5 Ways to Improve your Long Exposure Photography

There is something ultimately relaxing about the process of long exposure photography. Take an already stunning location and slow the whole view down. This will make even the moving aspects of the scene completely still. It is such a relaxing process with the added benefit of the fresh air and the great outdoors.

The old Jetty

5 Tips for Better Long Exposure Photography

Use a Tripod:

Stability is crucial in long exposure photography because the camera’s shutter is open for an extended period. Even slight movements can result in blurry images. Invest in a sturdy tripod to keep your camera perfectly still during the exposure. Make sure to extend the legs fully and use a remote shutter release or the camera’s timer. This will minimise camera shake when pressing the shutter button.

Select the Right ND Filter:

Neutral density (ND) filters reduce the amount of light entering the camera. This in turn allows you to use longer shutter speeds even in bright conditions. The choice of ND filter strength depends on the effect you want to achieve. A stronger ND filter, like ND10 or ND1000, is suitable for extremely long exposures. Lighter ND filter, such as ND2 or ND4, are ideal for moderately long exposures.

Choose the Ideal Aperture and ISO:

Long exposure photography often involves using small apertures (higher f-numbers) to control the amount of light entering the camera. This results in a greater depth of field and sharpness in your images. Additionally, keep your ISO as low as possible (usually 100 or 200) to minimize noise in the final image.

Calculate Exposure Time:

Calculating the correct exposure time is essential for achieving the desired effect. Start with your camera’s metered exposure without the ND filter. Calculate the adjusted exposure time with the filter in place. You can use long exposure calculator apps or tables available online to help with these calculations.

Experiment with Composition:

Long exposure photography allows you to create unique compositions by capturing the passage of time. Experiment with different subjects like flowing water, moving clouds, or light trails from vehicles. Consider the composition carefully, and use leading lines, interesting foreground elements, and strong focal points to enhance your photos.

Bonus Tip: Review and Adjust: After taking a long exposure shot, review the image and make necessary adjustments. Check for exposure, composition, and any potential issues like blown-out highlights or unwanted artifacts. If needed, take multiple shots with varying settings to ensure you get the best result. Read more in The Long Exposure eBook.

Remember that long exposure photography often involves a fair amount of trial and error. Please don’t be discouraged if your initial attempts don’t turn out as expected. With practice and patience, you’ll improve your skills and capture stunning long exposure images.

Long Exposure Photography examples from Northern Ireland

Northern Ireland offers some spectacular landscapes from the Dark Hedges, made famous by the Game of Thrones, to the cranes of Harland and Wolff, home of the Titanic. Here are just ten locations in Northern Ireland that I’ve approached with a long shutter speed and an ND filter.

As a former Fujifilm X Photographer, I tend to use my Fujifilm X-100S  or Fujifilm X-E2 cameras to capture my long exposure landscape images. I am a massive fan of the Lee Filter Seven5 system and combined with the Fujinon XF 23mm and XF 14mm lenses, it is particularly hard to beat.

My advice is to approach long exposure  photography in two stages. When you approach a location, it is essential to think about the composition before setting up the camera for a long exposure capture.

Long exposure photography can yield stunning and creative results, but it requires careful planning and execution. Here are five tips to help you capture better long exposure photos:

1. St John’s Point

St John's Lighthouse

St John’s Point, on the coastline of County Down, is a particular favorite photography location. To ensure safety along the jagged rocks and high water, it is best photographed during the golden hours and as the tide is going out.

This photo was captured with the new XF 23mm Fujinon lens and the Lee Filter Seven5 system. The XF 14mm was just a little too wide as I tried to strike a balance between the lighthouse and capturing the water.

2. Holywood, County Down


The old yacht club in Holywood is a great location for trying out new equipment. This jetty, on the edge of Belfast Lough, is best photographed at high tide. Be aware of the wake created by the Seacat that passes on a regular basis. I used the leading lines of the jetty to draw the viewer’s eye to the center of the frame.

3. Tollymore Forest, County Down

Tollymore Forest, County Down

One of the first images I captured with a preproduction Fujifilm X-Pro1 and 18mm lens using B+W screw on ND filters. Care should be taken on the slippery green rocks to ensure your tripod will remain steady throughout the 10-30 second exposures. The Fuji cameras employ a cable release system. It also offers a very useful countdown on the LCD screen to ensure the correct exposure time.

Foley's Bridge

Generally, my long exposure captures don’t exceed 30 seconds so the T mode is all I ever need to use. If you don’t have a cable release set the timer on the camera for 2 seconds. This will help avoid camera shake when pressing the shutter button.

4. Crumlin Glenn, County Antrim

Waterfall X-Pro1
Taken with a preproduction X-Pro1 http://www.flixelpix.com/tag/x-pro1/

Again this image was captured with the Fujifilm X-Pro1 and XF 18mm lens using B+W filters. This location is best avoided following heavy rain or during the summer when there is little rainfall. I really wanted to make the water appear as soft as possible to made sure the rocks in the foreground were extra sharp to create a level of contrast.

5. Dunluce Castle

Dunce Castle, County Antrim, Northern Ireland

This is a really brilliant location. Walking from the car park care must be taken as you may your way to sea level. This image was shot on the Fujifilm XE-2 (14mm) at around mid-day. The water flows at a rate that means a 3-4 second exposure is enough to smooth the water and keep the color rich in the surrounding environment.

6. The Old Oil Jetty

A local fisherman told me about this remarkable Jetty on the County Antrim coastline. It is silent, eerie and cold. This image was captured with the Fujifilm X-Pro1 and XF 35mm lens using B+W ND filters. I converted the image to mono in Lightroom to reinforce the intimidating silence experienced under the jetty.

7. Titanic Studios

Harland and Wolff

Home of the Game of Thrones and City of Ember, the Titanic studios lie on the edge of the city of Belfast. To mix it up, I often move away from long exposure images of water and experiment with the night sky. When shooting at night, I set the ISO at around 1600 and an aperture of f/2.8. This is one area of long exposure photography I really want to explore further this year.

8. The View from Balintoy

If you visit Northern Ireland, the North Coast has to be on the list of places to visit. Famous for the Giant’s Causeway and a favorite location for the brilliant, Game of Thrones, the views are simply breathtaking. This image was captured during a late summer evening using the Fujifilm X-Pro1 and ND filter.

9. Belfast Harbour

Again on the coast alongside the town of Holywood, there are a number of little jetties that can make great locations for long exposure photography. This image was captured on the Fujifilm X100s and, you can see, I used the rule of thirds to draw out the jetty against the white sea.

10. Lawson’s Jetty, County Londonderry


Northern Ireland has some stunning beaches, but Castlerock is extra special. Overlooking my Mussendon Temple, it is a view to behold as the sun goes down. Just around the corner from the bar mouth sits the old Lawson’s Jetty. This image was captured with the Fujifilm X100s and the Lee Seven5 filter system. I convert my images to mono when trying to draw out the texture of the materials or create a stark contrast with the water.

If you haven’t experimented with long exposure photography I highly recommend exploring your local area equipped with a camera, tripod and ND filter. It can be an addictive process, but better still you will find locations on your doorstep you never even knew existed. And then come for a visit to Northern Ireland and capture all the beauty we have to offer.


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