How to Take Really Long Exposures with a DSLR

Long exposures are a standard method used in photography that may produce photographs that are both breathtaking and ethereal. It is not feasible to capture the beauty of motion and light in the same manner with a standard point-and-shoot camera as it is with a digital single-lens reflex camera (DSLR).

Starting with gaining a grasp of the idea and ending with creating stunning photographs, this article will walk you through the process of shooting exceptionally long exposures using a digital single-lens reflex camera (DSLR).

Understanding Long Exposures

Prolonged exposure is a term used in photography to describe a method in which the shutter of the camera is left open for a prolonged amount of time.

This allows more light to reach the image sensor within the camera. The motion blur, light trails, and other creative effects may all be captured with the help of this approach.

Necessary Equipment

You will need the following accessories in addition to a digital single-lens reflex camera (DSLR):

  • DSLR camera capable of operating in manual mode
  • , dependable three-legged stand
  • Release options include remote shutter release and wire release.
  • Filters with a neutral density, sometimes known as ND.
  • , a lens hood (to help reduce the amount of lens flare).
  • A flashlight (so you can alter the settings on your camera while it’s dark)

Camera Settings for Long Exposures

Put your camera into manual mode by pressing the “M” button, and then make the following adjustments:

  • To reduce the amount of noise in your image, reduce the ISO setting to its lowest possible value (for example, 100).
  • Aperture: To achieve a greater depth of field, set your aperture to a smaller number (for example, f/8 to f/16).
  • Speed of the Shutter To get the impression you want, choose a shutter speed that is somewhat slow (for example, several seconds to minutes).

Choosing the Right Location

Keep an eye out for things or settings that have motion, such as water that is flowing, clouds that are moving, or bustling streets.

Including things of interest in the foreground of your long exposure, shots may help make the composition of these photos better.

Composition and Framing

It is essential that you pay attention to the composition as well as the framing of your photograph. When you’re trying to make pictures that are aesthetically attractive, you should think about using compositional principles like the rule of thirds and leading lines.

Manual Focus Techniques

To guarantee that your image is perfectly crisp, set your lens to the manual focus mode and utilize the infinity sign () or focus peaking (if it is available). When there is not a lot of light available, you should use a flashlight to help you focus.

Using Filters for Long Exposures

When working with long exposures during the day, neutral density (ND) filters are essential. These filters lessen the amount of light that is let into the camera, which makes it possible to use slower shutter speeds without the image becoming overexposed. Experiment with a variety of filter strengths to see which one produces the effect you want.

Calculating Exposure Time

The “Sunny 16” guideline can be used as a jumping-off point for determining the correct amount of time to expose an image for. You should adjust the shutter speed according to the metering of your camera and the effect that you wish to obtain.

Capturing the Shot

In order to prevent camera wobble, you should secure your camera to a stable tripod and either utilize a remote shutter release or a cable release.

To begin the exposure, press the button and then wait for the allotted period of time. Examine the picture that is displayed on the LCD screen of your camera in order to make any required modifications.

Post-Processing Tips

You may improve the quality of the end result by uploading your photographs to a computer and then using photo editing software.

In order to get the most out of your long exposure shots, play about with the exposure, contrast, and color settings. Try out a variety of editing strategies until you find one that gives the results you’re looking for.

Tips for Nighttime Long Exposures

Long exposures taken at night provide one-of-a-kind photographic possibilities to capture the allure of light trails and starry sky.

It is recommended that you make use of a larger aperture, a higher ISO, and longer shutter speeds in order to capture the ambient light successfully. To get fascinating results, try experimenting with a variety of light sources and varied compositions.

Common Mistakes to Avoid

  • Use a tripod and a remote shutter release at all times to reduce the amount of blur created by camera vibration.
  • Overexposure: To prevent photographs from being overexposed, use neutral density (ND) filters to regulate the amount of light that enters the camera.
  • Inadequate composition: If you want your photos to be aesthetically appealing, you need to pay attention to the framing and positioning of the subjects within the frame.

Creative Ideas for Long Exposures

  • Light painting is a technique in which an artist uses a flashlight or other sources of light to create creative patterns or write messages in the air.
  • Capture the streaks of light that are formed at night by moving automobiles using the term “traffic light trails.”
  • The flow of water may be captured over an extended period of time to produce silky smooth water effects that can be used for waterfalls and rivers.
  • Take photographs of the night sky over an extended period of time to record the rotation of the Earth as seen in the form of “star trails.”


Using a digital single-lens reflex camera to take photos with highly long exposures enables photographers to explore their creative potential and produce captivating results.

You may take breathtaking images that exhibit motion and light in a manner that is unique to your vision if you are familiar with the tools, camera settings, and processes involved.


Q. Can I take long exposures without a DSLR camera?
A. While a DSLR camera provides more control and flexibility, you can still achieve long exposures with some point-and-shoot cameras or even smartphones using dedicated apps.
Q. How do I prevent noise in long-exposure photographs?
A. Set your camera’s ISO to the lowest value to minimize noise. Additionally, avoid extremely long exposures that can generate more noise in the image.
Q. What are the best times of day for long exposures?
A. Long exposures can be taken at any time of the day. However, certain subjects, such as waterfalls or cityscapes, may look more appealing during the golden hours (early morning or late afternoon) when the light is soft and warm.
Q. How do I avoid overexposure in daylight long exposures?
A. Use neutral density (ND) filters to reduce the amount of light entering the camera. Experiment with different filter strengths to achieve the desired effect.
Q. Can I create long exposures without a tripod?
A. While a tripod is highly recommended for stable shots, you can improvise by using a stable surface, such as a wall or a rock, to keep your camera steady during the exposure.

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