7 Problem in Long Exposure Photography and How to Fix It

7 Problems in Long Exposure Photography and How to Fix It

This is another series of my long exposure photography articles. Now I want to talk about what happened in the field. When we have our camera, pointing it, and shot. Then realize, something wrong with it. That happens to every one of us and really common in long exposure photography. So that’s what we gonna talk about, 7 problems in long exposure photography and how to fix it.

This article is part of series of long exposure photography.

7 Problems in Long Exposure Photography and How to Fix It

1. Shaky Image

It is obviously happening and can be caused by many reasons.

  1. Shaky ground (near a street road).
  2. The Wind (at mountain or beach)
  3. Camera setting

So there are also many ways to solve it:

  1. Bring a really good tripod.
  2. Avoid ground near a moving object that can shake the ground (like car)
  3. Use shutter remote
  4. Set to mirror lock-up (camera setting)

All of this is done for the purpose to have your photograph as sharp as possible.

READ MORE: 5 Tips to Take Sharp Landscape Photo

2. Light Leak

Sometimes in long exposure photography, you can see some purple or red hue light on the edge of your photograph. That light called a light leak. Light leak happens because of light that comes through the viewfinder of your camera. It won’t happen in normal exposure, but because a long time of shutter speed the light come in the camera more longer, causing a light leak to be seen.

To solve it, all you have to do is prevent light come in the viewfinder. Few camera has a curtain that allows you to close the viewfinder. But if not, you can just close it with black duct tape.

3. Lens Flare

Lens flare mostly works the same as a light leak. Except the light don’t come through the viewfinder, but through the lens. In long exposure photography, lens flare happens so easily and much worse than in normal photography’s lens flare.

It’s also a problem in night photography. If you don’t want any lens flare that is.

To solve it, or rather to prevent it, there are few ways to do such.

  1. Avoid direct light source
  2. use lens hood (there also lens hood created for square filter).
  3. Block the light directed to the camera lens.

4. Over or Under Exposure

Sometimes when using ND filter it’s not quite easy to have a correct exposure. Sometimes it’s way too dark, sometimes it’s way too bright. Usually, there are two reasons, wrong shutter speed or misreading the light brightness.

Actually, this normally happens a lot and the only way to solve this problem is by test and retest.

  1. Calculated the light to find the normal exposure. It can be done by checking in Auto Mode or use the light meter of your camera.
  2. In Manual Mode, attach the ND filter and then change the shutter speed depends on ND filter you use. To get a normal exposure using that filter. To get the accurate shutter speed, you can use ND filter calculator from play store or iTunes. Or just use an ND filter chart.
  3. Then do the first shot and check if get the correct exposure.

If you don’t the correct exposure then do the retest. Here a few tips to do such.

  1. If overexposure, make your shutter speed shorter. If underexposure, make your shutter speed longer.
  2. If you calculated the light from camera light meter, it would be better if you make the first exposure meter -1 stop. Light change fast and long exposure it’s pretty hard to actually get the truly correct exposure.

Another thing if want long exposure without ND filter. Like in night photography. The way solve it if you have the same problem is the same. Just test and retest. Actually, it’s easier than using ND filter.

5. Color Cast

A color cast is a tint of a particular color, usually unwanted, which affects the whole, or portion, of a photographic image evenly.

This particular problem actually happens only when using an ND filter. So it has little to do with long exposure photography. But if you do use an ND filter to create long exposure and the color of the photo is too blue or too red, that is a color cast.

Tint green color noise

It happens depend on what ND filter you use. If you using a cheap filter, colour cast will appear. Even if you use a expensive one, it can also happen, even though not as much as the cheap one.

To prevent it is by buying the expensive one. One recommendation is NiSi brand filter, the Nano IR filter (there are some brands that uses the same technology as Nano IR). I used it myself for a long time now. This filter prevents color cast almost completely, so you can’t actually see it.

But if you can’t buy an expensive filter, another way to solve it is by post-processing. But first, the photo has to be taken in a RAW file. Then in post-processing, you can change the white balance to actually fit with the actual situation.

6. Color Noise

Every time you’re doing a long exposure, it will create a color noise, even if you put your ISO on the lowest (usually at 100). It more obvious if shot in low light situation (like blue hours and night time). It’s unavoidable and surely will happen.

A closer look, see the red-green sparks (that’s color noise).

One way to remove the color noise is a camera setting, long exposure NR (noise reduction). Set it on and you can remove the noise automatically. The problem is it takes a lot of time. So for example if you set your shutter speed to 30 seconds, it will take another 30 second for the camera to reduce the noise; or shutter speed in 2 minutes, it takes another 2 minute to reduce the noise. And that’s is one reason why I never use long exposure NR, too long.

So another way is to rely on your camera. If you have a great camera (I mean expensive) with better great noise reduction capability, you don’t need to turn on the long exposure NR setting. Instead only by relying on your camera.

7. Vignetting

Vignetting is a reduction of an image’s brightness or saturation at the periphery compared to the image center.

If ever see the corner of your photo darker, that’s what vignetting is. It usually happens because of the lens. Usually the old and cheap one. But it can also happen because the camera and the lens aren’t compatible.

For long exposure photography, in using ND filter, it happens because of the filter you use. The same as before, the cheap filter also cause vignetting. Also if you stack too much filter in front of your lens, can also cause vignetting.

To fix it, you need a better filter. Also, don’t stack too many filters even if you want a longer exposure. It is better to handle that in post-processing than more filter. If you want to stack filter, I recommend only stack 2 filter and maximum 3 (even though it’s already too much).


Those are 7 problems in long exposure photography and how to fix it. The most commons.

Leave a Reply