Time to be with your loved ones

Time to be with loved ones

by sat

submit your photo

Hall of Fame
View past winners from this year

Please participate in Meta
and help us grow.

Take the 2-minute tour ×
Photography Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for professional, enthusiast and amateur photographers. It's 100% free, no registration required.

I would like to take a picture of a street during the day to depict how much traffic and cars there are on the street. Is there anyway to do this with a long exposure photograph? I have a Nikon D90 and I set the f stop down to 1/16 (the lowest of my lens) and set the time to 2 seconds. Doing this, the exposure is almost saturated when taken around 5pm with the sun setting behind a tree. Doing this, the cars passing by were very hard to make out against the stationary background, being visible as a blur in the color of the car.

Perhaps this is not possible and I should just do this at night where the cars lights are much brighter than the background.

Please suggest how else I might depict the traffic in a photograph? Are daytime long exposure photographs even possible?

share|improve this question
Note - A neutral density filter is the obvious first answer here, but after reading into your question a bit more, I don't believe that is what you are quite looking for. –  dpollitt Sep 27 '13 at 2:29
Are you confusing "time lapse" with "long exposure"? Time lapse is usually a series of photos taken at intervals, which is then assembled into a video to speed up something that happens slowly - eg a seed germinating. It sounds more like you a looking to achieve a longer exposure - such as would show vehicle light trails at night. However, note that if you use too long an exposure then passing traffic will effectively disappear completely from the photo, leaving an empty-looking street. You could try a slow-ish exposure, and add a pop of second curtain flash to try and highlight a car. –  John Sep 27 '13 at 8:12
@John I've corrected the question to use the correct term. –  WilliamKF Sep 27 '13 at 14:48
add comment

2 Answers

up vote 3 down vote accepted

You are achieving somewhat long shutter speeds of 2 seconds. But the problem is the result of this is that the moving objects are not captured for long enough in the same position to get the desired effect. What might work best is to stack images. You could capture shorter frames of the cars moving, maybe 1/15th of a second for example, multiple times, then combine those images in post production to form a pleasing result. This might require many frames as well as experimentation of how long the shutter speed is. We have some previous questions that might help you with image stacking knowledge as well:

You might also be interested in another way to capture timelapses without using such a narrow aperture. See: What are neutral density filters and how do I use them to create long exposures in daylight?

share|improve this answer
add comment

An ND filter can help you take longer exposures during daylight. This is what people use when photographing things like those blurred shots of running water.

An ND filter is like sunglasses for your camera - its only effect is to reduce the amount of light entering the lens, allowing you to take longer exposures with the same aperture, or widen up the aperture with the same shutter speed.

You can get ND filters that reduce the light by 1 stop, 2 stops, etc up to 10 stops. Sometimes they are marketed according to the reduction factor, so 2x means one stop, 4x means two stops, up to 1000x which is, more or less, 10 stops.

A 10 stop ND filter would allow your 2 second exposure to become a ~2000 second exposure (about 33 minutes). Or, it would allow you a 5-10 minute exposure with a more comfortable aperture of say f/8.

Such extreme ND filters are not as useful for everyday use as, say, a 3-stop filter, but can be useful in niche situations like this.

share|improve this answer
add comment

Your Answer


By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.