If you want to delve into the world of long exposure photography there are a few things to know, read on to find out more!
1. Get your camera out of your hands and onto a tripod, not just any tripod either. Using a cheap flimsy tripod is a recipe for camera shake, the shutter of the camera can be enough to cause a vibration in a flimsy tripod. Although they aren’t cheap do yourself a favour and invest once in a sturdy tripod such as those by Manfrotto and Gitzo.
2. ISO, the way to go. So we are about to photograph using low light levels, first things first turn your ISO up, right? WRONG. Digital sensor noise becomes particularly bad during long exposures and the best way to avoid such noise is to shoot with a low ISO. For most circumstances my camera performs best set to 100 ISO so I try to leave it there. Simply lower the shutter speed to obtain a correct exposure, after all, with a good tripod you camera isn’t moving anywhere.
3. ND is for me. The neutral density filter can be used to great effect in landscape photography. Sometimes you are shooting on your lowest ISO and smallest aperture yet you still desire a slower shutter speed. This is where the humble ND filter steps in. Available in a variety of strengths I recommend picking up a couple and having a play with slowing your shutter speeds even further.
4. Film is great for long exposure photography as it doesn’t build the noise that digital sensors do, if shooting film however you must be aware of a trait known as reciprocity failure. Essentially it is a phenomenon whereby films sensitivity to light changes with exposure time. The easiest option for dealing with this is to find a “reciprocity chart” for the specific film you are using and refer to this when calculating exposure times.
5. Carry a torch! Often when shooting long exposure photos it will be dark or getting dark, I can’t tell you how many times I’ve forgotten a torch and had to fumble around as darkness fell. A torch is so handy to keep in your bag for such occasions.