14 Best Uses for Long Exposure Photography

cars leave light trails in the city
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Long exposure photography is a great way to use your camera in manual mode to get a photo that speaks to what you are really seeing with your own eyes.

What is long exposure photography? When you keep your shutter open on your camera for an extended amount of time (usually 30 seconds or longer).

When using long exposure, you want to use a tripod to make sure your photo isn’t completely out of focus.

Long exposure photography allows you to blur motion to get really cool effects, such as the ones below.

In this post, I’m not going to go into the details of how to take a long exposure. I will save that for a different post.

Today, I want to show you the things you can do if you play around with long exposures in camera.

14 Best Uses for Long Exposure Photography


Using sparklers to write words or shapes in the air is very popular, especially for wedding photography.

Here are some examples:


Not just for the 4th of July! Fireworks are so fun to capture, anytime of the year.

Here are some examples:

Smooth Landscape Reflections

Looking to make a mountain reflection in a smooth lake? Slow down your shutter speed to make the water calm and reflective.

For more ideas on reflections, check out this blog post —> 30 Reflection Photography Ideas and Inspiration for Creative Images.

Here are some examples:


While in the city at night, a great way to portray the speed and intensity of city life is to photograph cars whizzing by the big buildings or on the highway.

Here are some examples:


Capturing the stars at night is a whole type of photography all by itself: astrophotography. Use a 30 second shutter to catch the stars and even longer (hours) to catch the star trails.

Here are some examples:


Making water smooth and silky is a great way to make your photos captivating.

Here are some examples:


Lightning can bright up any stormy landscape photo. In order to capture the whole lightning bolt (or several together), use a longer shutter speed.

Here are some examples:


There are two ways to capture waterfalls: freezing choppy water or blurring motion to make the water smooth and silky. I prefer smooth water, but it just depends on the look you are going for.

To find out more about photographing water, check out this post –> 7 Clever Ways to Capture Water in Your Photography.

Here are some examples:


Capturing clouds can add dimension to your landscape photos. Using a long exposure on clouds can make them smooth out and almost streak across the sky, like in these photos.

Here are some examples:


Sunset is one of the most beautiful times of day to shoot. Using a long exposure can capture all of that beauty and golden light into your photo.

Here are some examples:


You wouldn’t normally think of using a long exposure on snow because it is so bright. But slowing down the shutter speed smooths out the snow (just like water) and makes for a beautiful image.

FYI: You will probably have to use a filter to darken your image in order to make this work.

Here are some examples:


Using a slow shutter speed when you don’t mean to can make for a blurry out of focus image. But if you do it with intention and artistry, you can make beautiful abstract images that are very creative.

Here are some examples:

Light Painting

Wikipedia defines light painting as: “photographic techniques of moving a light source while taking a long exposure photograph, either to illuminate a subject or space, or to shine light at the camera to ‘draw’, or by moving the camera itself during exposure of light sources.”

This is similar to the sparklers mentioned in #1, but can also be done with flashlights, glow sticks or any other light source. This can also be know as steel wool photography.

Here are some examples:


Want to get the look that a ghost is in your photo? This can be done with long exposures as well. Give it a try and freak out your friends!

Here are some examples:

All of these ideas are making me want to grab my camera and tripod and create some new long exposure photos. How about you?

There is no end to the creativity you can accomplish with long exposure photography. These are just a few of the ideas you can try.

So get out there and shoot today!

What do you use long exposure photography for? Let us know in the comments below. And if you found this post helpful, please share. Thanks!

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