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Experimenting with Long Exposure Photography

I found myself with the perfect opportunity to shoot some long exposure shots. Yesterday was the last night of a trip to Walt Disney World with my family. The Magic Kingdom is filled with beautiful lighting and nighttime scenes. For those of you who’ve never fully explored this style of photography… it can be A LOT of fun. It can open up some cool looks from simple scenes as the light in the picture can take on dramatic properties.

Compare these two shots…

First up the standard exposure. To get the shot in low light:

  • I had to open the camera up to 2.0.
  • This required pushing the ISO up to 1000 (increasing the likelihood of noise).
  • The shutter speed was only a 1/60 of a second which meant shooting handheld was possible.
2.0 | ISO 1000 | 1/60 second exposure

I much prefer using the long exposure version with increased depth of field.:

  • I stopped the aperture down to 22.0.
  • I lowered the ISO to only 200 to get a very clean photo.
  • I took a 10 second exposure. This really enhanced the appearance of lights and even hid people who were walking through the background (which was quite busy).
22.0 | ISO 200 | 10 second exposure

The Gear

To pull these shots off, I found it useful to get my hands off the camera. I tool advantage of a Gorillapod from Joby. This small tripod weighed only a few ounces and fit in my pocket throughout the day of walking around.

A behind the scenes shot of my Olympus OM-D E-M5 mounted to a Gorillapod.

By shooting in Aperture Priority mode, I was able to set the depth of field and adjust the aperture quite small. This let in very little light. I then adjusted the ISO to a low value and let the camera determine the Shutter speed. The combination of small tweaks to the camera settings achieved very versatile looks. The three shots below use shutter speeds ranging from :01 to :15 seconds.


The key with long exposure photography is to experiment with different settings and do your best to try out different exposure times while eliminating camera movement.

This is just one way to shoot long exposures. I hope you can use these techniques combined with your own knowledge to achieve great results.


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