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Over the last few years, I have gained a large amount of feedback by those who have commented. I am putting all the best advice I know and can find on my best Photography Tips and Long Exposure Tips.

Photography has been a passion of mine for many years and in the last few years, I have put a lot of work into my landscape and long exposure photography.

Here are the best set of tips that I can give and put before you, along with a large section of my best landscape photos from over the last 4-5 years. 

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If there any photography tips you wish me to cover, I can always try to accommodate those requests. For this subject, I am going to talking about ‘Long Exposure’.

Believe it or not, long exposure photography is very easy with a bit of practice, time and knowledge of your camera settings, and finally a sturdy tripod.

Photography Tips and Long Exposure

Location, location, location; when it comes to setting up your camera for a long exposure photograph, it always pays to plan and think about your subject.

For the photograph below, I didn’t have to walk too far to get the ideal photograph.

Thames Long Exposure Photos

Fig. 1.  The Settings for this photograph were: Manual Mode | Aperture ƒ/9 | Shutter speed: 13 seconds | ISO100

Long Exposure Essentials

When holding your camera off a tripod, there will always be a chance of camera shake (blurry images) so a sturdy tripod is essential for this type of photography.

The results of using a tripod and using a slow shutter speed can produce stunning results.

The tide of the Thames was still out and although the current was a bit choppy, the slow shutter speed will make the water appear smooth.

The only downfall of using a slow shutter speed will blur any movement in front of your lens.

Boats Long Exposure

Fig 2 Aperture ƒ/11 | Shutter Speed: 10 seconds.

While I was stood looking for another photograph, two pleasure craft moved in to view. Rather than looking directly at the blurry light of the London Eye, the blurry images of the pleasure craft draw your focus.

Although distracting, they make you look closer to try and figure out what they are.

Manual Mode for Long Exposures

Using manual mode for taking long exposures and many people don’t like using Manual and may even find it daunting. I find using Manual Mode gives me more control of my camera and what I see through the viewfinder.

Whether you are a Canon, Nikon or Sony user, using manual mode is very easy to find. It is represented by capital ‘M’ on the dial on top of the camera.

Nikon D850

When using manual mode, there is a small horizontal thumb dial below the main settings dial. This horizontal thumb dial will mainly increase the shutter speed or lower it to your required speed.

Getting to Know Your Settings

To change the aperture, there is a dial or +/- button near the main shutter release button depending on your camera make and model. On this camera, I would need to toggle the rear dial until you have the correct shutter speed button or the toggle the front dial to change the aperture size.

The small the size (higher the aperture number) more sharp your photographs will be. The ideal aperture size for night photography is between ƒ/9 to ƒ/16.

Higher the ‘F’ number, the slower the shutter speed will need to be I.e Between 10 to 30 seconds (If you want to read more about Aperture and Shutter speeds, please read my old post on my old blog on Depth of Field).

Long Exposure Portrait Photo

Fig 4. Aperture ƒ/16 | Shutter Speed 10 seconds | ISO100.

Keep Your ISO Low

ISO stands for International Standards Organisation. On a camera, the ISO is the cameras way of maintaining higher shutter speeds in a bad light.

However, there is something which comes in to play when increasing the ISO. The best way to describe this is thinking of small grains of sand making their way on to your photographs. This is known in the photographic industry as digital noise.

For all of the night photographs, which you will see on my post on Friday. My ISO was set very low, an ISO of 100.

This ISO level is usually used during sunny days or daylight hours, but it also makes sure there is little or no noise at all on my photographs. Some of the higher professional model camera’s can lower their ISO’s down to 60 or 50.

Tripod Fuctions

Practice, practice and practice: You may have heard of the phrases, “Practice makes perfect” or “Try, Try and Try again”. Well, these says are true when it comes to long exposure photography.

Ideal Location and Long Exposure

Find a building or landscape location you want to photograph. You will need lots of time and patience. Don’t be afraid to look for tutorial websites either, that is how I learned about taking photographs at night.

As I mentioned above, scouting your location is key, but so also is the weather. You need to look up the local weather reports and take a tripod best suited to your situation. 

London Eye Long Exposure two

Using Neutral Density Filters

The next photograph, I used a set of lens filters to help with my long exposure. There are different types of filters on the market.

Ones which can be screwed on the end of the lens, depending on the size and diameter of your lens. I used what is called a Neutral Density filter or ND filter for short.

Using ND filters are a great way to keep your aperture at your favourite ƒ/stop and take awesome photos during the daylight hours. The only confusing part is what each number means in terms of stops your ND Filters have, while also trying to work out what the new shutter speed will be after you have connected the ND filter to your camera. You can also go for variable ND filters, which change in intensity as you twist the filter.

Giving you even more on control of your camera settings, without having to make the calculations or touch the camera, which will also depend on the mode you have put your camera in to. 

Fig 7. Aperture ƒ/36 | Shutter speed: 2.5 seconds | ISO100

Using ND Filters During Daylight

Because I was using an ND filter, I had to compensate with my shutter speed and brought it down to 2.5 seconds. Just as the Aperture controls the amount of the light coming into your camera, so does the shutter speed and the ISO. It is part of the Exposure Triangle.

If you wish to keep your ISO low for less digital noise, you will need to use a higher aperture number, which in turn will lower your shutter speed as a result. 

London Eye Favourite Photo

For this shot, I also kept my aperture as small as possible to ensure that everything in front of my lens was as sharp and crisp as possible.

The result of having a lens filter during the daylight hours proves that a long exposure photograph can be done during the daylight hours.

The Right Lens for your Landscape Photography

Choosing the right lens for Landscape photography is just as important as setting your camera for the right composition. Having a wide-angle lens, like a 14-24mm or 11mm lens are wide enough to capture more of your scenery.

Irix-11mm-Wide-Angle-Lens
Image courtesy of irixlens.com

The disadvantages of wide angles are the distortion effects from the lenses. You can use this distortion to your advantage. It is best to experiment with a half land/half sky composition (instead of the general rule of thirds) when the sky asks for it and the colours from the Sun hitting the Clouds. 

There is an argument as to which is the best aperture setting(s) for landscape photography. Choosing the correct aperture is a personal issue and I personally have used ƒ/11-13. There has been a time that I have used ƒ/22. It does all depend on what you are taking photographs of. 

Knowing The Best Times to Take Landscape Photographs

Knowing the best time to take landscape photographs is always a tricky one and does depend on your assignment or what your end goal is.

If you are wanting the colours of Sunset, then the evening golden hour (1 hour before the sun sets) is the best time to set up and take the photos you are looking for.

Long Exposure Big Ben

Try NOT to get the sun directly into your lens either. This can cause incorrect exposure settings unless you are using an ND or variable ND filter. 

There also many discussions on which are the best times to take landscape photographs.

Settings and Times for Landscape Photography

Since different settings require different timings, you have to take note of these following tips:

  • When taking photos of the mountains, the best time to take the photo is sunrise on the east side and sunset on the west side.
  • For taking photos of the hot springs, the best time is 10 am to 2 pm so that the sky would reflect perfectly.
  • The best times for taking photos of the trees and forests, the best time is one hour after sunrise and one hour before sunset.
  • As for taking photos of the cityscape, the best time is one hour after sunset and just as the sun is setting.
  • For taking photos of the waterfalls and waterfalls with rainbows, the best time is before sunrise and after sunset and make sure that the sun is behind you.
  • When taking photos of the northern light, the best time is the months of September and March.
  • When taking photos of the sunrise or sunset, the best time is half an hour before sunrise and half an hour before sunset.

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Whether you agree or not, I have followed these rules or not, I have used them as a baseline and to guide me in my landscape photography.

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John M