Photo Guide: Taking Long Exposure Photos

City skyline with clock tower at dusk

One of the fun things to do with landscape photography is take long exposures. There’s something about the smooth texture that long exposure creates in the water and sky that’s instantly satisfying. Here’s how it’s done.

If you want to make the water look like glass and watch colors and clouds melt in the sky over your head, you’ll need a sturdy tripod, camera, a neutral density filter (for shooting long exposures during the day), maybe a friend, and a lot of patience. It’s always good to bring a friend along for this kind of shoot because they can keep you company while you’re waiting for the sun to go down, or when you need an extra pair of hands to ensure everything stays perfectly still.

A MUST-HAVE for long-exposure photos is a reliable tripod. When shopping for tripods for your camera, it’s important to find one that is sturdy, durable, and can handle the weight of your camera and your lens. If you are in windy conditions, you may want to get a tripod with weight attachments on it.

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long exposure photos, Photo Guide: Taking Long Exposure Photos

Photo credit: @alexivelasquez on instagram

The photo above was taken in Hoboken, New Jersey, just as the sun set below the horizon. While the New York City skyline is a beautiful sight, I wanted to capture an image from a different point of view, so I turned my camera about 90 degrees, and got this amazing image. It’s an unexpected vantage point — while everyone was looking one way, I decided to look the other a helpful tip with landscape photography, especially in popular destinations, and you’ll thank yourself later when you’re looking for something new to add to your Instagram feed that stands out from the rest.

The image below is actually the very last image in the set I took of the Freedom Tower the night I went to Liberty State Park. With an expensive mirrorless camera, I wanted to push its limits and see what it could do, and I was impressed. This image was taken at 30 seconds, f/17 and ISO 125.

long exposure photos, Photo Guide: Taking Long Exposure Photos

Photo credit: @alexivelasquez on instagram

One of the cool effects of keeping the aperture so high is that it creates a starburst effect on round lights. It’s not easy to see in the Freedom Tower image, but they’re visible in the picture taken in Hoboken.

However, one of the challenges that I find with taking long exposures at night is the monotonous colors. Notice how in both pictures, the main tone is blue — which is great, I love blue, but sometimes I wish I could change it up. I tried to add different color tones in the highlights, but this is one of those instances where I wish I had invested in a good neutral density filter, so I can capture colorful images during the day.

As a photographer, long exposures are my favorite to capture, especially when there are pretty lights, water, and a dynamic sky above. With summer officially in full gear, stay tuned for more long exposure images of fireworks and sparklers!

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