Breathtaking Long Exposure Photography and How to Capture It


As you know, our first free e-Book was launched and so we were all, including me, busy making Photoshop resources. Thanks to you, the e-Book has met with a landmark success. Now I am free to focus on the other subjects as well. For today, I chose a form of trick photography. So after many weeks, here’s a super tutorial for learning Long Exposure Photography.

As the name suggests, long exposure photo is when the camera’s image sensor was exposed to light for a longer period of time than usual. Traditionally this technique of is used for taking images at night, since the light is low, the lens is exposed the light longer, hence pictures become clear. But this technique also adds kind of a special effect to the photos. Below are a few examples:


Niagara Falls

Long Exposure

Exposure: 30 Seconds

Image by John A Ryan

Light House

Long Exposure Photos

Exposure: 114 Seconds

Image by MumbleyJoe (Tyler)


Photography Technique

Exposure: 10 Seconds

Image by Express Monorail

Sky ways

Long Exposure Techniques

Exposure: 1 Hour

Image by c@rljones

Spinning Wheel

Learning Long Exposure Photography

Exposure: 20 Seconds

Image by Sara Heinrichs (awfulsara)



Photography Techniques

Exposure: 2-5 Minutes

Image by Dene’ (Seattle) Miles


Long Exposure Photo

Exposure: 5-10 Seconds

Image by Patrick Smith Photography

Use of This Effect

Even though the photos above must have described the use of this effect quite efficiently, let’s also give the text a chance. This effect adds a kind of an art into the photos, this fact makes it one of my favorite types of photography.

If you take a long exposure photo of a hustly-bustly landscape, the camera catches light trails, thus it captures an amount of time. In the photo emerging as a result, you can actually feel the speed of the objects. And it can also create a dream-like mysterious environment on nature and landscape photography, for example try shooting a long exposure photo of some sunshine coming in from a guild of trees.

Taking the Shot

First of all, you must use a tripod, if you try to just carry the camera the whole time, the result will be just a mess of blur, even if you have an expensive camera with image stabilization.

Long Exposure shots are not good at everything, you should choose the right subject for taking such shots. High speed moving objects, such as rushing water or spinning giant wheel create pretty good results.

But the best results are always produced with lights, a long shot of a road with a 3-5 minute exposure time never misses to impress. Keep the shutter speed at a few seconds. There might be a setting in camera called “B” (or bulb), this setting let’s you keep the shutter open as long as you may want.

Also try to capture a shot which I always wanted to. The time you see a storm, focus your camera to spot where it is lightning the most. You should be able to capture many many lightning bolts in a single shot.

Extra Tips

Use a Remote to control the shutter and take the shot. If you press the button, it will shake the camera and the whole effort will be ruined.

Use Filters to hold back the light. Circular polarizers reduce two stops of light. There are many kinds of Neutral Density filters, you can choose the one that suits you.

Use “B” (or bulb), this setting let’s you keep the shutter open as long as you may want while usually the cameras restrict this time to 30 seconds maximum.

Use Small Aperture and the minimum the ISO is, the better the result will be.

Shoot RAW image and apply noise reduction because the longer the exposure is, the more noise you will get.

Set Up the Camera before the Dark because… I bet you know why!

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Tayyub is a visual storyteller, a mass communication gold medalist and the editor here at Designzzz.
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  1. Ali Qayyum March 16, 2011 at 8:54 pm

    really amazing photography and tips thanks

  2. Ben March 16, 2011 at 9:03 pm

    This is a good overview. I particularly like the idea of setting up your camera before dark. Every time I have to set up my camera in the dark, I always have to struggle to find the right focus. (Distant points of light or the moon are great ways to make sure the camera’s focused.)

  3. March 17, 2011 at 7:30 am

    great article. I’m looking to get me a Nikon and I’m looking forward in taking long exposure shots like these. thnx for sharing

    1. Greg March 30, 2013 at 4:19 am


      1. GRIFFEN June 6, 2013 at 4:25 am


  4. Heather March 17, 2011 at 11:30 am

    These are really impressive photos ! “The spinning wheel” in particular is breathtaking. Thanks for all the tips, I cannot wait to try them. I did not have much time to make photographs recently so I am gathering as much information and tips as possible and looking forward to next photo session.

  5. rayann March 17, 2011 at 11:45 pm

    great photography but not so great spelling
    its NIAGARA Falls, thank you.
    just cause i live there

  6. Tayyab March 18, 2011 at 12:03 am


    Thanks a lot for proving my point in technical manner. In fact, you seem to be an experienced photographer, send your shots sometime :)
    And by the way, do you think I should make photography related posts more often?

  7. Tayyab March 18, 2011 at 12:25 am

    Thanks for the comment and also sponsoring us :)
    Would you like to tell me why would you prefer Nikon over the others? Actually I’m trying to figure which is the best camera brand in the market.

    No Comments for your logo……

  8. Tayyab March 18, 2011 at 12:29 am


    You know whats the best method to learn photography…? It is to keep taking shots. Don’t just collect tips, keep shooting with whatever kind of camera you have, even the cell phone cameras work.
    Yeah, spinning wheel is one of my favourites as well.
    Thanks for the comment and Best of Luck for your next photo session. :)

  9. Frederic March 18, 2011 at 12:39 am

    I like the Fireworks by Express Monorail, so colorful. But the Sky Ways is the difficult or the long one, isnt it? It was taken for 1 hour exposure. It’s worth to try. Thanks for this great tips.

  10. Adriana March 18, 2011 at 7:18 am

    Wow, this article is amazing! I played around before with my Canon 400d, but I never got around to dig more into long exposure photos. Thanks!

  11. Tayyab March 18, 2011 at 12:37 pm


    Yeah, definitely it is a difficult one, but as you said, worth a try. Thanks for the appreciation

  12. Tayyab March 18, 2011 at 12:40 pm


    Though I don’t have much experience of using 400d but I think it is a pretty good cam for taking low exposure shots. You should try this type of photography more often.
    And Thanks for the kind comment.

  13. Jaime Lacayo March 19, 2011 at 1:13 pm

    This is a long exposure pic I took in New Year’s 2008-2009.

    It was a 2-3 second exposure.

    1. Tayyab March 20, 2011 at 8:09 am

      @Jaime Lacayo

      This certainly is a very nice shot, thanks for sharing it.

  14. Tayyab March 20, 2011 at 12:08 pm


    My bad, it is fixed now, by the way you live near to Niagara Falls, Lucky You….

  15. steve March 24, 2011 at 9:22 pm

    The lightning thing is one of my favorite things to do during the summer storms. I’ve gotten some pretty breath taking results. It’s hard to get more then one bolt in the frame at a time for where I usually take my photos from (somewhere in my house) but if you can go to a wide open space, you should be able to get a bunch together.

    Sometimes, just one bolt can be enough though, like these:

    1. Tayyab March 26, 2011 at 2:46 am

      I have finally found something to show what I was talking about. Please visit the link below, you can also read the story how they took this shot.

      @Steve, Thanks for sharing your collection and yes, you are right sometimes one bolt can be enough, but just take a look at the link above. This is the shot I wanted to take.

  16. söve March 25, 2011 at 3:51 am

    Nice tutorial.Thanks.

  17. fotograf studniówka March 28, 2011 at 7:27 am

    these are sooo great!

  18. fajas colombianas March 28, 2011 at 11:08 am

    that fireworks exposure is amazing.

  19. Scott March 28, 2011 at 1:28 pm

    I really like the one of EPCOT I have used long exposure photography at Disney World often but I don’t get the many brilliant fireworks that they show in this shot and definitely not at 10 second. My belief is that this is more a conglomeration of several different pictures from the same vantage point and then woven together using some software program. I have gotten many fireworks pictures that are very defined like these but I get one or two not the grouping like this one.

    1. Tayyab March 29, 2011 at 12:41 am


      You maybe right but the photographer is trying to give the impression that this is a majestic shot and not a conglomeration. This shot was taken from Here and it also won the most votes at this competition.
      It might be just one of the shots which somebody takes only once in a life, when the results surprise even the photographer.

  20. Henk March 29, 2011 at 4:23 am

    Great piece! I love these long exposure shots. Should experiment with them a little more myself (only recently got a tripod and by no means am anywhere near a proper hobbyist).
    As for the extra tips, I would like to add a little something. Since not everyone has the possibility to use a remote, another way to go is using the timer function most modern camera’s have. This way there will be some time between the pushing of the button and the taking of the picture, cancelling out any movement you might make that way. Though obviously not very easy to use when you need to time your shot, but on static subjects like the waterfalls above, this should work quite well.

    1. Tayyab March 31, 2011 at 1:10 am


      Thanks for tip.
      This is actually something new for me. The camera I use doesn’t let me set the timer for more than 30 seconds and I have never tried an external timer.

  21. the Ninja April 19, 2011 at 10:49 am

    Thank you! I recently purchased my first Digital Camera, a Nikon 3100 and have always wondered how people make these shots…I thought it was photoshopped. I can wait to try…practice!

  22. Erik Kerstenbeck April 19, 2011 at 11:50 am


    if you liked this article, you may also be interested in two articles detailing Light Trails and Motion Blur techniques!

    regards, Erik

    1. Tayyab April 20, 2011 at 3:44 am

      Hey Erik!

      You didn’t say a word about this article here, do you like it, did you find a flaw in it. Professionals critique is always appreciated at Designzzz.
      This kind of comment sometimes seems like a copy paste material and it appears as if you haven’t even read the article.

  23. Rksharma May 14, 2011 at 10:09 pm

    Realy very good tips,I like it. thanks. keep it up.

    1. Tayyab May 16, 2011 at 3:11 am


      Thanks for the appreciations, I’m writing another photography tutorial which will be published in a few days. By the way, have you checked Camera Toss Photography Techniques yet?

  24. Ashley Beolens June 24, 2011 at 9:43 pm

    Excellent tutroial, really well explained, and good to have photographs that represent the different lengths of exposure.

    1. Tayyab June 25, 2011 at 11:17 am

      Thanks @Ashley Beolens

      You appreciated all the bits. :)

  25. Bec June 27, 2011 at 4:09 am

    How do you stop the pictures from being over exposed? Do you just shoot in shutter mode? Or is it manual mode with a really low aperture?

    My long exposures always seem to turn out over exposed :(

    1. Tayyab June 28, 2011 at 2:53 am


      ISO should be minimum and using some filters would also be a good idea. Kindly study “Extra Tips” in the end of the post once more.

  26. Jalal Hameed Bhatti June 27, 2011 at 7:10 pm

    Thank you for these tips. But what about the digital cameras that do not have the B button. I have Sony DSC-H2 with no B button, and have been unable to find any settings that could provide replacement of B. Can anyone help?

    1. Tayyab June 28, 2011 at 3:03 am

      First of all, DSC-H2 isn’t the best camera to take low exposure photos. It is good for many other kinds of photography, but not this. Frankly, I never used this camera so I just Googled to provide you with an answer. Your best bet could be using it with lowest shutter speed and using a neutral density filter with it. Hope this helps.

  27. william June 28, 2011 at 5:06 am

    Digital Cameras and Long Exposure.

    I have found that on almost all digital cameras you have a natural light option. If you set the camera to that option and then make sure that your flash is off it will take a long exposure. This seems to work as the B function on film cameras.

    You need a tripod to make sure it stays stable and much of the time I will put it on timer so that there is as little movement in the camera as possible.

    There is a problem with low light photography in that many of the smaller cameras have an automatic focus and it has trouble focusing in low light conditions. If your camera has a manual focus option then use it. Some are easier to use than others.

    If you have an option to change the ISO I find that the lowest ISO is best for crisp clear images but many of the cameras can’t change this and it will go to the best option they choose for the lighting conditions.

    DSLRs are best for this since on all the ones I have seen have options to control all these conditions however you can use some of the cheaper pocket digital cameras. See if you can get a camera that will let you change the ISO, turn off the flash, and focus manually. I have often used a trash can or railing as a makeshift tripod to keep the camera still.

    1. Tayyab June 28, 2011 at 5:51 am


      Thanks a million for the great reply. I’ll be using some of your tips in my upcoming article with your reference.

  28. R.k.sharma June 29, 2011 at 5:34 am

    realy very interesting tips.

  29. wickedsunny June 30, 2011 at 4:48 pm

    Fantastic Pics and Tips, thanks :)

    1. Tayyab July 2, 2011 at 1:32 am

      You’re Welcome Wickedsunny!
      Tell you a little secret, my boss’s pet name is sunny. :)

  30. Jalal Hameed Bhatti July 3, 2011 at 1:55 am

    Thank you everyone for the tips to my question. I will try these when it is lightening next time.

    1. Tayyab July 4, 2011 at 12:56 am

      Thanks for reading the post word-by-word. :)

      If you happen to take the shot, don’t forget to share it with us. 😉

  31. gops July 10, 2011 at 12:37 am

    extraordinary ………………..

  32. cristi August 1, 2011 at 6:28 pm

    What type of dSLR camera do you suggest I buy for long exposure photos?

    1. Tayyab August 2, 2011 at 2:01 am

      I wouldn’t wanna seem like publicizing a company so forgive me for not naming a model. I’d just say that a camera which has all the functions described above (bulb, filter, remote etc.) can be bought. All these are routine functions and you will find them on almost all good DSLRs.

  33. wsround August 2, 2011 at 5:43 am

    The first camera I had was a Fuji. This was not a DSLR but it worked well for long exposures. I have had an Olympus pocket camera and it was good except being very thin it was hard to sit on anything and keep still without falling over. You would probably need a tripod for any of those pocket cameras even if it is one of those tiny tripods. The DSLR I have is a Sony. It is very nice an has all the functions that you need for low light photography. I got it at a great price so couldn’t pass it up. There is a Nikon that is wonderful but the problem with DSLRs is that they get expensive quickly. You don’t need a DSLR for low light or long exposure photography, but they are nice if you have access to them. Some of my first long exposure pictures were with just a regular digital camera prior to getting my DSLR. You just have to know how to set the camera to get that exposure. I have a wonderful picture of the EPCOT golf ball that I did with my first digital, non DSLR, camera.

    1. Tayyab August 3, 2011 at 1:11 am

      Thank you @wsround :)
      You answered brilliantly to @cristi’s question.

  34. wsround August 3, 2011 at 4:47 am

    I just want people to know that you can get very good shots with those cheaper digital cameras. It takes awhile to find the proper settings but it can be done.

    It is always a given that there are always better cameras out there that will be easier to manipulate the settings so it is my suggestion that you go with a camera that is your price comfort level and then play with the settings until you get the result you desire.

    1. Tayyab August 4, 2011 at 2:15 am

      couldn’t agree more with @wsround

  35. | Kristoper May 6, 2013 at 8:27 pm

    simply amazing! i should try one of these tips on my nature trips.

    1. Tayyab May 7, 2013 at 7:21 am

      Good Luck on the nature photography Kristopher :)

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