How to Create Long Exposure Landscape Photographs

Ever wonder how some photographers are able to create such painterly looking photographs? Maybe it’s Niagara Falls or a beautiful sunset on the Pacific Ocean. The way to create these kinds of images is to create long exposures with your shutter staying open for anywhere from 30 seconds to 30 minutes. This kind of photography can be tricky to master but once you’ve gotten a hang of it, you will be rewarded with incredible images. Here’s my process in creating long exposure images.

Flowing Fog
Flowing Fog : ©Nate Bernardo

First off you’ll need equipment. A full frame camera such as the Canon 5D Mark IV or the Sony Alpha 9 are good candidates for this style of photography. Next you’ll need a decent wide angle lens. A 16-35mm or 24-70mm zoom lens or a prime lens such as a 24mm or 35mm  will suffice for these purposes. You won’t need a super wide aperture, so an f/4 lens will be just fine. You’ll also need a tripod. A good heavy tripod will do best for these purposes, as you will want your camera to be a s still as possible. One thing that makes long exposure photography easier is a remote control. You can get the most basic wireless remote or grab an intervalometer, a super fancy remote that allows you to program in shutter speeds. Lastly, depending on whether you’re shooting during the day, you’ll need a three stop neutral density filter. For nighttime long exposure photography you will not need this filter.

Golden Gate
Golden Sunset: ©Nate Bernardo

Now that you have your equipment, it’s time to go find a place to photograph! The best places for you to utilize long exposure photography are locations that have a good amount of movement. Waterfalls, rivers, coastlines and lakes are are places that would benefit from long exposure photography. Other good candidates are roads at night, star trails in the middle of nowhere, locations that are partly cloudy, or even theme park ferris wheels! Capturing motion in photography is something that we as humans cannot see with out own eyes, thus adding that additional layer of interest to your photographs.


Finally it’s time to shoot! You’ll want to use Manual Mode to allow you the greatest control of your camera. First choose your shutter speed. 30 seconds is the maximum time your camera will allow you to keep the shutter open, so if you want to use a longer shutter speed you’ll need to use the Bulb mode with a remote control. Next you need to set your Aperture. f/8-f/11 is usually the sweet spot for most DSLR and Mirrorless cameras. Lastly you’ll want to set your ISO as low as possible; ISO 100 will give you the best quality, but make sure you don’t underexpose the images. Adjust your ISO accordingly to your in camera light meter. Make sure your camera is securely mounted to your tripod and shoot away!

Bay Lights
Bay Lights: ©Nate Bernardo

With that you now know how to create long exposure images. Now you can go out and create your own unique images that will garner the attention of all your friends and photography peers. To check out more of my long exposure work, visit me at Have any other tips? Drop a comment below! Don’t forget to keep on shooting! Happy Halloween everyone!


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