If you've ever wanted to try some long exposure photography but not known where to start, this straight forward guide to the basics will hopefully get you on your way to getting some great images!
Before we start there is a few camera setting we need to follow the ensure we get the best possible results,
Camera Settings go to your camera menu.
Shoot in RAW. Shooting in Raw will give the best option to post process in Lightroom/photoshop, retaining all the information within the image. If you don’t currently have access to image editing software then use the setting ‘JPEG+RAW”, you’ll then have the RAW file to go back to and edit later on.
Turn LE noise reduction OFF. Any noise reduction can be done in post processing. In camera noise reduction involves the camera taking a blank frame for the same amount of time as the exposure, so if you’ve taken a 5 min exposure the camera will then taken the blank exposure for a further 5 mins, meaning 10 minutes overall. This will also drain the battery quicker.
Turn Image Stabilisation OFF. Image stabilisation is designed to be used when hand holding the camera, it doesn’t account for being stable on a tripod and will still try to stabilise, which, ends up having the opposite effect and can cause a loss of sharpness in the image. So if you have stabilisation, either on your lens or in body, or both, turn them off.
So, now we’re ready to set the camera firmly on to the tripod, it’s important to have firm and stable base to work from.
Tripod. Having a good quality tripod goes along way in helping to get a movement free image. Keep the front leg directly in line with the camera to avoid tipping forward, we don’t want to loose any filters! If shooting low down, extend legs out wide to keep stability. Always keep central column down, this is the least stable part when extended. Remember if you change to shoot in portrait adjust the tripod accordingly to position the leg in line with the camera.
Next, compose your shot and focus, auto focus is fine at the point.
ISO. Set the iso to the lowest, usually 100 or 200 depending on make and model. This will help to get the cleanest image with the least amount of noise, the more you push the iso, the more noisy the image will be.
Aperture. Choose your aperture depend on the amount of depth of field you require for your shot. Try not to be tempted to push the aperture too far, f11 on APS-C and f16 on full frame is going to be high enough, most lenses tend to be less sharp the smaller the aperture gets, so shooting at f22 will result in loss of quality, if your after a longer exposure time think about using stronger nd filter.
Take an exposure reading, and whether you’re in manual focus or aperture priority mode, take note of the shutter speed!!
Polariser. If you are using a polariser, take you exposure reading with this already mounted on the lens, polarisers can reduce exposure time by 1-2 stops, so attach first!!
So now we have the shot composed, focused and an exposure reading, take some test shot to make sure you’re happy with the settings.
Turn off Autofocus. Now you’re happy that the image is focused correctly switch to manual focus. When you use a cable release or remote shutter, which you will be doing, when you press the button it will attempt to refocus, once you have your nd filter attached the camera will struggle to focus and you can often end up with an out of focus image.
Now take your exposure reading and work out the exposure time you will get with the nd filter attached. This can be done with either a smart phone app or chart that comes with the filter.
e.g. Exposure reading of 1/30 sec with a 10 stop filter will give an exposure time of 34 secs
Bulb Mode. Turn the camera to ‘B’ setting, this will allow you to keep the shutter open for the desired time, press the remote shutter release once to start the exposure and then press again to stop.
Insert the nd filter into the holder and attach to the lens, we’re now ready to take our shot.
Using the remote shutter start your exposure.
Remote shutter. It’s important to use your cable release or remote shutter as any contact with the camera using the shutter release button will cause camera shake on the image.