Long Exposure Question

Started Apr 24, 2014 | Discussions
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jrk Senior Member • Posts: 1,903
Long Exposure Question

I've seen many photos that folks have taken that required a long exposure to achieve.  Sometimes ND filters were used and sometimes simply shooting at night or very low light conditions.  How does one know how to determine the exposure when shooting in these scenarios?  I realize when using an ND filter I can calculate the exposure based on normal (i.e. without the filter) then factor in the filter, but what about at night.  Is it trial and error or are there some basic rules?  Thanks

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darngooddesign Senior Member • Posts: 5,131
Re: Long Exposure Question
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flbrit Veteran Member • Posts: 3,683
Re: Long Exposure Question

Thanks for the links. I had one but lost it. They are both firmly is my browser now.

Brian

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darngooddesign Senior Member • Posts: 5,131
Re: Long Exposure Question

flbrit wrote:

Thanks for the links. I had one but lost it. They are both firmly is my browser now.

Brian

I believe the way it works is choose your aperture and use the rule of 500 to get your maximum exposure time before you get star trails. Then if its too dark increase the ISO till you're happy.

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Jim Radcliffe
Jim Radcliffe Forum Pro • Posts: 11,509
Forget the rules..... kinda.. Experiment
3

jrk wrote:

I've seen many photos that folks have taken that required a long exposure to achieve. Sometimes ND filters were used and sometimes simply shooting at night or very low light conditions. How does one know how to determine the exposure when shooting in these scenarios? I realize when using an ND filter I can calculate the exposure based on normal (i.e. without the filter) then factor in the filter, but what about at night. Is it trial and error or are there some basic rules? Thanks

Forget the rules because every situation will be different.  I have found that trying to follow rules eats up more time than simple trial and error.

Note:  Take extra batteries.  I usually always have four fully charged batteries when I go out doing long exposure shots (day or night).

I do a lot of night photography and the easiest way to determine what will work is to set the camera up with a remote release and set it on bulb.  Obviously a sturdy tripod is a necessity.  I usually shoot wide open to begin with.  Take a shot and adjust one of three things until you begin to see what you are trying to achieve on the LCD.

The three things you can adjust are:

  1. ISO  (last thing to adjust due to noise)
  2. Shutter Speed  (most used)
  3. f Stop (if it is really dark.. wide open, otherwise you can play a bit by stopping down and going longer with your exposure.  Distance to subject is also important.

When using Bulb mode the Fujis will display the amount of time that the shutter is open on the LCD.  It will count UP and that info is also displayed in review of the photo.

Set the ISO to 800 or 1600 to begin with.. if it is really dark, move to ISO 2000 and up.  I've had good luck with the Fujis up to 3200.

When I am shooting a starscape (wide field astrophotography) I usually try not to go beyond a 25 second exposure because you will begin to see star trails caused by the rotation of the earth.  The longer the exposure, the more stars you will see but be careful of ambient light that may interfere with your shot.

If you are shooting during the daylight you will shoot at the lowest ISO setting possible and use a neutral density filter.  I use a variable neutral density (very pricey) so I can shoot long exposures to get milky water and clouds and even make people disappear in crowded places... really long exposures.

Don't throw away the rules completely but honestly, you will learn more by experimenting.. that is the beauty of digital photography.. you can learn faster.

-- hide signature --

Jim Radcliffe
http://www.boxedlight.com
The ability to 'see' the shot is more important than the gear used to capture it.

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clockface Regular Member • Posts: 171
Re: Long Exposure Question

I've seen many photos that folks have taken that required a long exposure to achieve.  Sometimes ND filters were used and sometimes simply shooting at night or very low light conditions.  How does one know how to determine the exposure when shooting in these scenarios?  I realize when using an ND filter I can calculate the exposure based on normal (i.e. without the filter) then factor in the filter, but what about at night.  Is it trial and error or are there some basic rules?  Thanks

Why not put on the filter from the start and let the camera sort the exposure? I thought most cameras these days meter through the lens.

Jim Radcliffe
Jim Radcliffe Forum Pro • Posts: 11,509
Re: Long Exposure Question

clockface wrote:

I've seen many photos that folks have taken that required a long exposure to achieve. Sometimes ND filters were used and sometimes simply shooting at night or very low light conditions. How does one know how to determine the exposure when shooting in these scenarios? I realize when using an ND filter I can calculate the exposure based on normal (i.e. without the filter) then factor in the filter, but what about at night. Is it trial and error or are there some basic rules? Thanks

Why not put on the filter from the start and let the camera sort the exposure? I thought most cameras these days meter through the lens.

Because you don't learn anything doing it that way.

-- hide signature --

Jim Radcliffe
http://www.boxedlight.com
The ability to 'see' the shot is more important than the gear used to capture it.

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clockface Regular Member • Posts: 171
Re: Long Exposure Question
1

clockface wrote:

I've seen many photos that folks have taken that required a long exposure to achieve. Sometimes ND filters were used and sometimes simply shooting at night or very low light conditions. How does one know how to determine the exposure when shooting in these scenarios? I realize when using an ND filter I can calculate the exposure based on normal (i.e. without the filter) then factor in the filter, but what about at night. Is it trial and error or are there some basic rules? Thanks

Why not put on the filter from the start and let the camera sort the exposure? I thought most cameras these days meter through the lens.

Because you don't learn anything doing it that way.

-- hide signature --

Jim Radcliffe
http://www.boxedlight.com
The ability to 'see' the shot is more important than the gear used to capture it.

So with a 3 stop ND filter you leave it off, let the camera meter the scene, switch to manual, put the filter on, adjust the settings by 3,stops, and then take the pic. Learned a lot?

afragisk Senior Member • Posts: 1,292
Re: Long Exposure Question

I usually shoot with 10 or 13 stops and in my limited experience, I agree with Jim. I find it hard to get it right at a pre-determined exposure time and I'm typically one stop off - over or under. Maybe I lack lengthy experience but in either case, I would agree that for a beginner it's best to at least anticipate that there will be a learning curve - and more fun too. By the way, there are apps that make the theoretical calculation of lengthy exposure times easy. Other than that, hang your heavy bag from your steady tripod or do what I do, use a Joby and wrap it around a rail or branch as strong as you can:)

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clockface Regular Member • Posts: 171
Re: Long Exposure Question

I usually shoot with 10 or 13 stops and in my limited experience, I agree with Jim. I find it hard to get it right at a pre-determined exposure time and I'm typically one stop off - over or under. Maybe I lack lengthy experience but in either case, I would agree that for a beginner it's best to at least anticipate that there will be a learning curve - and more fun too. By the way, there are apps that make the theoretical calculation of lengthy exposure times easy. Other than that, hang your heavy bag from your steady tripod or do what I do, use a Joby and wrap it around a rail or branch as strong as you can:)

-- hide signature --

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Fuji XE-2, Canon FD 300 4L, Fuji 55-200, Fuji 56 1.2, Fuji 27 2.8, Fuji 23 1.4, Fuji 14 2.8, Bower 8 2.8

Yes, fair enough, I agree. It depends on the number of stops. Fewer stops, I would let the camera decided. 10 stops then calculate yourself as you will be outside the camera's meter operating envelope.

Chris Dodkin
Chris Dodkin Veteran Member • Posts: 6,979
Here's what I use

It's a long exposure slide-rule, you can find them online or on EBAY

Just Google Jiffy Calculator

I did a full write-up on this useful tool here

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The future is just a click away...

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Jim Radcliffe
Jim Radcliffe Forum Pro • Posts: 11,509
Re: Long Exposure Question

clockface wrote:

clockface wrote:

I've seen many photos that folks have taken that required a long exposure to achieve. Sometimes ND filters were used and sometimes simply shooting at night or very low light conditions. How does one know how to determine the exposure when shooting in these scenarios? I realize when using an ND filter I can calculate the exposure based on normal (i.e. without the filter) then factor in the filter, but what about at night. Is it trial and error or are there some basic rules? Thanks

Why not put on the filter from the start and let the camera sort the exposure? I thought most cameras these days meter through the lens.

Because you don't learn anything doing it that way.

-- hide signature --

Jim Radcliffe
http://www.boxedlight.com
The ability to 'see' the shot is more important than the gear used to capture it.

So with a 3 stop ND filter you leave it off, let the camera meter the scene, switch to manual, put the filter on, adjust the settings by 3,stops, and then take the pic. Learned a lot?

There are a lot of subtle things involved... if you'd rather the camera do the thinking, have at it.  I prefer my way because no calculator or formula is right for every shot.  After a while you get the feel for what you need to do from prior experience and I prefer that rather than using a formula.. you LEARN to read the light and I think that is important.

-- hide signature --

Jim Radcliffe
http://www.boxedlight.com
The ability to 'see' the shot is more important than the gear used to capture it.

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biza43 Veteran Member • Posts: 4,562
Re: Long Exposure Question

clockface wrote:

clockface wrote:

I've seen many photos that folks have taken that required a long exposure to achieve. Sometimes ND filters were used and sometimes simply shooting at night or very low light conditions. How does one know how to determine the exposure when shooting in these scenarios? I realize when using an ND filter I can calculate the exposure based on normal (i.e. without the filter) then factor in the filter, but what about at night. Is it trial and error or are there some basic rules? Thanks

Why not put on the filter from the start and let the camera sort the exposure? I thought most cameras these days meter through the lens.

Because you don't learn anything doing it that way.

-- hide signature --

Jim Radcliffe
http://www.boxedlight.com
The ability to 'see' the shot is more important than the gear used to capture it.

So with a 3 stop ND filter you leave it off, let the camera meter the scene, switch to manual, put the filter on, adjust the settings by 3,stops, and then take the pic. Learned a lot?

I have learned the following:

1. Quite often the strenght of the filter is not exactly as reported by the manufacturer. For example, the Lee big Stopper can vary between 9.5 - 10 stops, or thereabouts.

2. I think it is much more useful as to progresso your knowledge to learn so you can make decisions yourself. I prefer to blame myself for mistakes, than blame the camera...

-- hide signature --

www.paulobizarro.com

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clockface Regular Member • Posts: 171
Re: Long Exposure Question

clockface wrote:

clockface wrote:

I've seen many photos that folks have taken that required a long exposure to achieve. Sometimes ND filters were used and sometimes simply shooting at night or very low light conditions. How does one know how to determine the exposure when shooting in these scenarios? I realize when using an ND filter I can calculate the exposure based on normal (i.e. without the filter) then factor in the filter, but what about at night. Is it trial and error or are there some basic rules? Thanks

Why not put on the filter from the start and let the camera sort the exposure? I thought most cameras these days meter through the lens.

Because you don't learn anything doing it that way.

-- hide signature --

Jim Radcliffe
http://www.boxedlight.com
The ability to 'see' the shot is more important than the gear used to capture it.

So with a 3 stop ND filter you leave it off, let the camera meter the scene, switch to manual, put the filter on, adjust the settings by 3,stops, and then take the pic. Learned a lot?

I have learned the following:

1. Quite often the strenght of the filter is not exactly as reported by the manufacturer. For example, the Lee big Stopper can vary between 9.5 - 10 stops, or thereabouts.

2. I think it is much more useful as to progresso your knowledge to learn so you can make decisions yourself. I prefer to blame myself for mistakes, than blame the camera...

-- hide signature --

www.paulobizarro.com

I concede that a 10 stop requires calculation and experimentation. My initial comments where aimed at more moderate ND filter that restrict by 3 stops. My 37 years of taking photos has taught me to sometimes let the camera do the thinking, and somtimes to think for myself.

jrk OP Senior Member • Posts: 1,903
Re: Forget the rules..... kinda.. Experiment

Jim Radcliffe wrote:

jrk wrote:

I've seen many photos that folks have taken that required a long exposure to achieve. Sometimes ND filters were used and sometimes simply shooting at night or very low light conditions. How does one know how to determine the exposure when shooting in these scenarios? I realize when using an ND filter I can calculate the exposure based on normal (i.e. without the filter) then factor in the filter, but what about at night. Is it trial and error or are there some basic rules? Thanks

Forget the rules because every situation will be different.  I have found that trying to follow rules eats up more time than simple trial and error.

Note:  Take extra batteries.  I usually always have four fully charged batteries when I go out doing long exposure shots (day or night).

I do a lot of night photography and the easiest way to determine what will work is to set the camera up with a remote release and set it on bulb.  Obviously a sturdy tripod is a necessity.  I usually shoot wide open to begin with.  Take a shot and adjust one of three things until you begin to see what you are trying to achieve on the LCD.

The three things you can adjust are:

  1. ISO  (last thing to adjust due to noise)
  2. Shutter Speed  (most used)
  3. f Stop (if it is really dark.. wide open, otherwise you can play a bit by stopping down and going longer with your exposure.  Distance to subject is also important.

When using Bulb mode the Fujis will display the amount of time that the shutter is open on the LCD.  It will count UP and that info is also displayed in review of the photo.

Set the ISO to 800 or 1600 to begin with.. if it is really dark, move to ISO 2000 and up.  I've had good luck with the Fujis up to 3200.

When I am shooting a starscape (wide field astrophotography) I usually try not to go beyond a 25 second exposure because you will begin to see star trails caused by the rotation of the earth.  The longer the exposure, the more stars you will see but be careful of ambient light that may interfere with your shot.

If you are shooting during the daylight you will shoot at the lowest ISO setting possible and use a neutral density filter.  I use a variable neutral density (very pricey) so I can shoot long exposures to get milky water and clouds and even make people disappear in crowded places... really long exposures.

Don't throw away the rules completely but honestly, you will learn more by experimenting.. that is the beauty of digital photography.. you can learn faster.

-- hide signature --

Jim Radcliffe
http://www.boxedlight.com
The ability to 'see' the shot is more important than the gear used to capture it.

Jim

Thank you, really appreciate you taking the time to respond in such detail!

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jrk OP Senior Member • Posts: 1,903
Re: Here's what I use

Chris Dodkin wrote:

It's a long exposure slide-rule, you can find them online or on EBAY

Just Google Jiffy Calculator

I did a full write-up on this useful tool here

-- hide signature --

http://f-sunny.com
The future is just a click away...

Chris,

This is great little tool, I've already saved and printed a copy and will be looking to pick up one from an online seller.  Very helpful!

Thanks!

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