High exposure photography meaning

This parameter is defined by a combination of a shutter speed and aperture. ISO is not so crucial, but also important.

High exposure means extremely slow shutter speed. While usually the sensor is “open” only for fractions of a second, this type of photography may demand to keep the shutter open for seconds, minutes or even hours — for example, for shooting a starscape.

Stars hight exposure photography

How to take high exposure photos

There are several technical moments to consider.

First of all, you’ll need a camera with a high exposure mode. Luckily, nowadays almost every DSLR, mirrorless cam or even smartphone has such a function.

Then, you’ll need a stable tripod, as your cam should stay motionless for long seconds or even minutes.

Waterfall high exposure photograpy

Another point, you might need at least one neutral density filter. Remember, the sensor is exposed to the light flow for an extremely long time, and if you are shooting in the daytime, your picture will get overexposed — i.e. blank white. A filter will help to darken it a little.

Lastly, it may be a good idea to use a remote shutter release — especially, if your exposure is longer than 30 seconds. You don’t have to “stick” to the camera and wait, also it helps to prevent vibrations caused by pressing the button.

Step-by-step instruction

High exposure photography demands some technical skills and experience, but don’t worry, we’ll master them in no time.

  1. Take a normal photo

    Decide on the composition, mount your camera on a tripod or any flat surface and take a picture as usual. You may set the device into an auto or aperture priority mode. Keep ISO as low as possible. Maybe it will be necessary to take several pictures adjusting F-stop or other settings. When you are happy with the result, note down the shutter speed applied.

  2. Switch to the manual mode

    Make sure the focus is set as you need.

  3. Set an ND filter if needed

    Just a small reminder: you don’t need any filters while shooting at night. But if you still do, their value is set in stops, from 1 (the clearest one) to 10 (the darkest one).

    When you place a filter on the lens, the pic in the viewfinder will go black, that’s why it is so important to set the focus in advance.

  4. Set a new shutter speed

    To calculate this parameter you can use special mobile applications or online calculators: just insert the filter number you need and the original shutter speed, which you’ve noted down at the previous steps.

    Another way: calculate it manually on the base of the filter you use:

    • 1 stop filter — double shutter speed
    • 2 stops — 4x
    • 3 stops — 8x
    • 6 stops — 64x
    • 10 stops — 1000x

    If you don’t use any filters, just try different long exposures to find the one which fits your ideas the best.

  5. Edit your picture

    Post-shooting editing may enhance the color balance and eliminate minor imperfections.

    Waves high exposure photography

What to shoot

High exposure effects look spectacular only on moving objects, so there is no sense to shoot still nature, trees or flowers. But if it’s windy and the sky is overcast with clouds — it may make a great artistic image.

The best objects could be the following: waterfalls, rivers, car traffic, falling stars or just a starry sky, driving clouds, etc. People and animals are not usually the right models for such a style, unless you want to shoot “ghosts”.

Moving people high exposure photography