Long Exposure

On Saturday the October Photo Challenge assignment is to use a long exposure. To understand what this means, you’ll need to know how shutter speed works, which I’ve covered here. Long exposure means you keep your shutter open for a longer period of time (this amount of time is determined by you) and (generally) doing this will capture a blur of motion (as long as you have a moving subject in the frame).

At one of my very first Jenna Cole sessions I gave this a try. I had the girl stand still, turned my shutter speed down to something like 1/30 (I can’t remember) and had the boy run toward her while I snapped the picture (locking my elbows to my side and holding very still so only he would be blurry). You can do this with cars, bicycles, runners, your kid, anything. Just remember that you need to keep very still or use a tripod, or everything will be blurry.

If you happen to be near some fireworks on Sunday, use a long exposure to capture them looking pretty with nice long trails. Again, keeping absolutely still or using a tripod is essential.

ISO 4000



1/50 sec

Another method you could try is using a long exposure to make the background blurry, and keep the subject in focus. I saw a guy doing this in Florence next to the Duomo at twilight and I realized I wanted to try doing the same thing! It’s actually quite difficult and I took like 30 pictures before I got this one okay one. I figured out what settings I wanted via trial and error, and then when a bicyclist was zooming by I would lock in my focus, hold down the shutter, and swing my body in the direction s/he was moving. Tracking the subject in this way freezes them and blurs everyone around them.

ISO 250



1/30 sec

I’m sad because as we were walking away the cutest couple ever rode by us. He was riding the bike and she was sitting on the handlebars laughing hysterically, with horse drawn carriages behind them, right in front of the world-famous Florence Duomo… basically it would have been a light-hearted, romantic, once-in-a-lifetime shot if I had captured it well. But I was anxious and moved my body in a shaky way as I took the picture and this is what I have as a result. You can still kind of see it though, right?

I took a long exposure picture last week at sunset, out of my living room window. Look down at Lake Shore Drive in the middle of the frame and you can see the blurry lights of the cars driving past. I didn’t use a tripod (normally I would have to) because I pressed my camera firmly up against the window pane and exhaled very slowly to keep the camera steady as I took the picture.

ISO 200



.5 sec

Another option that I don’t have a picture of, is using a tripod to take a picture of a city skyline at night. Opening up your shutter for a few seconds without moving the camera at all will make the city light up in a really magical way. Or you could get really ambitious and paint with light like Jeff Newsom does! (The third picture down is one example, do some googling to find tutorials if you want to try it.). This is what I think I’m going to try.

Using a long exposure doesn’t mean you have to have blurry things in your picture, you could take a picture in a dark room using the timer to try out taking a picture in low light without using the flash. Or you could experiment with your off-camera flash “freezing” the motion of your subject. The challenge on this day offers you a lot of options when it comes to what kind of picture you want to take. If you want to create motion blur in your pictures remember it will be best to take the picture in a lower light setting.

For those who are using an iphone… I’m not sure how you can do this. Maybe there is an app you can download? If you’re participating with a point-and-shoot, you need to figure out how to get your camera in shutter-speed priority mode, as that will be essential on telling the camera you want it to use a slow speed. Those with a dSLR will have no problems making this work, either manual or shutter-speed priority will give you the flexibility you need to create what you want. For any type of camera, if you want to create motion blur in your photo, make sure you turn your on-camera flash off.

This one is a bit trickier, but I’m looking forward to seeing what people come up with!

8 thoughts on “Long Exposure

  1. I don’t quite get the bike one. Did u focus on him and just follow him with ur camera as he rode the bike?

    Jenna Reply:

    Yes, lock your focus on the biker, and swing the camera in the direction they are moving. It needs to be a really controlled, fluid, motion though.

    Thais Reply:

    That’s tricky! I can barely hold my camera straight. 😀 I’ll have to try it sometime though. Is there a place where you’re posting your daily pictures?

    Jenna Reply:

    No, I can’t keep up with it. Also I just kind of take the pictures as it works for me, not really worrying about the days. I just like the challenge of capturing the subject, you know?

  2. Could you have used AI servo for the bicycle shot? I read about that recently but haven’t gotten a chance to try it yet.

    Jenna Reply:

    Probably, I don’t like the results I get from AI Servo though.I think maybe I’m just not using it correctly?

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