Long Exposures: Just Have Fun

let-there-be-lightGuest post by Justin McKee

Continuing on with last month’s theme, let’s explore the possibilities a little more with long exposure photography.

Before we delve any deeper into this topic, be sure to grab a flashlight or a really obnoxious kids toy.

The really fun aspect of long exposure photography is that you can mess around with light in ways that you aren’t normally able to. Like with last month’s post, with your naked eye you would never see the movement of the stars across the night sky in the same way a camera can.

If you set your camera up for a long exposure on a tripod, anything that moves in front of your camera is going to be blurred. Intense light, like light from a flashlight, can overexpose areas of the photograph that it touches. As you move the flashlight back and forth you’re creating a trail of that light just like you did with the stars.

So, there’s a lot of room for creativity. You can dance around with the light and create abstract shapes and swirls, or you can even be as precise as writing your name. Just keep in mind, you’ll need to write backwards because you’ll be facing the camera.

Camera set-up is just like the set-up in last week’s post for star trails. You’ll need a sturdy tripod, and a shutter release remote wouldn’t hurt either. Having a lens with a wide aperture helps significantly.

Set your camera’s ISO to 100 or 200; there’s no need to stretch your sensor’s limits because the long exposure and wide aperture of your lens will generally bring in enough light on their own. However, as with any environment, you’ll need to take some test shots first to get the numbers down.

Focusing might be a touch tricky this time around. Because you’re not focusing on something as far away as the night sky, you’ll need to ask someone to stand in your shot where you’ll be to properly focus your camera. You also can get away with focusing on the ground where you’ll be standing.

Or you can be REALLY fancy and mess around with focus by intentionally making the photograph out of focus. When you shift focus heavily it can create some interesting spectral highlights in your photograph. This can be especially pleasing when shooting images of Christmas lights or traffic in the city.

The No. 1 rule with long exposure photography is to just have fun with it. There are no hard rules and no major time constraints. Enjoy!


meJustin McKee is a small-town photographer with big ideas living in Michigan. In addition to portraits, wedding photography and video, he also enjoys wildlife photography. He always seeks to learn more about his craft.

About Karin

Journalist, singer, reader, movie fanatic, photography buff, GVSU alum, wanna-be-Brit, Crohn's fighter, Coca-Cola addict, animal lover, not a kid person, hater of winter, Michigander
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