I was trying to take a long exposure photo during the daytime (my first attempt at doing so), details for settings given below, but on LCD, I couldn't see any object, it was all white, as in like lot of light entered. Can anyone please help me taking this shot right?

  • Camera: Canon 550D or T2i
  • Mode: Manual
  • Aperture: f/22
  • Shutter: 1/30 s
  • Lens: 15-55mm
  • Time of day: 6:00 PM, it was bright daylight

My intent is to basically learn how to take long exposure photo in daytime, irrespective of the location and whatever.

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    @Ankur UV filters have nothing to do with this. A neutral density (ND) filter, on the other hand, is exactly what you need. – Philip Kendall Apr 29 '14 at 8:38
  • @whyAto8 Why are you doing this in manual mode? – Philip Kendall Apr 29 '14 at 8:39
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    @whyAto8: your problem is too much light, an ND filter's job is to reduce the amount of light without changing anything else - pretty straightforward, no? – Michael Borgwardt Apr 29 '14 at 8:53
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    @whyAto8 Use your sunglasses to block (some of) the light. Learn to improvise :P – dialex Apr 29 '14 at 12:00
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    @DiAlex - that would result in distortion to the image that would probably be pretty significant since sunglasses are designed for eyes, not lenses, but ND filters basically are sunglasses designed for a lens. (I do realize you were probably joking, but the OP might not realize that.) – AJ Henderson Apr 29 '14 at 13:27

Obviously, there was still way too much light getting onto your sensor despite the tiny aperture. Methods to avoid that:

  • First, make sure your ISO setting is as low as possible.
  • Use Tv (shutter priority) mode instead of manual, then choose the shutter speed you want and let the camera adjust everything else to get normal exposure. If that is not possible (quite likely because you got overexposure with a very small aperture already), the camera will show a warning.
  • Quite likely the only thing you can do to reduce the amount of light enough while keeping the shutter speed you want is to use a neutral density filter.
  • I did change the ISO, but didnt help much. Well, just to understand, why use Tv mode instead of Manual, any specific reason – whyAto8 Apr 29 '14 at 8:45
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    @whyAto8: Your goal is to have long exposure, you don't really care what aperture is used as long as it prevents overexposure, right? Well, that's exactly what Tv mode is for, as I wrote: it lets you choose the shutter speed and automatically adjusts the aperture to get correct exposure (or tells you straight away that it's not possible). – Michael Borgwardt Apr 29 '14 at 8:50
  • hmm..that would be right, I will try Tv then. – whyAto8 Apr 29 '14 at 8:52
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    @whyAto8 In Manual, you have to calculate the exposure yourself. The fact that you got a completely white frame and didn't know what to do about this shows that you don't (yet!) have enough knowledge and expertise to do this. Using shutter priority (Tv) mode lets the camera do more of the work until you're ready to do it yourself. – David Richerby Apr 29 '14 at 20:07

One thing to bear in mind here is that 1/30s isn't a long exposure by any stretch of the imagination and it was already too long for your lighting conditions.

Usually, the goal of long exposures is to blur motion in the subject but 1/30s won't give very much blur at all, except for things that are moving rather quickly: by a fluke of arithmetic, something moving at X kilometers per hour will move approximately X centimetres in 1/30s. So, you'd probably get decent blur on a car moving at 40kph but a person walking (about 5kph) would just look fuzzy and indistinct. Somebody who doesn't know about photography would say that the car looks motion blurred but the person just looks out of focus.

However, in your case, the light was so bright that even the relatively fast shutter speed of 1/30s was too slow for your lens at its minimum aperture (highest f-number). A general rule of thumb – known as the "sunny sixteen" rule – is that, in bright sunshine, at an aperture of f/16, you get a roughly correct exposure by using a shutter speed of 1/ISO (so, for example, 1/100s at ISO-100). That suggests that, at f/22, you'd want about 1/50s at ISO-100 so the light must have been very bright indeed for 1/30s to give a completely white frame. (Or you were using higher ISO than that.)

Under those sorts of conditions, the only way you can possibly get a long (or even not-fast!) exposure is to use a neutral density filter ("ND"). These are filters which block some fraction of the light coming into the camera. They look grey because they block all colours of light equally so they don't change the colours in the photograph. The amount that's blocked depends on the density of the filter. Commonly available types are ND2 (lets through only half the light), ND4 (a quarter) and ND8 (an eighth); these are also known as 1-stop, 2-stop and 3-stop, respectively. However, even using an ND8 would only cut your shutter speed from about 1/50s to about 1/6s, which still isn't super-slow. 10-stop ND filters are available but they're very expensive.

Using two ND8's simultaneously would get you down to about 1s exposure but quality can suffer when you put that much glass in front of your lens. In practice, bright sunlight and long exposures don't mix well!

  • Thanks for the inputs. So in this case, would you have any recommendation for good ND filter.. – whyAto8 Apr 30 '14 at 7:05

There is another nice trick for taking "long exposure" in daytime without a ND filter: take repeated exposures and then average them.

There is an interesting article by Pat David about that, but basically, if you merge 30 exposures at 1/30s the effect will be similar to 1 s exposure.

Mind you, similar, not the same; the real 1 s exposure is continuous and registers 1 s of real time, while the sequence trick, even with a fast camera, will cover several seconds of real time. So probably the trick will work for random or slow movement (waves, water), but not for example to create nice movement blur on people or similar fast moving subjects.

On the nice side, this method, when suitable, has nice noise reduction advantages.


If you want to reduce the amount of light entering your camera you have to:

  1. Lower your ISO (you say you have done this already)
  2. Increase the Shutter Speed (you have this too low)
  3. Increase the Aperture size (looks like you maxed)
  4. Add a ND filter ahead of your lens (the darker the filter the less light comes in)

1/30s that's pretty slow shutter. You should try a lot faster 1/300 and adjust accordingly

  • The goal is to take a long exposure. 1/320 isn't what I'd call "long". – David Richerby Apr 29 '14 at 20:07
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    You need to Decrease the aperture size, which means increasing the f-number. – Michael C Apr 30 '14 at 0:06
  • As has already been mentioned, this answer DOES NOT answer the question. The OP asked for a solution to allow the shutter to remain as slow (or slower) as this is required for the photographer to achieve their desired end results. – damned truths Apr 30 '14 at 12:14

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