Long exposure photo of the National Library of Latvia

How to take long exposure photos

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Have you ever wondered how those beautiful, ethereal photos are taken? The ones with the silky waterfalls or the stars streaking across the sky?  They’re called long-exposure photos, and it is one of my favourite kinds of photos to shoot. In this blog post, I’ll explain to you how to take long exposure photography step-by-step, as well as some tips and tricks for the equipment needed. 

A photo I took in Ireland. For ideas for what to do in Dublin, click here.

What is long-exposure photography?

Long-exposure photography is a technique that allows you to capture images with long shutter speeds. This can be done by using a low ISO setting and a tripod, and by taking the advantage of natural light sources. With this type of photography, you can create some truly stunning images.

There are a few things you’ll need to keep in mind when it comes to camera settings. First, you’ll want to use a low ISO setting. This will help to reduce noise in your image. Second, you’ll need to use a tripod. This is because long exposures can cause your image to be blurry if there is any movement. Finally, you’ll want to take advantage of natural light sources. Sunrises and sunsets are great times to try out long-exposure photography, as the light is typically softer during these times of day.

With these tips in mind, let’s take a look at how to take long-exposure photos step-by-step.

Equipment needed.

Let’s start off with one of the most important things – your equipment. When it comes to long-exposure photography, good equipment is very important and there are some things you cannot go without. A camera is a given and so is a tripod. For more information about the equipment I personally use, click here.


To take photos you will need a camera, and, sorry, but your iPhone camera won’t be good enough this time. DSLR cameras are best for long-exposure photos because of their advanced features and manual controls. DSLRs allow you to control settings such as shutter speed, aperture, and ISO, which are critical for achieving stunning results in long-exposure shots. Bulb mode in DSLRs is also incredibly useful for controlling shutter speed. I personally currently use a Nikon D610.


Next, you will need a good steady tripod to make sure your photos are sharp where they need to be. This is the one I use. For more information about the equipment I use, click here.


Remotes in long-exposure photography are mostly useful for two reasons: you can time your exposure precisely and it reduces camera movement and, therefore, makes the photos sharper. You can buy a wired or wireless remote, or even use your smartphone as a remote shutter release. However, for long-exposure photos, I recommend this remote or any other that has a timer on it. It will be super helpful for when you need to adjust the time for the exposure. If your photo comes out too dark, make the next shot longer.


ND filters, or neutral density filters, are invaluable tools in long-exposure photography. They allow you to achieve longer shutter speeds, which are useful when capturing motion blur effects in subjects like long exposure waterfalls or clouds. These filters are also handy when shooting in bright conditions, as they reduce the amount of light entering the lens, enabling you to use longer shutter speeds even during daytime. 

How to take long-exposure photos step-by-step.

Now that you have your equipment ready, it is time to start taking some photos.

Step 1: Decide what you want to photograph.

Find a location where you think you could take some nice long exposure photos. It could be a long exposure waterfall, city lights late at night or a place with moving traffic. This will determine the long exposure photography settings you’ll need to use. For example, if you’re photographing a moving object, like a waterfall or a train, you’ll need to use a slower shutter speed. If you’re photographing a static object, like a building or a landscape, you can use a faster shutter speed.

Step 2: Set up your tripod.

Next, you will need a good tripod to make sure your photos are sharp where they need to be. This is the one I use. For more information about the equipment I use, click here.

Set up your tripod and attach your camera. Make sure the tripod is stable. Use a remote shutter release or self-timer to avoid shaking the camera when you press the shutter button.

Step 3: Select manual focus.

First, set your camera to Manual mode (M), so that you can use your long exposure photography settings, and then select a low ISO setting (e.g., ISO 100) to reduce noise.

Autofocus can be tricky to use in low light or when there’s not much contrast in the scene. In these cases, it’s best to switch to manual focus so that you can take your time to get the sharpest image possible.

Step 4: Choose the right settings for long exposure photography.

– Choose a wide aperture (e.g., f/8 or wider) to control depth of field.

– for long-exposure photography, it’s best to use a low ISO setting so that your photos are as clean and noise-free as possible.

– A good rule of thumb is to start with a slower shutter speed (1/4 second or longer) depending on what you’re taking your photos of and then increase the speed until you get the desired effect. The shutter speed will depend on your subject matter. 

It’s a good idea to set your camera to Bulb (B) mode, so that you can adjust shutter speed easier depending on the desired effect.

Step 5: Take the photo.

Once everything is set up, it’s time to take the photo! If using a remote shutter release or self-timer, make sure not to touch the camera while the exposure is being made.

Step 6: Review your photo.

Don’t forget to review your results and make adjustments as needed to achieve the desired outcome.

After taking your photo, review it on the LCD screen. Check for any blurriness or other imperfections and make adjustments as necessary before taking another photo.

Make sure you experiment with different long exposure settings, compositions and subjects to unleash your creativity and capture stunning long-exposure images with captivating motion blur, light trails, or dreamy effects. Happy long-exposure shooting!

Skogafoss water fall in Iceland - best places to see in Iceland

Long-exposure photography is a great way to capture amazing images. By following the steps and tips outlined in this blog post, you can take stunning long-exposure photos that will wow your friends and family. Make sure you experiment with different settings – adjust your shutter speed and aperture to see how it changes the look of the photo, and have some fun with it. So get out there and give it a try! 

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