takes a few attempts to get to grips with everything you need to do. But work slowly through your list and take your time. Long Exposure photography is a slow style of photography, just enjoy being in the moment!


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