Photography - Gear/Equipment

The Essential Equipment for Long Exposure Photography

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The most important equipment a photographer can have is an eye for a great photograph. If you are just starting out, you don’t have to worry about cameras. You need to first master the art of framing and composition, and learn as much about cameras as possible.However, for certain kinds of photography, you need specific types of cameras and other equipment. Long Exposure Photography is one of such photography where you need certain equipment.

Don’t worry; you don’t need to empty your pockets to buy expensive items to click these photographs. As it is said, you never need the best equipment; you just need the right equipment.

What is Long Exposure Photography?

Long Exposure Photography involves using low shutter speed in order to capture the sharpness of the stationary objects while obscuring or blurring the entities in motion. Long Exposure Photographs capture time in motion. You can clearly see the path of all the moving objects. Bright objects create a trail of their movement while dark objects generally disappear.

There is no general definition of what it means to be long, it could be 30 seconds or a few minutes, depending on what you are trying to capture!

The Essential Equipment for Long Exposure Photography

Long Exposure Photography is mainly used for Night Photography, Light Paintings, and Water Exposure Photography.

Also read, Understanding Histograms: Your guide to photography!

To capture great photographs, you’ll need the following equipment:

DSLR or Mirror-less Camera

For Long Exposure Photography, you should be able to control shutter speed (that’s what long exposure photography is about), ISO and aperture. Most general cameras and mobile cameras don’t allow you control these settings manually, which is quite crucial for slow shutter speeds.

You don’t need a fancy or an expensive DSLR or Mirrorless Camera, an entry level DSLR or Mirrorless will do just fine. Remember, photography is more about the photographer than the camera. Woking with different shutter speeds not only lets you click great photographs but also allows experimenting so that you can learn and be a better photographer.

DSLR Mirror-less Camera Photography

Bulb Mode is one more that is quite helpful when taking exposures. Most DSLR Cameras have the maximum shutter speed of 30 seconds. You have to use bulb mode if you need to take a photograph that requires a longer exposure. With bulb mode, you can expose an image for as long as needed. To enable the bulb mode, select the mode in shutter speed options and hold the shutter button for as long as you need your image to be exposed.

A Sturdy Tripod

A tripod is one of most essential equipment for any kind of landscape photography. Tripod legs are considered to be the limbs of the camera. Without the tripod, the camera is incomplete. A tripod increases flexibility and stability of a camera. It gives your photographs a certain edge that is not possible if you use a rock or fence to place your camera.

sturdy tripod

In Long Exposure Photography, shutter speeds are too low to be managed by a handheld camera. You need your camera to be perfectly stable. If you have just started, it is almost impossible for you to click long exposure photographs without a tripod. Even if you are great at handheld photography, a good tripod will only add to the stability.

A little piece of advice here:

Don’t buy cheap quality tripods. They are not very stable, get damaged easily and come with no warranty. Again, you don’t have to buy an expensive tripod, just sturdy enough to be stable in the wind and water.

Neutral Density (ND) Filters

ND or Neutral Density filters are lens filters that reduce or modify the intensity of light. The standard photography ND filter is used to reduce the light entering through the lens. It is done to prevent the overexposure of the image.

ND filters are used to click photographs when you need to blur water motion, reduce the depth of field in bright light, use a wider aperture value, reduce the visibility of motion, or extend time exposures.

Natural density filters

Majorly, ND filters are of two types:

  1. drop-in or square filters
  2. screw-in filters

They also come in various strengths, 3 stop, 6 stop, 10 stop, etc. It represents how much you need to increase the exposure time to capture a good exposure picture.

ND filters allow photographers to select aperture and shutter speed that would otherwise create an overexposed image. For example, if you want to capture motion blur of a speeding bus in a broad daylight, you have to set your camera at a slow shutter speed. It would make the image very much bright or overexposed. ND filters regulate the amount of light into the lens so that the final photograph has the sharpness you want with the perfect exposure.

There are many ND filters to choose from and it seems like companies are launching various ND filters every day. You can start with any of those filters and see if you like them. It is recommended that you use different filters and then you can buy the filter you like. LEE filters, B+W filters, and NiSi Filters are great ND filters to work with.

Remote Shutter

Remote Shutter might not be an essential equipment for Long Exposure Photography but it definitely makes it so much easier. There will be times when you have to capture a photograph at the perfect moment when every element is at the right where you want it to be and you can’t wait for extra seconds for the manual shutter. This is where the remote shutter comes in handy.

remote shutter

When you are working in bulb mode, the remote shutter will save a lot of hassle as it comes with a shutter lock function. It means that you don’t have to press and hold the shutter butter, which sometimes can result in a shaky image but instead you can lock the shutter with a timer release.


Cardboard is the thing that many photographers forget about. It is used to cover the viewfinder. You can also use anything else to cover the viewfinder of your camera. Some cameras even have an inbuilt function that closes some kind of curtain.

cardboard cover for viewfinder

If you don’t have this feature in your camera, just remember to bring a cardboard or anything that you can use to cover your viewfinder. This is done to prevent any unwanted light leak like in the image.

The above-mentioned equipment can be used to capture great long exposure photographs. They are not to be limited to just long exposure photography. These are the accessories that are very important to click good pictures. The more you learn about long exposure photography and photography in general, the more you’ll be able to decide which equipment to use and which is not necessarily required.

Curious to learn more about photography? Read: Automatic Exposure Bracketing for capturing the perfect picture!

If you are a beginner, you must use and experiment with these accessories. It will surely help you in improving your photography. The more you click the better photographer you become. It is not the equipment that makes you a good photographer but choosing the right equipment that makes you great.

Happy Photography!