How to take long exposure photos

posted in Other on with 2 Replies

One of the great things about photography, is the ability to influence time. Just by changing the exposure time, you can freeze motion, or blur all the moment into a soft blur. And a special part of this is long exposure photography with the use of an ND filter. And that’s what I will be looking at in this post.

ND filter

What is a ND filter

A ND filter is very dark piece of glass. The purpose of it, is to block a certain amount of light to enter the cameras lens. There are different types of filters with different strengths. They can range from filters that block 50% of light up to filters that block 99.9% of light.

All the filters are named based on how much stops of light they block. So you have a ND1 filter, that blocks 50% of light. That means you will have to use an exposure that is twice as long, so it’s one stop of light blocked. The ND2 filter, will block 75% of light and you will have to use a 4 times longer exposure , and so on  until ND10 (ore even more). Sometimes the filters are not named based on the stops, but on how much they multiply a 1s shot (at least I think that it :)). So you have a ND1, ND2, ND4, ND8, ND16 until ND512, ND1000 (should be 1024) and similar. But when you buy a new ND filter, always check how many stops it blocks, as that’s the important information.

Marina reflection

There are different qualities of ND filters, and the two most important parameters are, if they introduce a color tint and if they create additional chromatic aberrations. The priciest ones out there create almost none in both cases. The cheap ones on the other hand, will usually create a strong green or purple tint, which needs to be removed in post-processing.

How to take a long exposure photo

Using lighter ND filters, like the ND2, ND4, ND8 is quite simple. You just put the filter on the lens and take the photo. They make for a longer exposure, but the difference is not so big, and you can usually fit the shot under the 30s that every camera allows. It get’s a little more complicated by the darker ND filter, especially by the 9-stop and higher. With a filter like that on your camera, you will not see anything through the viewfinder, and mostly not even through the live view (depends on the camera). So what to do then?

The process is simple, but of course a tripod and a shutter release remote here are mandatory. The steps are:
1. Frame the shot without the filter
2. Focus, either manually, or use auto-focus and turn the auto-focus off after that.
3. Go to the Manual (M) mode
4. Set your ISO and aperture that you want to use
5. Meter the exposure by half pressing the shutter button (remember it :))
6. Switch the camera to Bulb (B) mode, make sure the ISO and aperture are set the same
7. Put on the filter.
8. Calculate the needed exposure time
9. Take the shot by holding the shutter button (preferably on the remote) pressed for the required amount of time.

Let’s look at step 8 now, how to calculate the exposure time. You can either do it your self, by multiplying the exposure time you metered before you put on the ND filter. Fore each stop of the ND filter, you multiply it by 2. So if you have a 1s exposure and a ND9 filter, you mulltiply it as 1*2*2*2*2*2*2*2*2*2 so 9 times, which gives you 512 seconds. Of course that is quite simple by 1s exposures, but what if you exposure was 1/400s? That makes it a little harder to calculate. But since everyone caries a phone these days, you can help yourself with any of the available apps that do this for you. You just need to download one of the available ND calculators, and enter the starting exposure and the ND filter stops and it will give you the result right away. Here is one of those apps for Android and one for Windows phone, there are many more, of course also for iOS.

NDsND filter calc for Android
NDND converter for Windows Phone

Also, regarding the remote, you should use one that allows to lock the shutter button, so you don’t have to hold it for the whole time. By 30s this is still manageable, but by a 5 minute one, you will no longer  feel your fingers after you are done :)
White fluffy clouds

Making it easier with Promote remote or Magic lantern

If you have a Promote remote, or other programmable remote, you can make it easier for yourself, as you can just program the desired time through the remote. You then don’t have to check the time on the camera, as it will do that for you.

With the Magic lantern firmware, you can do it even easier, as you can set up the exposure time even directly in the camera. It also boosts the brightnes in live view, so making it easier to focus even with the filter on. And it also removes the 30s limit for HDR brakceting, so you can do a HDR exposure series even with the filter. If you don’t know how to take a long exposure photo with Magic lantern, check my video on it. You can find it at the end of the How to take multiple exposures video on my Videos page.

That’s all for this post. Feel free to ask any questions, and btw. the two photos included were of course taken with a 9 stop Hoan ND400 filter.

And we have another Process Monday here (or does it just sound silly? :)). Today I will show you one of my recent photos, that isn’t actually a HDR. But I think I mentioned it few times, not every photo needs to be HDR. So here goes:

As always, first the result and the original photos.

Alpine peaksFinished photo
Alpine peaks0EV exposure

As you can see, thank that I used a polarizing filter on the lens, I had enough dynamic range in the single shot. I actually took 5 exposures, just to be sure, as I always do. It’s always better to be safe than sorry. The most editing on this photo was done in Lightroom. For the 0EV shot, I changed the white to make the photo cooler, added more contrast, opened the shadows, brightened the whites, added clarity and vibrance and removed chromatic aberrations and vignetting. One note to this, if you have white objects in a photo, pushing the whites slider to the right will make them much more dominant, and less grey. Helps a lot in a lot of photos :)

Alpine peaksOriginal exposures
Alpine peaksAfter the Lightroom edit

After that, I opened the photo in Photoshop, where I did the following edits (layers numbered from bottom up):
1. The Lightroom result
2. Copy I created, to do a dust spots clean up.
3. Color Efex pro contrast, to get more local contrast from the photo
4. Color Efex glamour glow, used only on the clouds, to make them look a little brighter and softer
5. Color Efex Detail extractor, painted just on the hills, to get more detail in them
6. Brightened the top corners, as there was a little vignetting visible, and I found it distracting.
Alpine peaks
And that’s all I did with this image. To find out more on how I edit, check out the guides and before after categories on this blog, or check out my video tutorial series here:

Sparkling fireworks

posted in Budapest, Hungary on with No Comments

Capturing Fireworks

Capturing fireworks eBook

Usually when I post a new fireworks photo, I like to remind you that you can still get my Capturing fireworks eBook for free. And I’m doing so also now. Just head over to the eBook page and download it :)

Sparkling fireworks

I like to return to my fireworks photos and edit a new one from time to time. They just look always so great. I tent to leave them a little more saturated, but as you know, fireworks are really colorful. And with the black sky behind them, you can really see the color :)

This is a single exposure, edited in Lightroom, Oloneo Photoengine and Photoshop.
Sparkling fireworks


posted in Switzerland, Zermatt on with 3 Replies

10 of my favorite photographers on Ello

If you are following my Photographers to follow on Ello list, you seen that there are already few hundred different photographers. Here are just a few of my personal favorites, who are also all active on Ello (they post regularly) and are actually all landscape photographers, as that’s my favorite type. Also these are all new for me, as I haven’t been following their work before Ello, and only there I found them for the first time. So I suggest you check them out :)

  1. Christian Hoiberg@choiberg
  2. Darek Markiewicz – @darekm101
  3. Kelly DeLay@kellydelay
  4. Michael Bonocore@michaelbonocore
  5. Mike Orso@mikeorso
  1. Peyton Hale@peytonhale
  2. Terence Leezy@terenceleezy
  3. Tessa Kit Zawadzki@tessakit
  4. Toby Harriman@tobyharriman
  5. Zsolt Kiss@zsoltkiss

Of course there are many more great photographers there (again, check out the list to find many more of them) and currently I’m only waiting for Ello to enable re-share, so I can start doing a daily featured photographer (from the list) on my account there. But for that I will still have to wait :)


Can you see the lake? It’s so small compared to the Matterhorn behind it. Almost invisible :) The whole area around Matterhorn is just wonderful. It’s going on my list of places to revisit.

This is a single exposure edited in Lightroom and Photoshop. I darkened the sky by using a polarizing filter (as the sun was to my left) and I had no need to do a HDR blending here. There is just no point in using HDR, when it’s not needed.

What not to forget

posted in Other on with No Comments

One needs to check a lot of thing before going out to take photos and since I seen many people doing the same mistakes over and over (and I did some myself :)) here is a short list, of what one should check before going out to take photos. This is more for the beginners, as I hope pros don’t do these mistakes :)

1. Check the battery status

First thing that needs to be checked. And not even the battery in the camera, but also all the backup batteries one takes. As batteries can loose their charge over time, if you haven’t used a backup battery for a while, it can be completely empty. Also, cold environments tend to kill the batteries quicker, so have at least one spare.


2. Check that you have a memory card

First check if you have a memory card in the camera, then if you have at least one spare. Even if a memory card works, that does not mean that it wont fail on you during a photoshoot, and it’s very hard to continue without a new one. Also check if the cards are empty. A card full of photos you haven’t copied to your PC yet, is the same as no card at all.

3. Check that the camera works

One never knows what could happened after the last time you took photos. Always turn the camera on and at least try to focus. Electronics can fail unexpectedly, and finding it out after you spend time and money to get to a location, is just to late.

4. Check the camera settings

This is something that I always forget to do. Especially, if like I, one shoots in the same settings all the time. Especially things that one does not see immediately. A crazy white balance, auto ISO selected, wrong shooting mode, bracketing turned off/on, self-timer and similar. If one had to shoot something different, and then goes back to the regular stuff, it’s very easy to forget about one or more of these being changed.


5. Check the lens setting

There are actually only two settings here. Auto-focus and image stabilization. Again, checking if these are properly set, can really help avoid one or few bad photos. For instance, if one tends to shoot a lot of landscapes with manual focusing and then goes to shoot some people shots, it’s easy to forget to switch the Auto-focus on. And it’s even easier to forget to switch it back off again afterwards. Same with the images stabilization switch. Forgetting to turn it one when shooting handheld and forgetting to turn it off when shooting from a tripod can really easily happen. Also, don’t forget to clean the lens every time :)

6. Check the tripod

Here I don’t mean to check if you have the proper plate on the camera (even if that’s also important :)), but that one should check if the screws on your tripod are properly tighten. One does not have to do this all the time, but it still should be done regularly. You never want to do a long exposure, just seeing the camera slowly moving down due to a loos tripod leg. Not all tripods are the same, and not all need to have the screws tightened. So do this based on what type you have.

7. Check that you have all you wan’t to use

And last but not least, all the other stuff. Make sure you have your remote, filters, leveling cube, and anything else you think you may need.