101 Ultimate Tips for Long Exposure Photography Ideas

Ultimate Tips for Long Exposure Photography Ideas – If you guessed that time pictures are long exposure, you are correct. Long exposure photography is a way of capturing the cumulative effects of time – in one image – using slow shutter speed (long exposure). This technique helps you catch clouds when crossing the sky or traffic lights while walking along the highway.

Long exposure photography is addictive to this! This technique offers enjoyable results – unique and artistic images. While it takes a bit of practice to perfect the art of long exposure, and a lot of trial and error, the results are worth it.

Are you prepared to start the long exposure process? Read on to see ten incredible things that happen when you slow down the shutter.

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Let’s start getting started.

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Interpretation of Long Exposure Photography

Long Exposure Photography Ideas for beginner

So, what is Long Exposure Photography, exactly?

It is possible to understand long exposure photography as a technique focused on holding the camera shutter open for a specified period of time.

Shot your handheld shutter should be around 1/5000-1/40 second about 1/40 second to get sharp pictures. However, using a slow shutter speed, starting from half a second and upwards, and setting your camera on a steady tripod, you’ll be able to catch motion in clouds, water, vehicles, animals, etc. Wherever there is movement, using the long exposure method, there is an opportunity to be innovative.

Long exposure photography ideas at night help us see more detail from the stars than through our naked eyes. We will capture images of the Milky Way or the Northern Lights’ colors that we would not be able to see with the naked eye by holding the shutter open for a more extended period of time.

The end product of either nighttime or daytime exposure photos is magical because your eyes can’t see it. Many people assume that long exposure images have been “Photoshopped” if they are unfamiliar with the final image. However, your camera and a tripod are all you need to take long exposure photography and ND filters sometimes.

Check Our Articles about Long Exposure Photography in here:

8 Reasons to Love Long Exposure Photography

Sunset Ideas Long Exposure Photography Tips for beginner

1. Get a smooth look at the water, or look how the water flows

One of the most common ways to use long exposures photography is to smooth out the water to make it appear still or static. With the ocean, rivers, and lakes, this can be accomplished. Using the Long Exposure Photography Ideas can make the water less noisy since it has no movement. Then the picture is all about the sky, the rocks, or something else that is there.

nature smooth water ideas - long exposure photography ideas
photo from Instagram: @3435.photography

Another choice is to do long exposures of about a second to see the water movement. You can see where it has been. When the tides move in and out on the beach, it almost appears like slow-motion capture. This is a significant effect, and we see a lot more of it. While water flowing on the beach is not the only way to do it, it can be just as engaging as water falling over rocks.

Another type of long exposure photography ideas that peoples love is waterfalls. While many waterfalls are down in canyons, you still need an ND filter to get the smooth marshmallow effect with the water as it flows down. However, you don’t often need a multi-stop one as you would for the previous examples of water.

2. Get blurred clouds

For long exposures photography ideas, architecture is a general topic because the clouds can be blurred. It gives a different look to the photo, and it almost seems like the loss of time is your focus. It also makes the building you photograph the main focal point with the sky’s blurring and gets rid of any distractions.

blur cloud nature long exposure photography ideas
Photo from Instagram: @matt.venturelli

3. You can clear people and traffic

If you like photography in cities, but one of the difficulties of photography is that people are still around, long exposures with filters help you clear these distractions. Several minutes’ exposures can render a scene of people almost visible, but it depends on their density. A location where there are just a few people walking around will come up with the impression of being empty with a long exposure. However, if there are a lot of people, you’ll find that they’re all blurring, while this can have a significant impact as well.

night street ideas - long exposure photography ideas
Photo from Instagram @esheero

4. There’s a calmness about the job

When people are exposed to the scene that you are photographing, it brings noise, like how people see the pictures. They can be loud, and whether or not people viewing photos know it, they hear what they’d listen to if they were actually there. Cars may have an identical impact.

If you’re doing a long exposure of the same thing, the noise is gone. Sometimes, when you see long exposure photography ideas, it feels calm. Fill a space with pictures done this way, and bring people in it; they’re going to feel like they’re going to have to be calm.

street night long exposure photography ideas
Photo from Instagram @okomedia.com.mx

5. Take pictures of a popular subject and give it a totally different feel

There are famous locations and scenes in every city worldwide that everyone attempts to photograph differently from others. You can make a picture that not many people can get if you have some ND filters and your tripod. Not many people have filters with them, especially while traveling. You’d have a chance to get something very different from the thousands of other images taken in those locations. Of course, there are areas where a tripod can be set up.

taj mahal - long exposure photography ideas and tips for beginner
Photo from Instagram @theamazingtraveling_

6. Offer a landscape a sense of time or the passage of time

When you’ve got cloud images blurred as they go over the top of a building or a landscape, it seems like you’ve captured time. A lot of people feel like they’re looking through time. Long exposure photography ideas are taken over a period of time, so it makes sense for you to get that feeling when you look at those pictures.

long exposure photography of the day
Photo From Instagram @smithsonphotography

7. Images have a surreal appearance and give you a new perspective

One of the significant aspects of long exposure photography is that you can set up your frame, tripod, and slot in your neutral density filter, but you won’t know what you’re going to get until the image is taken. It’s going to give you a picture that’s nothing like what you can see through your eyes. It is always a surprise when you get the photographs on your computer to see what you have caught.

nature landscape ideas for long exposure photography ideas
Photo from Instagram @the_life_of_lowery

8. For the same reasons, night photography is perfect

Night photography gives you the chance to take pictures and not think about filters. You can expose yourself for as long as you like. You can get movement in your photos if it’s a windy evening and there are clouds in the sky. If you take pictures across the water path, the water will be smooth, and if there are any on the other side, you’ll get the reflections of the lights. Night pictures have the same impact for all of the reasons mentioned for long exposures photography ideas.

That’s why I think long exposure photography is beautiful. If you’re interested and want to continue and do this, I’m sure you’re going to get addicted, like many others. If you already do it, you may have your reasons, and you may want to share your views and long exposures photography ideas with us.

long exposure photography - Night Light Painting Ideas
Photo from Instagram @keiousai

How Shutter Speed affects Long Exposure Photography Ideas

For Long Exposure photography, the shutter speed is fundamental. Our camera uses three things to capture an image; ISO, aperture, and shutter speed. ISO examines the image’s quality, the aperture affects the depth of the field, and the shutter speed affects the motion.

The exposure triangle makes up all three of these. Longer exposure or shutter speed helps you not rely too much on light sources. More time ensures that more light can be added to the camera. For night-time long exposure photos, this is particularly helpful.

The shutter speed comes in split seconds. Usually, for daily photography, you will be working on a scale of around 1/125 to 1/500. Here, 1/125 indicates that one 125th of a second is open for the shutter.

If you split one second into 125 equal parts, this shutter’s opening is equivalent to only one of those parts. On your frame, one complete second will look like this: 1″.

In general, the shutter speed scale is 30′′ at the slowest, all the way to 1/8000.

But how long is this exposure going to last? Typically, you use speeds higher than one second for long exposure to photography. There is no upper limit, but at slower speeds, it becomes more difficult.

What equipment do you require?

Camera Equipment's for Long Exposure Photography Ideas

We may need some equipment to produce long exposure photography.  Any camera can be use, but a digital camera helps you review your photos before moving on to another shoot.

Camera that has manual features

It shouldn’t be necessary to say that you need a camera to take a photo, but I’ll mention it anyway.

long exposure photography camera setting
Photo by CHUTTERSNAP on Unsplash

The long Exposure Photography technique can be accomplished using most digital cameras (or even the latest smartphones). The critical requirement is that the camera configuration, such as ISO, aperture, and shutter speed, can be manually changed.

To reach shutter speeds above 30 seconds, cameras that have the Bulb or Time mode are extra convenient. That’s not a prerequisite, though.

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For long exposure photography, a tripod is fundamental. Repeat. I repeat. A tripod is indispensable.

Some may be imaginative and use rocks or other objects to rest on the camera, but we all know that it is a solution that is less versatile. Keep in mind that slow shutter speeds, often extending into seconds, or even minutes, are needed for this technique. In those conditions, it is difficult to capture sharp handheld pictures.

settings for long exposure photography
Photo by Patrick on Unsplash

The tripod need not be the most expensive and high-quality version currently available, but I suggest you invest in a somewhat solid one. It may be tempting to get the cheapest alternative from your local photography shop, but they appear to break quickly. Especially when used outdoors.

Even if you are not interested in Long Exposure Photography, a robust tripod should be something that you have. It’s a valuable tool that makes it possible to achieve many techniques that you wouldn’t have otherwise.

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Shutter Release

A shutter release is a useful piece of equipment. We spoke about camera shake due to camera handholding, but even pressing the shutter button can cause blurriness.

These shutter releases come in two forms; one that connects via a cable to your camera, and the other through infrared. The wireless version is a little more costly, but it means that to operate it, you don’t need to be next to your camera.

settings for long exposure photography
settings for long exposure photography

If you already own a time-lapse photography intervalometer, you can use it as a quick release. The other choice is to change the settings on your camera.

The shake will be reduced by setting the mirror to ‘lock-up’ before your shot. It also helps to set your camera to a two-second timer.

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Neutral Density Filters

Neutral Density filters are the last important instrument for Long Exposure Photography. Those familiar with the technique might suggest long exposures can be achieved without filters. That, in some cases, is one hundred percent right.

Neutral Density filters are most often referred to as ND filters. There are darkened filters mounted on the lens to minimize the amount of light that enters the shutter—the darker the filter, the slower the shutter speed needed to capture a great photograph.

When taking photos in the dark, these filters are not necessary. Light hitting the sensor at night takes a long time. The filters are essential during the daytime for Long Exposure Photography Ideas. A lot of photographers even tend to use them during the Golden Hour.

The best ND Filter on Amazon
Photo by Thomas Despeyroux on Unsplash

Neutral density filters come in many different types. The screw-on and drop-in/square systems are the two most popular. Both have their benefits and drawbacks, so that I won’t get too far into depth now.

Companies are abundant these days, so it can be a little daunting to find the right one. I recommend that you do some research before buying your first filters, some of which have heavy color casts that look terrible.

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Filter darkness and also Long Exposure Photography

It’s important to note that all filters for Neutral Density are not the same. I have already stated that there are a few different systems, but they also come in different degrees of darkness.

The level of darkness is defined in terms such as 2 Stop, 6 Stop, and 10 Stop. There are also two additional terms: optical density and the ND component. But let’s not get too technical right now.

These words explain how dark the filters are and how much you need to stretch the exposure time to reach the same exposure you would have without a filter. For example, a 10 Stop Neutral Density filter requires that you use a shutter speed that is 10 stops or 1,000 times slower. This means that the initial shutter speed of 1/60th second would be 16.7 seconds.

night photography long exposure photo ideas
Photo by Robert Tudor on Unsplash

A common mistake among Long Exposure Photography beginners is to purchase only the brightest filters, such as 1 or 2 Stop. They seem to be a little cheaper, but they still have little impact in most situations. They’re only getting useful in the Blue Hour when it’s semi-dark.

6 and 10 Stop filters are more widely used to slow down shutter speeds. When used during the Golden Hour, the shutter speed can be increased to several minutes. These darker filters are what you see in most of the pictures of silk water or extended clouds.

Step by Step Guide to take Long Exposure Photography Ideas and Tips

long exposure photography tips tutorials
Long Exposure Photography Tips Tutorials

There’s no single theoretical model for long exposure photography ideas. You will build your own workflow with practice and time, but this is the easiest way to do long exposure photography step-by-step:

1. Scout and open your eyes: it sounds pretty obvious, but this move is at the heart of long exposure photography. At least one hour before the time you want to photograph, try to arrive earlier so that you can select your location and observe the position of the clouds at the same time, see if the tide is rising, if there will be people walking in front of your camera, etc.

2. Set the camera in a safe position on a tripod: set the camera on a stable tripod; note that no picture is worth risking your equipment or your own life.

3. Get your composition: It’s time to compose your picture once you’ve evaluated and predicted all of the surrounding elements. You can find out the best composition methods for photography here.

4. Change camera settings: Turn your camera to Manual or Bulb mode and adjust the settings as explained below. Also, switching off the stabilization of the image (IS).

5. Focus: To take sharp and neat pictures, make sure that you have the correct focus.

6. Meter: Change the shutter speed, aperture, and ISO to obtain an exposure value equal to zero using the camera light meter. In order to catch the movement you like, use a long shutter speed.

7. Take a test shot and check the histogram and focus: Double-check the exposure via the histogram and the focus to make sure everything is OK after taking your test picture.

8. Calculate the shutter speed if you need to use ND filters: Change the shutter velocity depending on the filter you are using. To find some helpful applications to measure the time of exposure, you can check out our section below.

9. Carefully install the filter(s): If you use lens filters, carefully put them on. Don’t hit the ring of the focus or the camera.

10. To avoid any light leakage in your sensor, cover the viewfinder: To prevent any light leakage, if possible, protect the viewfinder and your filter holder.

11. Take the shot: To prevent any unnecessary movements in your camera, use the shutter release or the shutter delay.

12. Check histogram and focus again.

13. Get started again!

Ultimate Cheat Sheet for Long Exposure Photography Ideas and Tips

long exposure photography cheat sheet
Long Exposure Photography Cheat Sheet

These exposure intervals are just a reminder and differ according to the circumstances. Several variables can affect the exposure time, so we have produced the ultimate cheat sheet for long exposure photography ideas to measure your shutter’s speed!

Sharp stars & Milky Way12 – 25 sec.
Star trailsFrom 30 sec. –
Meteors3 – 25 sec.
Static Northern Lights8 – 25 sec
Dynamic Northern Lights0.5 – 8 sec.
City Lights15 – 60 sec.
Car trails30 – 120 sec.
Fireworks5 – 30 sec.
LightpaintingFrom 5 sec. –
Water with texture0.5 – 3 sec.
Smooth water-Silky effectFrom 5 sec. –
Slow-moving cloudsFrom 120 sec. –
Fast-moving cloudsFrom 15 sec. –
Removing people30 – 180 sec.

10 Amazing Photos for Long Exposure Photography Ideas

light painting photography long exposure photo ideas
Light Painting Photography Long Exposure Photo Ideas

Repaint With Light

light painting photography long exposure portraits

Painting with light is easily achieved through long exposure photography ideas. Only a dark place and friends carrying flashlights or glow sticks are all you need. You can capture your friends drawing shapes or writing in the dark using a long exposure and tripod. Try setting your aperture to f/11, your ISO to 100, and your shutter speed between 11 and 30 seconds for the camera settings. You may want to turn to the bulb mode for a longer exposure. The fusion of science and art, and something to have fun with, is light painting.

Awesome Sunrise or the Sunsets

long exposure sunset photography
Photo from Instagram: @epicnature_photos

Sunsets and sunrises are ideal for long exposure photography ideas. Some amazing and dramatic images can be created by long exposure during the golden hour, the hour before sunset. Where possible, use a tripod and a wide-angle lens for beautiful long exposure photography sunsets ideas and set your camera to manual or bulb mode.

A slow shutter speed of between 5 and 30 seconds can use. The longer the shutter speed, the more blurry the water.

Catch Moving Subjects

car photography night long exposure
Photo from Instagram: @moodytonnes

Panning is a perfect way to capture in-motion subjects’ images, enabling you to remain focused while blurring the background into abstract lines. Focus on the subject to the pan, then watch them while moving before releasing the shutter. Your shutter speed depends on how quickly the subject travels, how much light there is, and the distance between your subject and background. A car can need a 1/250 second pace, while a dog running can require you to slow it down to 1/40.

Traffic Light Trails

traffic light photography long exposure ideas
Photo from Instagram @andrea_pellegrini_photos

Another iconic example of long exposures photography ideas is the traffic light trails. A source of constant light, such as a busy street, a tripod, and some patience, is all you need. Using your tripod and adjust your aperture to f/16 or smaller so that most of your picture is in focus. Start with a shutter speed of around 10-20 seconds and change as you needed. The longer your exposure, the longer the lines are going to appear.

Perfect Fireworks

fireworks photography long exposure

Turn your flash off and set your camera to manual in order to get started with fireworks. This makes it possible for you to monitor your exposure and aperture. Set your aperture to f/11, at 1/2 second shutter speed and the ISO at around 100, is an excellent place to start. If the images are too dim, change the speed of the shutter while maintaining the same aperture. Shooting in the ‘bulb’ mode is another concept. This mode is found in the shutter velocity settings of most cameras. Bulb mode allows you to keep the shutter open for as long as the shutter is left down. When the firework bursts, this method helps you press the shutter and hold it until it’s over.

Using longer exposure, longer lines and images that look better will be produced. Do not forget to use a tripod, and ideally a remote release, to help reduce shaking, as in any long exposure photography.

Boost your Reflections

long exposure photography night photo ideas
Photo from Instagram @kakukatsu4184

It will smooth out ripples in the water and produce silky, slightly blurred reflections by stretching out your exposure time. Gorgeous! Use a tripod for blurred reflections, focus on the actual picture for the sharpest results instead of the reflection, and use a slow shutter speed.

Star Trails

star trails photography long exposure ideas
Photo from Instagram @fjarzynski

Long exposure is mostly used at night to produce stunning images. Star trails are one of the best-known examples of long exposure photography ideas. You’ll need a tripod, a remote shutter control, and time, a lot of it, for star trails! You may also need Photoshop or similar post-processing tools, depending on how long you want the star trail. For relatively short trails, the exposure time to star trails can be anywhere from 30 seconds to several minutes or even hours for much longer trails. Bear in mind, though, that the longer your exposure is, the more “noise” you can get in your pictures. This is where Photoshop is coming in. By taking several exposures and then merging the images into layers in Photoshop, you can help reduce noise. This technique has resulted in some wonderful night sky photos that we wouldn’t usually see.

Amazing Lightning

lightning photography amazing pictures
Photo from Instagram @calibreus

Lightning is unpredictable and tricky to photograph. To get a good picture, you’ll need to be ready and wait for a few steps ahead! You don’t know when it will hit with the lighting, so it will take some guesswork to see when the shutter should be released. Start with an aperture of approximately f/8, an ISO of 100, and a shutter speed of exposure of 15 to 30 seconds. Often use a tripod for shutter speeds that are too slow. You can also catch several lightning bolts and striking images if you are lucky!

Smooth Out Water

landscape photography ideas long exposure awesome
Photo from Instagram @bared_witness2

We have all seen ocean pictures showing a wonderfully smooth and silky blur. The technique used to capture the silky-smooth effect is called “motion rendition,” A slow shutter speed is used to achieve it. Using a tripod and a long exposure for blurred water. The longer your exposure, the more the water would be ‘velvety.’ For blurred results, streams and rivers generally need shutter speeds of about 1/15 through 1 second. In contrast, the ocean would need slower speeds, usually between 5 and 30 seconds.

Ferris Wheels

ferris wheel photography night long exposure
Photo from Instagram @nawras.wonderland

One of the more common uses of long exposure photography ideas is capturing a Ferris wheel in motion. Set your camera to manual mode to catch a moving Ferris wheel at night, and use a long exposure of between 1 and 30 seconds, depending on the Ferris wheel’s speed, the lighting, and the style you are looking for.


Long Exposure Photography ideas is a great deal of fun and an excellent method of capturing fascinating and unique pictures. Nonetheless, it needs a bit even more planning than ‘routine’ photography, and any type of blunders come to be much more noticeable.

These are the reasons that I assume long exposure photography is remarkable. If you wonder and intend to attempt doing these, then I make sure you will end up being addicted like lots of others. If you currently do them, you might have your factors, and maybe you wish to show us what they are in the comments listed below and your long exposure photography ideas photos.

Long Exposure Photography is all about exploring. It can be applied to numerous photography categories, and you’re only limited by your creativity.

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