Try this DIY Neutral Density Filter for Long Exposure Photos

The post Try this DIY Neutral Density Filter for Long Exposure Photos appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Rick Ohnsman.

You could buy an expensive ND filter to make a long exposure image like this. Or, you could do it “on the cheap” with the trick you’ll learn in this article. 162 seconds f/8, ISO 100

You’ve seen those landscape photos where the water has been rendered silky smooth, ocean waves look more like fog, or the clouds have streaked motion effects?  How are they done?  They are long exposure photos. The shutter speed often measured in full seconds rather than fractions of a second.  Some even measured in minutes of exposure.  In low light, you can sometimes slow your shutter speed by decreasing the aperture size and setting the ISO as low as it can go.

Of course, if you’re working in bright light, you may find that even with the smallest aperture and lowest ISO you still can’t get the shutter speed slow enough to produce the effect you want while still maintaining proper exposure.  What can you do then?  It’s time for a Neutral Density Filter.

So what are they, how do they work, and how can you achieve a similar effect without immediately laying down about $100 U.S dollars for one?  Read on my friend.

This one was done with a variable ND filter. With a 30-second exposure, whatever moves will blur. Note the water and clouds.

What is ND and why use it?

On a bright sunny day, you may reach for a pair of sunglasses to reduce the amount of light coming into our eyes.  A Neutral Density (ND) Filter is much the same for your camera.  The “density” part of that term refers to how dense or dark the filter might be.  The “neutral” portion of the term refers to the coloration the filter might add to the image.

If we’re making color images, we’d like a filter that would help reduce the amount of light while remaining neutral in color and not putting a color cast on our images.  So we want a neutral filter that can cut the light in situations where the ambient light is too bright to get a slow shutter speed beyond that obtainable with a combination of the lowest ISO and smallest aperture.

A 6-stop ND filter was used here. 30 seconds, f/20 ISO 100

Types of ND filters

The DIY approach to long exposure photography to be discussed here uses a method never initially designed for photography but will allow you to give this technique a try “on the cheap.”  Rather than spend around $100, it’ll cost you a tenth of that.  Before I reveal the “secret,”  let’s first talk about the commercial photographic ND filters you might buy.

Camera filters typically fall into two types:

Screw mount – Those that screw into the filter threads on the front of your lens

Square filters – Those that are mounted to the lens with a filter holder.

Both are available in varying degrees of density.  How dark the filter is, is typically described in how many “stops” of light it reduces compared to an exposure without the filter.

For example, if you made a proper exposure at ISO 100, f/5.6, 125 seconds, and then after the filter was mounted, you needed to slow the shutter speed to 1/2 second to get the same exposure, (assuming you left the ISO at 100 and f-stop at 5.6), that filter would be a 6-stop ND filter.  (1/125 – > 1/60 -> 1/30 – 1/15 -> 1/8 -> 1/4 -> 1/2 second ).  The density of the filter would have reduced the amount of light by 6-stops.

You can purchase both screw mount and square filters in various “strengths” or number of stops they reduce the light.

For example, this 77mm screw-mount 6-stop ND filter made by B&W runs about US$71, while this popular 10-stop square mount ND filter, the Lee “Big Stopper” is at this writing US$129.00.

A variable ND might work, but take it too far…

…and you’ll get weird artifacts.

Variable ND Filters – Another type of ND filter uses two polarized filters mounted together so they can be rotated in a way that produces variable density.  One might think this is a better solution than a fixed ND filter, allowing the photographer the means of adjusting the desired stops of reduction.

That would be ideal, and it works – to a point.

The problem with variable ND filters is sometimes they can produce nasty “artifacts” that spoil the image, especially on wide-angle lenses at higher density settings with less expensive variable ND filters.

More expensive variable ND filters will be better, but of course, cost even more.

The “One Weird Trick” ND filter

You’ve seen that “one weird trick” phrase used on the web before, right?  Usually, it’s for a gimmick that is less than a quality product.  I confess, what I’m going to suggest here is a bit of a gimmick and no, won’t deliver the results of the pricier dedicated photography ND filters.  You have to perform a few workarounds to get it to produce decent results and mounting it to your camera will be a little… “funky,” shall we say?  The upside is, it will probably cost about 1/10th of what a true photographic ND filter.

So, it could be a nice introduction to long exposure photography, while allowing you to explore this technique on a budget to see if it’s for you.

So here’s the big reveal…

What you are going to use is a piece of welder’s helmet glass.

You’ve seen welders wearing helmets while they work and perhaps noted a glass “window” they look through to observe their work?  The intensity of arc welding is so great that without a way to darken the welding spark the welder would be blinded.  So, a piece of very dark glass, a “density filter,” is what they have in their helmets.  The common denominator is the welder wants to darken the welding arc and you, as a photographer, want to darken the light coming into your lens.

These aren’t spacemen. They are welders and that piece of glass you see in their helmets is what you need for this “weird trick.”

What and where to get it

What you are looking for is a piece of welding glass used in a helmet.  Pieces can be purchased alone, (as replacements for the helmets) and in various sizes and “grades.”  You might have a local welding supply shop where you can get these or purchase them online.  Here is a link to an example. The glass measures 4.5″ x 5.25′ (114.3 mm x 133.35 mm) which is large enough to cover most camera lenses.  It comes in grades 4, 5, 6, 8, 10, 11, 12, and 14 with the higher numbers being darker/denser.

This chart may help you in determining the conversion from “grade” to the amount of f-stop reduction:

To keep it simple, most often you will use a 6-stop or a 10-stop ND filter.  One popular brand of ND filters is Lee. Their “Little Stopper” is a 6-stop filter, and their “Big Stopper” is a 10-stop filter.  So consulting the chart, if you wanted a 6-stop welding glass filter, get a Grade 6, and for a 10-stop reduction, get a Grade 8.

The left half of this shot shows how the uncorrected image looks due to the heavy green color of the welder’s glass. The right has been white-balanced using the custom white balance method discussed.

Density Yes, Neutral… not even close

This is probably the biggest drawback to using a piece of welding glass as an ND filter.  You can get very dark pieces of welding glass, so density isn’t a problem.  The problem is that most welding filters have a very pronounced green, or in some cases, gold color cast.

Dedicated photography ND filters may have a little coloration, but try to come as close to neutral as possible.  You will pay more for more neutral filters as you’d prefer to get darkening without coloration.  So what to do when using a welding glass filter?

Three options to dealing with the color cast

There are three things you can do to help reduce the distinct coloration a welding glass filter causes:

  • Shoot in Raw, (which you do anyway, right?) and adjust your white balance when editing to compensate.
  • Set an in-camera Custom White Balance
  • Plan to make your images monochrome where color casts won’t be a problem.

Let’s discuss these options.

The first is simple enough.  Yes, when you review your images after shooting on the camera LCD they will look very green.  (I’ve only used the green welder’s glass, not the gold).  Just know you will be adding lots of magenta, (the opposite of green), to your white balance when you edit.  Even then, good color may be a struggle.

Rather than fight the color cast, maybe monochrome is the ticket when using the welder’s glass ND trick.

The second option, setting a custom white balance, is a good idea.  To do so, mount your welding glass filter, (more on that in a minute) and make an exposure of the sun or bright sky.  Then, using the custom white balance function of your camera, (consult your manual on how to do this), store that image and white balance on it, creating a custom white balance you can use to shoot with when using your welding glass filter.

The advantage of this is image playback on your LCD will be closer to a normal color.

Additional tweaking will likely be needed in post-processing, but this may help you a bit when shooting.

The third option, (and to me maybe the best) is not to fight the color cast and plan to make your welding glass filter shots monochrome.  Long exposure images have an “ethereal” look often enhanced in a monochrome image.  So, rather than fight trying to restore good color from that alien green image, embrace monochrome.

If you decide you love long exposure photography, you will then likely buy a photographic ND filter which will make much better color shots.

Calculating your exposure

Before mounting your welding glass on your lens, you will want to compose your shot as usual.  You will also want to obtain good focus.  Do this first, because you won’t be able to see much of anything with the welding glass mounted.

Once focus has been obtained, switch the focus to manual.  Consider putting a piece of tape on the focus ring so it won’t move later.

Now make a shot with good exposure without the filter.  You will be changing your shutter speed once the filter is mounted, so choose an aperture and ISO.  What setting you choose will depend on the depth of field you require and also how long you’d like your exposure to be.  The slower the shutter speed you set here (while still getting a proper exposure), the longer your exposure can be with the filter.

Your subject will largely dictate your desired exposure length and the look you are trying to achieve. A silky waterfall might only require a 2-second exposure while smoothing ocean waves could take 30 seconds and streaking clouds in the sky a couple of minutes.  There is no formula here – trial and error will help you learn what works right.

The monochrome version of this shot above was done with the welders’ glass and an exposure time of 1.6 sec. This shot was taken later when the last rays of sun lit the turbines and also used 1.6 seconds. Too short a shutter speed and the blades were frozen. Too long and they disappeared. 1.6 seconds was the “sweet spot.”

Using an app to calculate shutter speed with the filter

Your meter will likely be useless once you mount the welding glass ND filter so you will need to calculate shutter speed yourself using the previous exposure information as a starting point.  There are numerous smartphone apps available to help you.  I like the one made by Lee Filters (Android / iOS ). Made for use with their Little (6-stop)/Big (10-stop)/Super (15-Stop) filters, you will need to tweak a bit when using it with your welding glass. However, it will get you in the ballpark, and you can adjust from there.

Let’s use an example:  You’ve made a shot without the filter and with the ISO set at 100 and the aperture at f/22 you can get the shutter speed down to 1/15th of a second and make a proper exposure.  You bought both a Grade 6 (6.67-stops) and Grade 8 (10-stops) pieces of welding glass.  What will your new shutter speed need to be with each filter installed?  Using the Lee app, we can see the 6-stop reduction would put us at between 4 and 8 seconds and the 10-stop reduction at 1 minute.

Again, plan on using these adjusted settings as starting points.  Try them and adjust your shutter speed (or possibly other settings) as needed.  Definitely plan on taking multiple shots as you get things dialed in.  Long exposure photography is not something you do in a hurry.

It’s funky, but it works. Reverse the lens hood and use rubber bands to attach the welder’s glass filter.

Attaching the welding glass filter

You’ve set up the camera, composed, focused, locked everything in, calculated your new shutter speed and are ready to mount the welding glass ND filter.  I think I used the word “funky” earlier in the article to describe how you will attach your DIY ND filter to your lens.  The photo here, showing how reversing the lens hood on your lens and then using rubber bands pretty much depicts the technique.

Something to improve it a bit – put some black gaffer tape on the edges of your piece of welders glass.  This will give the rubber bands a surface with more friction to grab onto.  (It also helps you in hanging onto the glass).  I’m not sure if the edges of the glass would transmit light onto the image, but the tape will also prevent that should it occur.  If your lens doesn’t have a hood to reverse, try larger bands which will allow you to stretch them back around the camera body.

Try not to disturb the focus ring as you mount the filter.  You will not be able to check focus again once the filter is in place.

Set your focus BEFORE mounting the filter and turn the switch to Manual focus (MF)

Making the shot

With the welder’s glass filter mounted, you will pretty much be “flying blind.”  You will not be able to see anything through the viewfinder, and maybe, if your filter isn’t too dark, you might be able to see just a little bit using live view if your camera supports that.  You better have composed and focused before mounting the filter as you can’t see to do it now.  Your meter will also not work with such low light.

While you could use the 2-second timer to trip the shot, I’d suggest a remote release.  You will also definitely need one if you’ll be making exposures over 30-seconds (on most cameras) in which case you will be putting your camera in Bulb-Mode.

A release that allows you to lock the shutter open during the exposure will help a lot here.  The Lee exposure calculator app also has a countdown timer.  Activate it when you open the shutter and it will countdown and beep at the end of the calculated exposure time telling you when to close the shutter.

If your shutter speed will exceed 30-seconds, you will probably need to use bulb mode. A remote release is a good idea in such cases.

You may also want to consider using the noise reduction feature of your camera.  Noise can be a problem with long exposures.  The noise reduction feature will make a second black frame image the same length as your first shot and then subtract any random noise or hot pixels from your image using the black frame as a reference.

Keep in mind, however, that the black frame exposure will be as long as the original shot so if you are, for example, making a 2-minute exposure, your camera will be busy for four minutes.  I told you, you don’t do long-exposure photography in a hurry.

No filter. A straight shot – 1/25 sec. f/8 ISO 100

Back in post-production

You edit your long exposure images much as you do with any regular shot with the big exception of that crazy color cast.  There are lots of web resources that tell you how to help correct for that cast so I won’t spend time on that here.  Just know that with this welding glass technique you will never get the color as good as you would without the filter.  I still believe that monochrome is the way to go here.

Using the welder’s glass ND. Custom white balanced in the camera, color corrected again in Lightroom and Photoshop. 162 seconds, f/8 ISO 100. The monochrome version is at the top of this article.

Frustrations and limitations

I’ve since bought a real ND filter, the 6-stop B+W I mentioned, so my welding glass hasn’t seen much use until I got it out to make this article.  In making the wind turbine shots, I found what I think, (after some comparison testing), is a Grade 10 glass, very dark but still not dark enough to make even a short 1.6 second shot, (the shutter speed I determined was best to get the hint of motion I wanted on the turbine blades.)  Longer exposures simply caused the blades to disappear entirely.

A side note here: long exposures can be a great way to make a crowd disappear when photographing a busy cityscape.  The people move and so disappear during a long exposure while the static buildings and such stay put and show up in the photo.

Trying to darken the shot further, I put a polarizer on the lens, (dropping the exposure 2-stops), and then stacked the welder’s glass ND over that.  It wasn’t a good combination.  Too much, as the British say, “faffing about,” and I likely knocked my focus off slightly.  Also, shooting through both the polarizer and the welding glass put too much “cheap glass” between the camera and the image, so the sharpness suffered.

A straight shot with no filter. 125/sec. f/22 ISO 100

A second trip to the Boise River provided an opportunity to see how a long exposure would depict the fast-moving spring runoff.  I was able to use much longer exposures here, a few just over two minutes.  I also made a 30-second exposure with the sun in the shot, something that wouldn’t have been possible with no filter even with the minimum ISO of 50 and the smallest aperture of f/22.  Shooting long exposures in bright light is a big reason for using an ND filter.

A shot directly into the sun, and a shutter speed of 20 seconds, probably isn’t possible without a strong ND filter. I calculate the Grade 10 welder’s glass used here to give about 13-stops of light reduction. 20 seconds f/14 ISO 100

When to buy a real ND filter

You may find the welder’s glass technique a fun way to dip your photographic toe in the waters of long exposure photography.  If you find you enjoy it and like the kinds of images you can make, save up and buy a good ND filter.  However, if the technique is interesting, but not really your bag, then you will have discovered that having only spent a few dollars on your welder’s glass DIY version.

Either way, you will learn much more about creatively using your camera controls to make exciting photos and that’s what it’s all about.  Learn and enjoy!


The post Try this DIY Neutral Density Filter for Long Exposure Photos appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Rick Ohnsman.

Ebook Review – From Basics to Fine Art Black and White Photography

Ebook Review: From Basics to Fine Art

If you’re interested in black and white photography, the names Joel Tjintjelaar and Julia Anna Gospodarou will probably need no introduction. The work of both photographers has helped define, and push the boundaries of long exposure photography, a relatively new genre in the fine art world.

Julia and Joel have joined forces to write a new ebook called From Basics to Fine Art: Black and White Photography – Architecture and Beyond. It is principally aimed at photographers interested in using long exposure techniques to photograph buildings, with some chapters being more general and having a wider appeal.

Ebook Review: From Basics to Fine Art

The contents

The ebook starts with personal statements from the authors exploring their interpretations of the word vision as it relates to architectural black and white photography. For me, the most interesting concept here is expressed by Joel. He talks about long exposure black and white photography as being several steps removed from reality. It is an interpretation, not a reproduction. The intent is not to capture the scene as it looked to the eye, but to present it in a way that represents the artist’s vision.

This theme is continued in the later chapters where Joel explains his post-processing techniques. Take a good look at his photos (follow the link to see some) and think about whether you could achieve similar results. The likely answer is no, because Joel has developed his processing techniques beyond the level that most photographers achieve. Be warned – Joel takes a long time to process his photos and this section of the ebook reflects that. If you’re looking for quick fixes or shortcuts you will need to look elsewhere.

Ebook Review: From Basics to Fine Art

But if you’re looking for a detailed explanation of black and white post-processing techniques that you won’t find anywhere else, then you’re in the right place. Joel explains his workflow, demonstrating how he uses Lightroom and Photoshop, along with plug-ins such as Silver Efex Pro. Most importantly, he shows you how to use what he calls Iterative Selective Gradient Masks, a technique he developed himself, to create the unique look of his black and white images.

He also explores fairly complex techniques modelled on what the calls: the 10 monochromatic commandments for good black and white photography. The idea is that you can create presence and depth in photographs by altering contrast, tonal relationships and defining edges in a way that adds volume, depth and luminosity to the subject.

Don’t be surprised if you don’t understand what this means as it’s an intricate topic that represents a fairly new way of looking at black and white photography. Joel is ahead of everybody else in this respect so you won’t find this information anywhere else. However, the examples in the ebook, and the clear presentation, makes it simple. By the way, the 10 monochromatic commandments I just mentioned are essential reading for anybody interested in black and white photography, regardless of genre.

For me, the aspects covered in the previous paragraphs are the most interesting part of the ebook. There’s more, including some interesting thoughts from Julia (a trained architect) on using light to render the form and volume of buildings. She draws on techniques used in drawing and applies them to photography to get you thinking in a new way about rendering three-dimensional objects in photography.

Ebook Review: From Basics to Fine Art

There’s also an extensive chapter from Joel about long exposure photography, and the equipment (including a detailed look at neutral density filters) and techniques required to get results.

Included is more of the usual stuff that you would expect from a book about architectural photography, including composition, the practical aspects of photographing architecture and a chapter on using tilt-shift lenses. There’s also a useful chapter on pricing your work that will be of interest to professionals (or aspiring professionals).

A niggle: the discussions about composition contain a heavy emphasis on rules that continues throughout the ebook. I’m always suspicious of anybody that claims a certain way of things is a rule, and I’m certainly not convinced of the veracity of using (just to give an example) Fibonacci spirals and then stating that there’s a rule attached to it. I’m a strong believer in principles, rather than rules, and I don’t think Fibonacci spirals are going to help readers improve their composition. This minor complaint aside, there is plenty of good and practical information in this ebook.

Ebook Review: From Basics to Fine Art


I came away from reading this ebook with mixed feelings. On one hand, you have two photographers whose work I admire immensely explaining how they create their images, from their general philosophy to the specifics of long exposures and post-processing.

If you’re ever looked at their photos and wondered how they achieved the results they do then this ebook has the answers. It’s a tremendous act of generosity and sharing. No one else seems to be doing this stuff yet, or at least doing it and teaching it, so that makes some of the content unique. If you’re a fan of either of these authors, and want to learn the secrets behind their work, then it’s a must buy.

Ebook Review: From Basics to Fine Art

My main misgiving comes from the price. It’s an expensive ebook and it would be a shame if this information reaches a limited audience because of that. I realize that expense is a relative concept; the ebook is much cheaper than taking a workshop and you will learn things here that you wouldn’t from any other source. It’s a unique resource, and ultimately the buying audience will decide whether it has a fair value.

I have to admit that what I’d really like to see is a print version of this ebook, properly designed to give precedence to the photos of both authors. Their images would be better enjoyed on the printed page, and a book has the potential to become a lasting testament to their body of work and teachings.

From Basics to Fine Art: Black and White Photography – Architecture and Beyond

You can learn more about or buy From Basics to Fine Art: Black and White Photography – Architecture and Beyond by clicking the link. The price is €49 for those of you in the Eurozone, £39 for anybody in the UK and $US59 for the rest of the world.

The post Ebook Review – From Basics to Fine Art Black and White Photography by Andrew S. Gibson appeared first on Digital Photography School.

The Surreal Landscape: Long Exposure Photography

Long exposure photography

It seems to me that we live in a world orientated to a digital generation demanding instant gratification. This extends to photography, encouraged by the prevalence of camera phones and Instagram type apps. How many photographers, when they come across a beautiful scene, just stop and snap a photo with a camera phone and then move on?

Long exposure photography is different. It demands patience, an appreciation of beautiful light and a deep understanding of composition. It is as much about the mind-set of the photographer as it is about the subject. It’s not brash or flashy – you rarely see long exposure photographers use techniques such as high dynamic range (HDR) photography or adding texture layers.

What is long exposure photography? There is no precise definition. I think of it as involving shutter speeds of ten seconds or longer, but I’m sure some photographers will be thinking in terms of shutter speeds of a minute or more. But the aim is the same – to create beautiful and surreal images by leaving the shutter open long enough to record anything that moves within the landscape, such as water, as a blur.

That’s why most long exposure photography tends to take place along the coast. The sea creates an interesting subject, helped by natural features such as rocks and islands, and man-made ones like piers and jetties.

Painting with light is also a form of long exposure photography.

Long exposure photography

Contemplation and the landscape

You may be wondering what one does while waiting for the camera to take a photo when the shutter speed is longer than a minute.

The answer is that long exposure photography is a naturally contemplative pastime. While waiting, take some time to enjoy the beautiful location you are in. Breathe and enjoy the smell of the air. Listen to the sounds. Watch the light as it fades away. This meditative approach will help you notice things an instant gratification seeker will miss.

Getting started

Interested? How then, do you get started? One of the nice things about long exposure photography is that the basic requirements are not extensive:

  • A tripod and a good ball-and-socket head. Beware of inexpensive models – they may be too flimsy to support your camera properly during long exposures. A good aluminium or carbon-fibre tripod is required.
  • A cable release or remote release so that you can activate the shutter without touching the camera.


A polarising filter is useful for eliminating reflections from shiny surfaces, such as a concrete jetty made wet by sea water. It also blocks between one and two stops of light, helping you obtain longer shutter speeds.

Some photographers use neutral density (ND) filters, but they are not essential. You can get started without them by turning up late in the day and taking photos as the sun sets. During twilight you can obtain shutter speeds of thirty seconds or later by setting a low ISO and a narrow aperture.

The benefit of neutral density filters is that they extend the period of time during which you can use long exposures. They come in various strengths; three, four, nine and ten stop ND filters are the most common. Nine and ten stop ND filters are designed to enable long exposure photography during the middle of the day – you won’t need them if you are shooting at dusk.

Learn more about neutral density filters.

Long exposure photography

Noise reduction

Shoot in Raw and turn off the long exposure noise reduction setting. The software you use to process your Raw files will take care of noise reduction for you.


Here are some more resources that will help:

BW Vision

Slices of Silence

Interviews with long exposure photographers

Long Exposure Photography: 15 Stunning Examples

Eight Tips for Long Exposure Photography

Photo Tutorial – Long Exposure Photography

Final thoughts

That’s a lot to take in, so don’t forget the most important thing of all – to go out and take some photos. It takes a while to get the hang of long exposure photography, so don’t be discouraged if your first attempts aren’t as polished as you would like. It takes time to master the techniques and develop the eye for graphical composition required for successful long exposure photography.

Mastering Photography

My ebook Mastering Photography: A Beginner’s Guide to Using Digital Cameras introduces you to photography and helps you make the most out of your digital cameras. It covers concepts such as lighting and composition as well as the camera settings you need to master long exposure photography and take photos like the ones in this article.

Long exposure photography

Post originally from: Digital Photography Tips.

Check out our more Photography Tips at Photography Tips for Beginners, Portrait Photography Tips and Wedding Photography Tips.

The Surreal Landscape: Long Exposure Photography

The post The Surreal Landscape: Long Exposure Photography by appeared first on Digital Photography School.

Long Exposure Photography and the Square Format

Square format black and white photograph

The rise in popularity of digital cameras over the past decade has coincided with the emergence of a new genre of photography – long exposure photography. Long exposure photography involves using shutter speeds of anything from one second to five minutes or more while using a tripod to keep the camera still. The result is a landscape or architectural study characterised by still elements, such as rocks or a building, contrasting with moving elements, such as water or clouds in the sky. Most long exposure photographers use neutral density filters to obtain long shutter speeds and would probably aim to use a shutter speed of at least thirty seconds to obtain their effects.

Digital cameras greatly assist with long exposure photography because there is no reciprocity failure with digital and the instant feedback provided by the LCD screen lets photographers see right away how effective the composition is.

Square format black and white photograph

If you are familiar with the work of some of the more well-known long exposure photographers then you would no doubt have noticed that many of them choose to work in both black and white and the square format. Why is this?

Let’s start with black and white. Monochrome is the medium of choice for many fine art photographers. It’s moody, timeless, evocative and expressive. Removing colour from the composition concentrates attention on texture, contrast, line and light – the visual building blocks of powerful imagery.

The square format is different from other aspect ratios because of its balanced shape. The four sides of a square are equal in length and encourage the viewer’s eye to move around the frame in a circle, rather than side-to-side or up and down. The square frame lends itself to compositions that contain strong shapes, lines or other graphic elements. The strong shape of the square frame seems to emphasise other shapes that appear within it.

Not all long exposure photographers work exclusively in black and white or the square format, but many of them do. The heavy emphasis on simplicity led composition in the long exposure photography genre marries well with the compositional strengths of the square format.

Square format black and white photograph

Long exposure photographers

Looking at the work of other photographers is an excellent way to learn more about the creative side of photography. The following is a list of some of my favourite long exposure photographers. Each photographer in this list works predominantly in black and white and the square format. You will learn a lot from their work.

I have interviewed many of these photographers on my website. You can work your way through the interviews here.

Photographer Nathan Wirth has also interviewed some of these photographers on his blog Slices of Silence.


I hope you enjoyed looking through the work of the photographers listed above. If you’d like to find out more about long exposure photography, then Joel Tjintjelaar’s website BWVision is an excellent place to start. The tutorials page has plenty of information to get you started.

Post originally from: Digital Photography Tips.

Check out our more Photography Tips at Photography Tips for Beginners, Portrait Photography Tips and Wedding Photography Tips.

Long Exposure Photography and the Square Format