by Rick Hulbert, HSW Faculty

Long Exposure Photography is a technique that can be employed to capture “time.” This technique uses an extended duration shutter speed that has the effect of freezing fixed objects such as mountains and buildings while purposely interpreting moving objects, such as clouds or water, in a way that creatively displays movement over time.


Long Exposure Photography is not a new concept. The earliest photographs required the camera shutter to be open for a minimum of 10 minutes to be able to record an image that could be fixed. There is no universally accepted exposure time that constitutes the definition of “long.” However, examples generally range from minutes to hours.

I am going to suggest that a good way to explore this technique is by photographing landscape or urban scenes of buildings, including bodies of water and skies with defined clouds separated by clear sky. To achieve relatively “quick” results, I am going to recommend you start working with shutter speed of two minutes. I find it to be a “sweet spot” of allowing enough time to establish a distinctively unique look, while at the same time achieving timely feedback.

Eiffel Tower, photo courtesy of Christopher Broughton

“Eiffel Tower, Paris, France” photo courtesy of Christopher Broughton. Instagram: @chris_broughton | © Christopher Broughton

The basic gear required for Long Exposure Photography includes a sturdy tripod with an attached camera triggered by a cabled or remote release. Your camera should allow for manual settings with a “bulb” mode. Finally, Neutral Density Filters are required that will significantly reduce the amount of light reaching your sensor in order to lengthen your shutter speed to a minimum of two-minutes. The ideal combination taught to me by the internationally recognized long exposure fine art photographer, Marc Koegel, is to retain 6 Stop and 10 Stop Neutral Density Filters which, when used together allow for a 16 Stop reduction in the amount of light reaching your camera’s sensor. The resulting flexibility of light reduction will allow you to create long exposures day or night.

While modern cameras seek to maximize the number of exposures per second that can be recorded, Long Exposure Photography seeks to explore the distinctive look of lengthening exposures in pursuit of what many believe is a more artistic interpretation of the world around us.


For those that want to expand on this topic through lecture/discussions and practice the basics, we will be exercising Long Exposure Photography during select field locations at my Night Photography in San Francisco Workshop Course in September.

Rick Hulbert’s next workshop is in the world-class city of San Francisco on September 29th through October 2, 2016: Night Photography in San Francisco. Limited seats are still available.