Long Exposure: The Technique to Bring Light to Your Photos

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What is a long exposure ? Lights that bring photography to life. Shadows in successive frames and the unique result. In today’s conditions, where everyone is a photographer with cameras in our pockets, everyone is a professional photographer now. As a matter of fact, people who want to develop in this field are doing various searches to learn photography terms. These questions they ask push them to seek the answer to the question of what ‘long exposure’ is. Now, let’s first look at what exposure we hear often in the field of photography.

What is Exposure?

Exposure refers to how much light falls on the plate (sensor) inside the camera when the picture is taken. In fact, at a basic level, it determines how dark or how light the photo can be. When you hold your camera (in the middle of the digital number line), the value from -3 to +3 indicates the exposure. If the value is -3, it is underexposed, that is, dark, if it is +3, it is overexposed, that is, bright. For balance, that is, actually for correct exposure, the value should be close to zero.

There is no fixed exposure value for a good exposure. Exposure value varies depending on the light exposure of the environment in which the photo was taken. For example, in a very light environment, the exposure time is reduced; increased in low-light conditions. This directly affects the exposure, since it is a moment when we decide how long the light to fall on the sensor will fall on.

Here comes the reason why we are here. So how to get the ‘correct exposure’. In summary, I can tell you: ‘If the amount of light falling on the photo is adjusted correctly by adjusting the location, light, and other factors, the correct exposure will be made.

Key Factors Affecting Exposure

There are three main factors that affect exposure. In fact, I can position them as basic photography terms. These are, in order:

  • apperature, diaphragm,
  • Shutter speed ,
  • ISO value.

The right technique is obtained by playing with these three values under changing environmental conditions. The optimal setting of these values is of great importance for the accuracy of the exposure. For example, in order to apply this technique, the ISO value is increased as high as possible. This is necessary in dark conditions. The diaphragm opens as far as possible. This allows more light to enter the camera. Then, the ‘shutter speed’ is reduced, resulting in a long exposure of the photo.

How Do I Manage Settings to Assist Exposure?

Main Element: Shutter Speed

Our main element and biggest weapon we use while posing in this way is the shutter speed. Generally, this value can vary between 1/8000s and 30s. With this setting value, it means that the photo is taken in as little as 8 thousandths of a second, or the shutter receives light for 30 seconds while the photo is taken. This value does not need to be moved to seconds in order to make a long exposure. Good value for long exposure at 1/15th. Every value under 1/15 second gives our photo a long exposure effect. For example 1/10, 1/4, 1/2 , 1”, 2”, 4” …. Like 30”.

There is something we should pay attention to here. Although we want to do this type of exposure, it actually changes as much as our camera and environment allow us. If we want to make an exposure over 30 seconds, we need to switch to the Bulb mode of the camera. We can say that this mod is basically a mod that expands the borders. The camera can take photos over 30 seconds in this mode. There are also cameras that use longer shutter times such as 1min, 5min, 10min, 30min. Imagine trying to capture all the light in the universe. Isn’t it beautiful?

Auxiliary Element: Diaphragm

Basically, if we talk about the diaphragm, the diaphragm is the system that determines the intensity and intensity of the rays reflected from the object to fall on the sensor. In other words, it determines how intensely we allow light to fall on the camera. It is expressed by the English word Aperture . The word is derived from the French word “ diaphragme ”.

The diaphragm has two main functions here. Aperture generally serves to control light intensity and clear depth of field. If you ask where I can see this value on my machine, it is usually shown with the F symbol on machines. In some brands, it appears with A mode. For example, Nikon’s A mode, aperture priority mode, means adjusting the aperture according to the correct exposure.

Assistant Staff: ISO Value

In order to make a long exposure, it is necessary to set the ISO value to the lowest value. This will both give our camera a longer exposure time and enable us to take cleaner photos. Thanks to this assistant, we will be able to take grain-free photos. The ISO value is usually expressed in multiples of 100. In a machine, this value starts with 100 and can go up to thousands depending on the success of the machine.

There is a subject that you have to care. While lowering the ISO will result in grain-free photos, sometimes overexposure will cause photos to deteriorate. If you want to play with these values on your computer later, I suggest you take the photos in RAW format. In this way, your photos, which are sent to programs such as photoshop, can be adjusted to the correct exposure without any loss of image. You may need a large memory card as RAW format will take up more space than Jpeg format.

What is Long and Short Exposure?

What is Long Exposure?

As I just mentioned, it is a long exposure of the photo with the exposure variables in the camera. It is controlled by the shutter speed, especially in low-light environments. There are those who call it curtain or shutter speed. In order to take a long exposure, the camera must be positioned at a fixed point. A tripod or a rock will do for this. The camera positioned at the fixed point is exposed for 1 second to 1 minute and records the ambient light at that time.

Long exposure is a life saver in low light conditions. It is perfect for recording the motion emitted by objects moving with soft light. For example, those famous star photos can actually be taken in this way.

What is Underexposure?

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Underexposure is also related to shutter speed, aperture and ISO value, just like long exposure. These photos usually come out dark. This is because the camera cannot take all of the ambient light over the values given to it. For example, if we talk about the shutter speed, let’s take the value of 1/8000. This value means that the captured photo frame is taken in one 8000th of a second. In other words, it records the light in the environment at this speed in its memory. The higher this value, the less light is recorded in the camera and the photo is underexposed.

You can achieve the same situation by increasing the aperture or raising the ISO value.

Over or Under Exposure Doesn’t Mean Incorrect Photograph

We should not forget that the long and underexposure that I have mentioned so far is actually used as a photographic technique according to the artist’s wishes. So the right exposure doesn’t always give the right result. Try to take the kind of photos you want, whatever your artistic concerns and imagination want.

Where There is Light, There is Life: Photos Taken with the Long Exposure Technique


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