Defining Long Exposure Photography

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Whether you’re an amateur or an experienced photographer, I think you already know what I’m gonna talk about. Even though this kind of photography is quite famous, I still want to look deeper into it. Since this is photography that I specialize in. So let’s look deeper and defining long exposure photography.

Defining Long Exposure Photography

As you can see there are two words in it, Long and Exposure. The word itself already told you.

Exposure, in photography basically means the amount of light that comes into a camera to create one shot. It determines by three things, shutter speed, aperture, and scene luminance.

Long, mean long. In this context, it means the length or period of time.

So with that, long exposure is the amount of light that comes into a camera that is taken at a longer period of time by a camera.

For example. I take a photo with a shutter speed of 1/60 sec. It means that the time I need to take a single photo is 1/60 second. If the shutter speed is 1/1000 sec, it means the time I need is 1/1000 sec. For long exposure, the shutter speed obviously longer, 1 second or more. So if my camera’s shutter speed is 30 seconds, it means it takes 30 seconds for my camera to take a single photo.

It is probably weird at first since when we think about a photo, it doesn’t take a second for one photo. Unless we’re talking about taking a video, 30 seconds make sense.



READ MORE: Quick Understand Shutter Speed

Two basic reasons for longer exposure photography

1. Take more light into a camera

I like to say this is for a technical reason.

Like I said before, exposure is the amount of light that got into a camera, and shutter speed is one determination of exposure. Basically, it means the longer the shutter speed, the longer light is exposed to the camera sensor.

For example, I took a photo with a shutter speed of 1/20 second. But the photo is dark. To fix it I can just set my camera with longer shutter light. Let say 2 seconds. In doing so, my photograph is brighter.

2. Create Motion at movable element

This is for a creative reason.

The second reason is that it took a long time to take a photo. If you photograph something that moves at a long shutter speed, it can cause blurring or some kind of motion effect that break a photo.

Obviously, you can’t take a photo clearly in a long exposure. That’s why some photographer avoids using long shutter speed. But many other see this as some kind of trick that they can use, in their own creative way.

When is a Longer Exposure Photo can be called Long Exposure Photography?

The problem when it comes to long exposure is how much time of shutter speed it takes for a photo to be called long exposure photography? How much is too long?

First to answer, how much is too long? You can easily see that from your shot. If you holding your camera to take a shot and then the photo looks blurry, that means your shutter speed is too long. Usually, it’s around 1/10 second or slower. But that’s not long exposure photography. (Who does long exposure photography handheld anyway?)

So for a photo to be called a long exposure, a photo has to has a motion element that the photographer desired. It can be a short long (around 1 second) exposure or a really long exposure (can be around 30 seconds or longer).

See these two photos. Focus on the water and guess which one took longer shutter speed.

In shorter long exposure you can still see the motion of the water. But in longer long exposure, you can’t see any motion. Not because there isn’t any movement. But because the longer the shutter speed is, the more motion element is eliminated.

In Summary

Many said that long exposure photography is a photography category or genre. But I don’t believe that. I think long exposure photography is a photography trick that manipulates the camera’s basic principle of exposure, by using longer shutter speed, to take a photograph for whatever reason. And happen to be so popular and turned into some kind of photography theme or such.


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