Photography at night
The easiest way and also the cheapest to get long exposures is to take photos at night. The whole photography is a triangle: [link] To get the right exposure, shutter speed, aperture and ISO are the main parts. If you have less light, open the aperture and ISO and shutter speed are constant. If you use a higher ISO you can keep your shutter speed and your aperture, and if you use a slower shutter speed (longer exposures) you can keep the ISO and the aperture! And this is what we need for night photography!
I have seen many pictures that have so many ISO artifacts, because the photographer wants to keep a fast shutter speed and the aperture, but this at the expense of the image quality. Then there are photographers who open the aperture, but the depth of field is so short then that we have less sharpness and often a wrong focusing, and there are some who even combine it. All these techniques wont bring you a real satisfying result.
Thats the way I do:
First of all, the use of a tripod is absolutely necessary, or youll get blurry images!
To get brilliant pictures without ISO artifacts, of course set your ISO at 100 or less!
Use the Av Mode of your camera (or the M mode) and set the aperture at 10-14. This depends of course how many light is still available. The more you close the aperture the longer you need to exposure! So the darker it gets the more you can open your aperture. The camera will set the exposure time automatically!
If the camera gives you a signal in the display (twinkling exposure time), the max time of the camera (most models= 30sec.) is not enough to get a right exposure! You can open the aperture a bit or even use ISO 200 (but not higher, because at longer exposures the ISO artifacts will be more as usual).
You can also use the BULB mode. Here you once press the release button and your exposure starts. If you press it again the exposure ends. So you can get every exposure time!
The use of a remote control is recommended to avoid camera shakes! Also use the mirror lockup to avoid shakes!
Every landscape or cityscape is different and has other lights. Play a little bit with aperture and exposure time, but hold the ISO constant!
Here I used an aperture of 13 and an exposure time of 30 seconds. It was already dark night and I had only the lights of the main station.
This shot was at dusk, so I had to close the aperture a bit more and could use an exposure time of only 20 seconds.
Here I had only a little light and so I used a more open aperture of 11 and used also the BULB mode of my camera to get the exposure time of 1 minute.
Long exposures and daylight
Another use of long exposure is at day. The problem with long exposures at day is, that although you close the aperture a lot and use the lowest ISO, the shutter speed is still too fast to allow longer exposures. But there are some solutions to even take long exposures at day. The cheapest method is to shoot on cloudy days or in the shade of trees (maybe in forests). Close the aperture as far as possible and you can get exposure times of maybe 1-15 seconds. But the best way is the use of a filter!
There are Neutral density filters which allow you to take long exposures at day. These filters are in a neutral grey tone so that you have no coloring effects, but they are very dark so that the cameras ETTL system makes longer exposures. The filters have several intensities; I use a ND400 filter which lets only 1/500th of the light through! Longer exposures are so no problem anymore, even in the sun.
Although I used the ND400 filter to get an exposure time of 120sec, also a time of 15sec without filter were possible in this forest.
I took this photo at full daylight and with the ND400 and I got a time of 6sec. Enough to get this effect.
Cool long exposure effects
But how do we do longer exposures even if they arent necessary at day? We could take our photo just as "normal". But long exposures have some great effects and make a picture surreal. You can capture in one photo moving clouds, can make disappear people, produce light rays, foggy waves, motion blur effects and more
Finally I have some examples where some of the effects are in:
Do you have a compact camera?
Of course this whole instructions make only sense with a DSLR camera. But how can you make longer exposures with a compact camera? Well, many compact cameras have different automatic photo modes. Look through the different modes and some cameras have a special night mode. So here use a tripod, too, and try to avoid shakes and blurrs with the delayed-action shutter release.
I hope I could open you a great area of photography, Im glad about comments and faves, and of course you are allowed to fave and comment on the example pics. If you have any questions in general you can write it into the comments or just send me a note (thats faster). If you have a question to a special picture you can also comment on it.