Photo by Marco Vanni

If you’ve ever wondered how to snap serene shots of flowing water, vibrant light trails from moving cars, or the hustle and bustle of foot traffic, then today’s lesson is for you!

Long exposure photography captures some kind of movement over a specific period of time. As its name dictates, this kind of photo is captured by leaving the camera’s shutter open for a longer amount of time. To capture crisp, clear images, photographers should invest in a tripod, or at the very least, have a wall, tree stump, fence, or other steady object on which to place their camera. Shaky hands will lead to blurry photos!

For long exposure photography, it’s best to shoot manual, or at the very least, on shutter priority mode, which automatically adjusts the aperture and ISO based on your selected shutter speed.

The key in long exposure photography is utilizing manual focus. Leaving you camera on autofocus can be ineffective in long exposure shots, as the auto feature may zero-in on a different object, throwing off your entire image.

Photo by Antoine Buchet

Take your photograph in “live view,” so that you don’t constantly have to peer through the viewfinder of the camera to check your shot. This will also allow you to set up your scene and align the image to your liking.

Keep your ISO low, especially if shooting outside during the day. Even for long exposure photography at night, your ISO should still be relatively low to prevent an abundance of grain in the form of pixels.

Photo by Nige Levanterman

Experiment with aperture, too. It’s difficult to give a precise f/stop for reference since situations can vary so greatly, but it’s good to take at least five minutes to snap a few test shots — 15 to 30 seconds of exposure is usually sufficient, so if you take a photo that’s a bit too dark, open the aperture. If a photo is too blown-out (over-exposed), close the aperture a bit by choosing a seemingly larger f/stop.

The subject matter for long exposure photography is only bound by your creativity — try photographing water, waterfalls, people walking around a city, cars driving down a winding road, clouds in the sky, light trails from moving vehicles, or sparklers! The possibilities are truly endless!


  • Use a tripod to reduce blur.
  • Photograph on manual mode or shutter priority mode.
  • Use manual focus instead of auto.
  • An exposure time (shutter speed) of 15 to 30 seconds is generally sufficient, but may vary depending on your setting.
  • Don’t be afraid to experiment with different f/stops until you get the right exposure.