How to Shoot Long Exposure in the Day Time using 11 Quick Tips and Equipment Detail
One of the techniques that really sparked my curiosity towards photography was long exposure photography. This technique is one of the most dramatic effects that you can create while shooting and it doesn’t rely too heavily on post production photo manipulation.
Here are some of examples of long exposure photography during the day, that I will teach you how to photograph!
In order to create this dynamic images you are going to need some additional equipment and this is often a huge barrier to entry into the long exposure daytime community.
The equipment needed for long exposures during the day include the following. I do have some of the more expensive gear, because I had to deal with knockoff/counterfeit products from Amazon in the past (huge waste of money). Therefore do your research on the brands and work with your budget to find your best gear.
- Crop Sensor/Full Frame Camera – Canon 5D Mark III is what I use
- Sturdy Tripod – Currently using a Manfrotto Tripod with a Manfrotto Head
- Neutral Density Filters: Lee Little Stopper 6 Stops 100mm x 100mm & Lee Big Stopper 10 Stops 100mm x 100mm
- Soft Graduated Filters: 0.3 + 0.6 + 0.9 Lee Filters 100mm x 100mm
- Lee Filter Set – for Lens screw on and for the mount for the filters
- UV Filter: B+W XS-Pro UV MRC Nano 010M
- Use a remote shutter
So before you run off and try to do some awesome long exposure shots with the cloud movement, you must have the Lee Big Stopper or B+W 77mm SC 110 Solid Neutral Density 3.0 Filter (10 Stop) or a Small Lee Stopper for low light conditions and shorter exposures. ND Filters as you can imply, extend exposure times during times where the light is sufficient and the shutter can operate in a fast setting (1/100 or faster). The Lee Stoppers (the ones I use) are meant to take advantage of moving objects. Whether that is tracking the movement of clouds on a windy day, fast moving water from a waterfall, river, or ocean, or to soften even a perfect reflection. ND filters are used to blur anything that moves, whether that’s in nature or with traffic or people. They tend to reduce the amount of detail in a photo, to create dramatic focal points and to create movement in the photo. This technique of day time long exposure shots really pushes a photographer to be creative with compositions with a sense of time generated by textures in your photograph.
To recap quickly, you will use these filters for particular shots with movement, not for all shots. There are plenty of people who rely so heavily on long exposure shots because their compositions are weak. Do not be one of those people! Below are the steps for how to create long exposure shots during the day and how to edit them in post production
- Choose a location with movement: Windy day (Little Stopper) or Calm Day (Big/Little Stopper) in the mountains with 50-75% cloud coverage, fast moving river, calm lake or rough lake conditions, rip tides from the sea
- Make sure the location is interesting so that you can push your creativity and play around with the foreground (rocks/beach/subject)/mid-ground (rock formation/mountain/cliff)/background (sunrise/sunset/mountain/cliff). You will notice if you don’t have an interesting foreground, middle ground your photo will come out likely boring/drab with no movement.
- Create your composition and set up your tripod to hold it’s ground. Take a few sample photos of a composition you like, then when you have the filters on you will really like it!
- In order to get the proper settings you will need to verse yourself on some exposure and aperture settings. Here is a screenshot from the Lee Filters website and some simple math for you, I can tell you once you have your desired ISO (Keep at 100 preferably in the beginning) and your aperture (Landscapes I like to shoot at f/8.0 to f/14) then take a sample shot without any filter. If you shoot at ISO 100, Aperture f/8.0 and your shutter speed is at 1/125 and you want to use the Little Filter then either reference to the chart below or multiply that shutter speed by 62.5 to determine the number of seconds your exposure should be with the Small Lee Stopper ND filter on which should equal a shutter of 0.5” seconds. For the Lee Big Filter use, take the exposure of 1/125 and multiply it by 1000 and you will get 8” seconds.
- Ensure you have your shutter remote ready to go, or a 2 second timer to avoid any shake or movement to your tripod set up.
- Cover the eye piece with a piece electric black tape or black hockey tape to avoid any glare in the photo if your exposure if especially long
- I want to emphasize although you are eliminating a significant amount of detail in the shot with a long exposure, it doesn’t mean wipe out the detail completely. When shooting fast moving water scenes I like to show that speed with some detail in the water. Like the images below
- When shooting waterfalls you will likely only need 0.3” to 5 seconds depending on your aperture and lighting situation, but take a good look at the photo at your test photo with the filter on to see your result. Blowing out the waterfall, meaning showing no detail, means you will lose that information and can never recover it in post. Often what you would end up with is a waterfall looking drab and having to reduce the highlights so much that you ruin the entire effect of a long exposure photograph. So the tip with waterfalls is have your exposure long enough that it blurs the water, but short enough that you can see the smooth lines and detail in the falling water.
- Ocean and sea tides are extremely fun to shoot and I would suggest around 1/10” to 0.7” for the coolest and most dramatic effect
- Overall, my last tips are to buy the equipment that will not detriment the quality of your shot, buy equipment that will last and not need to be replaced, invest in long exposure filters that have the reputation and not just the lowest cost, don’t use long exposure for all of your shots, choose locations that have movement in the water or sky, take advantage of perfect calm reflections and soften them with the Little Lee Stopper
- While editing in post you will have a vignette and also you will notice the blue-sh tinge and coldness to the entire photo. This is difficult to find the perfect white balance while editing these photos so take your time and step back and revisit the photos after editing. To eliminate any vignette you do not want, in Lightroom go to Lens Corrections, Basic and Enable Profile Correction. If it didn’t automatically work, click on Profile and choose your lens make, model, and profile. If this doesn’t provide the effect you want, leave it and go to the bottom of the Profile section and move the amount vignetting to the right to your desired effect to eliminate the unwanted vignette