What Are The Prerequisites To Capture Long Exposure Shots?

Tin (Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam) asked: Your gallery has some really amazing long exposure night shots. I am also interested in taking such photos. How should I prepare myself for the long exposure shots?

If you want to take long exposure shots, there are few requirements in terms of accessories you might need and the camera settings you need to setup. And if you are just starting, you can start with a minimal setup and as you grow more with your experience, you would find out what else you might need to improve your skill. This is what I would suggest to anyone who is starting into any genre of photography; start with the basics, you would make mistakes, learn from those mistakes and keep practicing. This is coming from my personal experience.

Now, to answer your question about the requirements for the long exposure shots, let's talk about the accessories you might need in the first section and then I will go through the camera settings in the following section.

1. Accessories you would need for the Long Exposure shots

- Tripod

Tripod is a must have device when you are taking long exposure shots. The general rule of thumb is: if you are shooting with a shutter speed that is slower than the focal length value, you would need a tripod to get the sharper image. Let’s say you are shooting at the focal length of 80mm, any shutter speed that is less than 1/80th of a second requires a tripod to produce a crisp image. I think it pays to invest in a good tripod (carbon fiber if you can afford) so that you won't have to keep replacing the tripod with every new camera you would buy in the future. I suggest you to get the one that can support heaviest camera-lens combo in the market and have extra features like panning support and easy movement of the camera in all possible directions. I think finding the best tripod requires a little bit of research of your own based on your budget and future plannings.

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An Evening In Pittsburgh

I have forever enjoyed travelling to new city with my camera and indulging in adventurous night photography (secret to my adrenaline rush). Pittsburgh is a beautiful city located just three and a half hour drive from where I live, and I shamefully admit that I had not made it to this city in the past 10 years. It was only last year when the opportunity came up to attend a cybersecurity training program in the city of Steelers. I was very excited for soon I would be doing everything that I love doing. As an IT professional, I was thrilled about the training program but silently I was ecstatic about traveling to a new city and doing night photography. I like to be prepared when I travel to a new place and get my itinerary ready beforehand. Along with some homework I did, I also got a little help from the Uber drivers to pick possible locations for the night shoot, which worked out perfectly for my photography adventure.

Pittsburgh is known as the city of the steelworkers where the United States Steel Corporation's 64-story tall headquarter is located. The famous football team Steelers also got their name from this steel town and the history of it’s steel workers. Sadly, the steel corporation does not own the building anymore but they are still one of the largest tenants in the building. The city lost most of the steel workers due to the change in global economy market.

I chose to drive to the city instead of flying. I entered the city through a tunnel and as I came out on the other end, I was amazed by this view of Pittsburgh’s skyscrapers and bridges. I could not believe that it took me so many years to visit this beautiful city surrounded by the hills. As soon as I checked into the hotel, I went out for an evening stroll around the downtown. Surprisingly, the downtown was pretty quiet and not much was going on (I thought it was a MONDAY to blame!). Then I tried going to a few shops and restaurants and they were all closed or getting ready to close. After walking around for a while, I found one restaurant which happen to open late on Monday nights. It was quite an experience for me on the very first day. Nothing goes down before midnight in DC downtown and here I was in Pittsburgh at 9 pm trying to look for an open restaurant. When I came back and asked the hotel staff about the minimal activity in the city, he said that's how it's always been around the downtown. All the restaurants and small businesses depend on the corporate employees and closes early right after the office hour.

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Backup Solutions For Photos And Videos

In the era of digital photography, we can't overlook the idea of data backup. I am working as an IT professional for over 12 years now and I couldn't emphasize more on the importance of data backup. In my professional career, I implement multiple layers of backups and disaster recovery systems to protect the company data. The data we work with and the storing methods for those data have changed a lot over the years. We used to deal with Megabytes and Gigabytes of data, which have now changed to Terabytes and Petabytes. High resolution images, 4K and Ultra 4K HD videos are becoming normal with the increasing popularity of smartphones and advanced cameras. These high quality files are helping us to be more creative but managing them is becoming a problem.

Back in the days of film photography, we could only take a certain number of pictures per roll. Also, we would have to keep the negative as a backup for the future production. But digital photography has changed the way we take pictures and the way we store them. We can now take unlimited number of pictures without ever getting worried about the space on the camera memory. Even if the memory is full, we can download them on a computer within a few minutes and make it available for the shooting immediately. Given the number of files we capture during one shooting, I think its time to think about the proper backup solution so that we don’t lose the pictures because of the memory crash or the computer hard-disk failure. If you are working on time sensitive projects, the worst thing that can happen is lose all of the photographs that you have taken for the clients because of the electronics malfunction. Now, you may argue that even our backup device or the service may fail and we may lose the data. In short, yes it can happen, but, having a multiple backups is obviously a better idea than storing your pictures on a single memory card or rely on your computer hard-disk only. The chances of failing multiple devices at the same time are very very low, and also, there are few strategies you can implement to decrease that chance to virtually zero.

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Using Nikon's Built-in Flash In Different Metering Modes

Almost all consumer level DSLRs and some of the pro level DSLRs come with the built-in flash. Professional photographers who shoot wedding, fashion, commercial portrait, or other special events do not rely on built-in flash to illuminate their subject. But, you don't have to use flash only when there is not sufficient natural light. It can also be used as a fill light to remove shadows or to add a catch light to the subject's eye. One of the best thing about the built-in flash is, you don't have to carry around an extra equipment and is always available on your camera, as long as the camera has sufficient battery power to charge and fire the flash. It can be put to use instantly whenever you want and doesn’t require any sophisticated setup. However, you need to understand few basics settings of your camera and should be comfortable navigating through the menu settings and the buttons on the camera.

Use of camera's built-in flash and its effect on the picture is determined by various settings on the camera, but most importantly, which metering mode you are currently using and what exposure mode you are on play a bigger role. Let's recap these camera metering modes briefly and then we can discuss about the steps we would be following in order to use on-camera flash. Since I wrote the blog about camera metering (in more detail) almost 9 years ago, Nikon has added a new metering mode; Highlight-Weighted Metering, which we will be discussing in the section below.

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