01 October 2017

Canon Long Exposure / Night Photography Setup & Tips

Canon Long Exposure / Night Photography Setup & Tips
Sea Point Cape Town  f/16 / 30 seconds
Long Exposure / Fireworks / Night Photography Cape Town
Long-duration shutter speeds / long exposures are most often applied when shooting after sunset, night photography and / or fireworks. The photographer will use longer shutter speeds to capture a low / fading / after-sunset or a night composition - all of which could provide for some really dramatic exposure effects.


Long exposures (during daylight) are also achievable with the use of filters (see section on ND filters).

Not just for DSLR Cameras
Long exposure photography is not limited to DSLR cameras only, but will indeed be possible with some compact / bridge cameras (ie. the Canon PowerShot G and SX Series) and should be tried. Even with shutter speed limitations of 15 seconds on many of the Canon SX-series compact cameras.


Some compact cameras have very short shutter open / close times while others can do exposures up to 8 minutes - more than enough to experiment with. Night / moon photography with the Canon PowerShot SX40 HS (Bridge / compact camera). 

Canon Long Exposure / Night Photography Setup & Tips
Canon EOS 6D / 16-35mm Lens
Av Mode preference (for controlling aperture)
Creating long exposures for my 'Table Mountain After Sunset / Sea Point Seascapes " shots I generally use Av Mode (Aperture Value) on the mode dial (also called Aperture priority mode). Av Mode provides user control over lens aperture size ie. f/11 or f/16, but the camera will select the most appropriate shutter speed (ie. 1 or 10 seconds). You can also use Manual Mode (you control Aperture / Shutter speed / ISO) or Time Value Mode or Tv Mode on the mode dial (you control shutter speed and the camera decide on the aperture ie. f/11 or f/16).

Low ISO's for minimizing noise and don't forget the tripod
For night photography it is recommended to set your camera to ISO 100 or ISO 200 for minimizing unwanted digital noise. Due to the longer exposure time generated by the camera it will be required to use a sturdy tripod for preventing unnecessary blurring. A quality tripod is always a good investment - do the necessary research and get the best you can afford. I currently use a Manfrotto 190X MK190X3-3W (804RC2 pan/tilt head) for all my night / landscape photography requirements.


After Sunset / Night Photography Setup & Tips (Using Av Mode)
Milnerton Lighthouse after sunset (with light trails)
Shutter speed
There is also 'Bulb mode' an extended shutter speed mode selection available in Manual or Tv mode (not in Av mode) - meaning there is a manual time-setting which you can control the shutter for opening and closing for up to a few hours if you want (will require external power supply). In Canon just dial past the 30 seconds general 'limit'. Think star trails - exposure time of +- 30 minutes. Or if you want exact shutter time control when shooting fireworks (say 3 to 15 seconds, but you control it). On the enthusiast and professional EOS DSLR's Bulb mode is a separate exposure function on the mode dial and of great assistance for long exposure photography
.

My reason for shooting most Long Exposures in Av mode is that I prefer shooting with smaller apertures between f/11 - f/22 (these apertures will provide enough depth of field (DOF) / back to front sharpness across the entire frame - and is based on general landscape photography apertures. The camera will automatically assign a longer shutter time as the light fade and / or as I adjust the aperture to a larger f/(stop) value (ie. from f/11 to f/16 to let even less light onto the camera's image sensor).


Canon Long Exposure / Night Photography Setup & Tips
Canon EOS 6D Fireworks : Bulb Mode
Shutter Speed limitation in AV / Tv / Manual Mode
Most DSLR's, certainly Canon APS-C and Full FrRame bodies are limited to 30 seconds exposure time (in all shooting modes), In most cases this is long enough, but for manual shutter speed / exposure control it is recommended to use Bulb Mode with a cable or remote release. Long Exposure / 30 seconds auto-shutter release in Av Mode EOS 6D Demo>>


Bulb Mode
Most modern DSLR's will have a separate Bulb Mode (on the Mode Dial). By using Bulb Mode the photographer can specify a predetermined exposure time / shutter speed by manually controlling the shutter speed or by using a cable or remote release. The Canon Timer Remote Controller TC-80N3 will allow for manually setting the shutter release time from 1 second to 99 hours (the longer hourly exposure time will be useful for time-lapse photography). Bulb Mode is a handy functionality to use for Fireworks Photography for capturing various exposure times during the duration of a fireworks display.


Long Exposure / Fireworks Photography Setup & Tips
Fireworks with a Zoom Lens - Cape Town
Capturing / Shooting Fireworks
For the photo on the right  - Fireworks with a Zoom Lens - I used a Canon EOS 700D and EF 70-300mm f/4-5.6 IS USM lens with the following settings: Tv Mode ISO 100, Aperture f/9.5. Manual focus with Remote Shutter Release (Bulb) and Manfrotto Compact Tripod (+- 1 kilometer from the fireworks show).

More Fireworks
  • Fireworks V&A Waterfront Cape Town 2014 >>
  • Fireworks V&A Waterfront Cape Town 2015 >>
  • Fireworks V&A Waterfront Cape Town 2016 >>

Fireworks with a Compact Camera (using the Fireworks Scene Mode)
Many compacts, such as the Canon Powershot series cameras (ie. SX40 HS / SX50 HS / SX60 HS) will offer a Fireworks Scene Mode - an automatic mode for controlling the required fireworks / scene exposure. 

Remote Control
The Canon RC-6 Wireless Remote Control (optional) accessory is a very cost-effective solution that I use for most of my long exposure photography (paired with Canon EOS 700D / EOS 70D / EOS 6D and various lenses). There are various other compatible wired / wireless remote controls on the market.

Remote Canon EOS / PowerShot Shooting via Android / iOS App
Another option to shoot with a remote Android / iOS App (should the camera have WiFi / NFC functionality). 

Camera / Lens settings for Night Photography (Architecture / Landscapes / Seascapes)

Camera

  • Aperture Priority / Av Mode
  • Aperture: f/11 - f/16
  • ISO 100 - 200 
  • Shutter Speed: Camera controlled
  • Switch Long Exposure Noise Reduction off 
  • Set remote timer on / use remote control (optional)
  • Set camera to Live View (to view everything on the LCD screen) 
Lens
  • Zoom in / out until satisfied with whats in the frame
  • Turn Image Stabilization off (if an IS lens)- Turn Auto-Focus (AF) off 

Manual Focus
Canon Long Exposure / Night Photography Setup & Tips
Canon EOS 6D Manual Focus ISO 100 / f/16 20 seconds
Check that your subject fore and background is in focus (for deep Depth of Field / small aperture sharpness) by adjusting the zoom on barrel of lens / or zoom ring in front (this will be camera and lens-dependent). I generally magnify the scene in the LCD screen and fine-tune the midpoint to background until satisfied with focus.

Camera Shake / Steadiness
The camera will take between 2 to 15 seconds or longer to complete the exposure and therefore the complete camera system should not be moved / touched. Even a slight breeze will influence the final image ito possible blurriness or unsharp image quality.

Using long shutter release times towards a second or longer will, without doubt, increase camera shake. A sturdy tripod will assist in keeping the camera absolute as still as possible. I use the Canon Remote Shutter Release to fire the shutter - assists with not touching the camera. My tripod of choice: Manfrotto Tripod 190X MK190X3-3W

Canon Long Exposure / Night Photography Setup & Tips
Canon EOS 700D  Manual Focus ISO 100 f/16 30 seconds
When the sun is setting fast...
I generally wait until after the sun is behind the horizon and start a few tests by just pressing the shutter half-way to see what shutter speed the camera will provide. So I wait for 4 to 5 seconds before I press the remote release for the camera to start the exposure. Camera will process the photo and you will be able to see result in Live View / on the LCD.

As it get darker the camera will meter less available light and automatically increase the shutter speed to 5 then 6 and more seconds sometimes beyond 30 seconds - all of these exposure times will lead to camera shake if not on tripod. The Tripod counters this and provides for blur-free and noise-free images.

I generally take about 20 shots between 5 and 30 to 40 seconds.


Using ND Filters for Longer Exposures (for longer exposures during the day)
Sea Point Cape Town  ND64 Filter .5 seconds
Using ND Filters for Longer Daytime Exposures

Its also possible to use Neutral Density (ND) filters for reducing light entering the lens / camera (during daylight shooting). There are different screw-in or slot-in type filters each with different optical densities / f-stop reductions ie ND2 = 1 stop of light, ND16 = 4 stops of light and ND64 = 6 stops of light. 

I personally use a Hoya 77mm Pro ND64 Filter for capturing longer day time exposures with a Canon EOS 6D / EF 16-35mm f/4L IS USM Ultra-Wide lens. The image on right was captured with the Hoya filter (for creating silky-looking water during daylight - quite a while before sunset).

Av Mode (Canon EOS 6D):
  • ISO 100 - 200
  • Aperture f/16
  • Shutter Speed +- .5 second 
  • Focal length +- 25mm 
  • Manfrotto Tripod

Shooting the moon: Canon Long Exposure / Night Photography Setup & Tips
 Canon PowerShot SX40 HS Original Post
Photographing the moon with a compact camera tips
Shooting the moon tends to be be very popular for DSLR and compact camera photographers when they're starting out and / or testing the sharpness of their lenses.

The adjacent moon capture was created with a non-DSLR Canon PowerShot SX40 HS super-zoom compact (Milnerton, Cape Town) with the following settings (with no post-processing):

Av Mode:

  • ISO 200 
  • Aperture f/8 
  • Shutter Speed +- 1 second 
  • Focal length +- 2200mm 
  • Manfrotto Tripod 

My go-to settings for Night Photography

  • Canon EOS DSLR body (APS-C or Full Frame) 
  • Canon EF Ultra-Wide or Wide Lens (between 16-70mm) 
  • RAW / In-camera noise reduction turned off 
  • LCD / Live View for focusing (not OVF) 
  • Manual focus / Image Stabilization off 
  • ISO 100-200 
  • Aperture f/16 - f/22 
  • Shutter Speed +1-30 seconds (or Bulb mode) 
  • Remote release or 2-second self-timer 
  • Tripod
Below are various captures from Fireworks / Ferris Wheel / various long exposure captures all required shutter speeds of 8 - 30 seconds.

(Click to Enlarge / Slideshow)
Long Exposure / Night Photography Setup & Tips Milnerton Lagoon Woodbridge Island Cape Town
Canon EOS 6D / EF 16-135mm Lens f/16 / ISO 100 / 30 seconds 

Long Exposure / Night Photography Setup & Tips Milnerton Lagoon Woodbridge Island Cape Town
Canon EOS 6D / EF 16-35mm Lens f/16 / ISO 100 / 20 seconds 

Long Exposure / Night Photography Setup & Tips Milnerton Lagoon Woodbridge Island Cape Town
Canon EOS 6D / EF 16-35mm Lens f/16 / ISO 100 / 20 seconds 

Long Exposure / Night Photography Setup & Tips Milnerton Lagoon Woodbridge Island Cape Town
Canon EF-S 18-135mm IS STM Lens f/16 / ISO 100 8 seconds

Long Exposure / Night Photography Setup & Tips Milnerton Lagoon Woodbridge Island Cape Town
Canon EF-S 18-135mm IS STM Lens f/16 / ISO 100 10 seconds

Long Exposure / Night Photography Setup & Tips Fireworks From Woodbridge Island Cape Town
Canon EF-S 18-135mm IS STM Lens f/11 ISO 100 8 seconds

Long Exposure / Night Photography Setup & Tips V&A Waterfront Cape Town
Canon EF-S 10-18mm IS STM Lens f/4.5 ISO 800 (handheld)

Long Exposure / Night Photography Setup & Tips V&A Waterfront Cape Town
Canon EF-S 10-18mm IS STM Lens f/18 ISO 100 30 seconds

Canon Long Exposure / Night Photography Setup & Tips Cape Town
Canon EF-S 10-18mm IS STM Lens f/18 ISO 100 20 seconds

Canon Long Exposure / Night Photography Setup & Tips Cape Town
Canon PowerShot SX40 HS f/8 ISO 100 15 seconds

Photography Training: Introduction to the Exposure Triangle - ISO / Aperture / Shutter Speed
Photography Training: Introduction to the Exposure Triangle -ISO / Aperture / Shutter Speed