How to Use Long Exposure for Unique Photos

By Phineas Upham

If you’ve ever looked at a photo of a river and seen the milky white waters cascading down rocks, you’re looking at a photo shot with increased exposure. Normally, increasing the exposure of a photograph would increase the lighting in the shot, and could potentially wash out colors and details in a wave of bleach white. With thought and practice, longer exposures can capture a great deal more than just light.

Motion Blurring

If you open the camera’s shutter for a longer period of time, you’ll capture a range of motion in front of the lens. You can use this technique to “traffic trails” or show the precise moment of impact when your child kicks or hits a ball. Alternatively, you can create a “freeze frame” effect by decreasing shutter speed, thus capturing a particular frame in someone’s full range of motion. This is particularly effective in sports photographs.

Night Photography

Longer exposures tend to have the side effect of letting more light into the camera. Try blinking quickly, then blinking a bit slower and you’ll get an idea of what that means for a camera. If you open the lens for a longer period of time, you end up with more light that enters the camera, thus allowing you to get good exposure at night. However, the camera also detects any motion the lens perceives. That includes any minor shaking in your hands, so a tripod is a necessity for night photography. In fact, tri-pods will be an important part of your arsenal as a photographer. Find a lightweight, durable tripod and you’ll be equipped for a lifetime of photoshoots.

Phineas Upham is an investor from NYC and SF. You may contact Phin on his Phineas Upham website or LinkedIn page.

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