Long Exposure photos look very different. That’s because, they have elements that we can’t normally see. For example, in the photo above, the green shade of the sky in the BG, the ray of light on the right and the flowing water in the fountain are not seen, normally. Our eye sees jus that instant. The sky will look pitch black, we can’t really see that faint green glow. The light on the right won’t have any visible rays, unless you have some dense fog. Water in the fountain will look like normal water flow and won’t look like a silky stream flow. The other thing, that can’t be seen in this photo, is that waves will look like a magical glow kinda thing, which is the motion blur, when long exposed. You can try that with beach photos. But you need a ND (Neutral density) filter for a really long exposure photos and a sturdy tripod. They are very effective and photos look so good after proper post-processing. Long Exposure will be of great help when you don’t have enough light to get a perfect exposure. Again, you need a good tripod for this.
Long Exposure shots need a really low shutter speed, it is obvious from its name. Since we have a low shutter speed, we need to have a low ISO to maintain proper exposure. Normally 100 – 200 will do. The advantage with this is less noise. But, we may find some noise with 100% zoom. This is something related to sensors, pixels will get saturated or something like that. We can’t really avoid that. But, we can reduce that by using ND filters. Shutter speed should be according to your requirement. The general rule is that, you need a tripod for shooting at shutter speed less than 1/60. So, by the rule, you can’t shoot a long exposure photo hand held, you need a tripod. Now for setting the shutter speed, you can either vary the shutter speed with the shutter speed pre-sets or you can use bulb setting to continuously expose till you hit the shutter again. But, for really using bulb you will need a ND filter. If you don’t use one, your photo will surely be over-exposed. There are lot of varieties of ND filters such as High- Density ND, Variable ND etc., you can check that out, if you wanna buy one. Aperture setting also follows the same concept – we need less light, so use minimum aperture like 1/22.
* Low ISO
* Small Aperture
* Slow Shutter Speed
Position the elements using rule of thirds or something different, if you want to try something new. But, give lots of space for elements that are in motion. That’s because, you are actually taking a long exposure photo for that right ? If you don’t cover them you don’t need a long exposure photo in the first place. The object in motion should be your main subject.
Post-processing can be divided into mono-tone (Black and White) and coloured. Monotone will have a great effect. That’s because, the long exposed part will be in some shades of grey or white, mostly. This will give a dreamy effect. Additional glow filters in Photoshop will give a fantasy look to the photo. The blacks of mono-tone photos should be a shade of grey. If it is pitch black, viewers may get drawn to them. You can always play with the BW ratio to find the perfect one for your photo, since it depends a lot on the subject in hand. You won’t have much noise since it is a low ISO photo. Even if you have noise, it will give a good drama-look to the photo. So, you don’t need to reduce noise, which does at the expense of sharpness. In case of coloured photos, most of the time, you will need noise reduction. Again, it depends on your subject and the mood you want to create. Other than that, you can do tonal changes. But, maintaining the natural tone is the usual way, since the photos already have a lot of new patterns and colours that are not normally seen. You can use a muted tone, one with less saturation. Muted tone gives a good feel to long exposure photos. To summarise, keep the colours and BG simple to draw the viewers towards the long-exposed part.