Photography Tutorial: Introduction to Long Exposure Photography: Part II

Long Exposure

Long exposures enable the photographer to create impressive artistic images with an illusion of time passing and a smoothing effect. Let’s revisit this topic and define the technique for long exposures outdoors.

Long Exposure: Part II

We introduced the basic equipment, camera settings, and technique of long exposure photography in a previous post. Here is a brief review of the most important points.

A long exposure can be defined as one taken in low-light conditions using a shutter speed between 1 and 30 seconds.

This is the minimum required equipment for long exposure photography:

  • Camera with a manual mode setting – enables multi-second shutter speeds
  • Tripod – holds the camera still for the elapsed time of the photograph
  • Remote shutter release – to take the picture without wiggling the camera

We’ll build on these concepts by taking our equipment outdoors and practicing the same technique in nature and street photography.


With outdoor long exposure photography, there are many types of dim light sources. In nature, this is usually twilight – generally 30 to 45 minutes after the sun sets. Twilight creates a different, deeper blue color in the sky than direct sunlight. Take a look at the example at the top of this post. This shows a lake scene at twilight – notice the color of the sky as a neutral blue and its reflection in the water.

Long exposure nature photography creates a beautiful effect with water. In our example, you can see the smoothness of the water instead of crisp, glassy look when photographed in a fraction of a second. Water here is our object in motion. The stationary objects are the twigs in the water and the far shore. These two types of objects in dim light constitute the three elements of long exposure photography.

The lake scene was taken with these camera settings:

  • Exposure: 30 seconds at f/4.5
  • ISO 100

Twilight makes it possible to take a long exposure without using filters on your lens. If you’d like to learn about shooting waterfalls and creating the artistically smooth effect with the water, come to one of our Digital Photography courses and ask about a neutral density filter.

Street Scenes

Street Scene 1

These same techniques can be applied to street scenes. Dim light sources are typically incandescent street lights and car lights – which are most fun captured in motion over several seconds.

The example street scene was taken with these camera settings:

  • Exposure: 30 seconds at f/22
  • ISO 100

Taking a closer look at these values, you’ll see the f-stop of the first example was 4.5 (giving a wide aperture). In this second example, f/22 was used to give a small aperture which creates the starburst effect with the streetlights. Remember this technique by the phrase “stop down for starbursts.” ISO 100 was used in both photos to give the best detail in the low light.

Different Perspectives

Street Scene 2

The technique for creating photographs in town at night can give you a new perspective for taking pictures you never thought of! Consider our third example – what catches your eye when looking at this picture? We think it is unique because of the repeating patterns of the lights between the columns, with the strong linear perspective created by the lines in the image. Would this perspective be so pronounced lit by direct sunlight with a cast shadow? Long exposure photography after dark will totally change the feel of a subject!

By learning how to photograph twilight scenes in nature and street scenes in low light, you can create artistic images that will certainly stand out! Gain new perspectives on nature in motion and lights of the night and enjoy outdoor long exposure photography!