Pierre-Alexandre Huguenin — Portrait Photographer based in Geneva, Switzerland. © 2019 All Rights Reserved.

Long Exposure

Step-by-Step Tutorial: Long Exposure

Here we go again in Geneva for some long exposures. As you know, I’m really keen on long exposure, as it takes creativity to another level. When it comes to this type of photography, one should strive to find new angles and compositions: a long exposure isn’t indeed an excuse for a lack of composition.

The very first long exposures I’ve ever made were taken at Perle du Lac, on the shoreline of Lake Geneva. It’s a lovely spot for photographers, as the park offers beautiful views of the Alps and the Rade de Genève with its iconic Jet d’Eau. I took the images by an overcast day of October 2018. The conditions were nice with fast-moving clouds and some little waves on the Lake. And the Jet d’Eau was functioning that day, so I was fortunate.

Based on that experience, I want to share with you guys my thoughts and my tips on how to easily make long exposures. Basically, what you need for a long exposure in daylight is:

  • A tripod
  • Your camera
  • A neutral density (ND) filter (in my case, a 10-stop filter from Hoya)
  • Optional: a remote (or phone) to take the picture

Step-By-Step Tutorial

  • First of all, you must have your tripod steady. Otherwise, you’re going to have camera shake, which results in blurry pictures.
  • Once you’re sure your tripod is firmly set on the ground, put your camera on the tripod. Again, to reduce the risk of having blurry pictures, disable the Optical Image Stabilisation (OIS) function of your camera, since it’s set on a tripod.
Changing camera settings
  • Then, switch to Aperture mode (A on the mode dial) and try to find a composition that looks appealing. As you’ll be using an ND filter on the lens, you must deactivate the autofocus and change for manual focus (MF). It’s straightforward, and you just have to turn the focus ring of your lens to fine-tune the focus. To make sure you’ve acquired excellent focus, utilise the focus peaking function of your camera. It will magnify the image and show you coloured lines, telling you if the photo is whether in focus or not.
  • Next, take note of the shutter speed given by your camera. Open the Lee Stopper App on your phone to automatically calculate the shutter speed you need with the type of ND filter you’ve picked.
Putting on the ND filter and taking the shot
  • Once the focusing is done, put on the ND filter and don’t touch your composition.
  • Switch then to Bulb mode (B on the mode dial). Select the shutter speed given by the Lee Stopper App. If you’re at sunrise, allow for a slightly faster shutter speed, as more light is being added to the scene. If you’re at sunset, add more time, since light is going away.
  • Finally, use the two-second timer function of your camera to take the shot. You can also utilise a remote (or your phone if your camera can be connected to it).
  • Voilà!

It might seem complicated at first, but once you get the hang of it, long exposure is an amusing thing to experiment with.

Share your thoughts about long exposure in the comments!

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