The most basic way of creating an image with long exposure is simply to photograph your subject (or subjects) on a tripod against a darkened room. This works well for many subjects but isn’t very practical for people and animals who move around. For example, you wouldn’t want to ask your cat or dog to sit still while taking a photograph.
An easier method is to use an electronic flash to light your subject, such as the one found on many point-and-shoot cameras. As this is a very quick technique, it requires you to use a short shutter speed, typically 1/50th of a second. The result is that the subject appears blurred.
To create a sharper image we use a technique called ‘stacking’, which combines several images into one to create a composite. When combined with a fast shutter speed, the images overlap so that you can see the details in your subject’s face. In the example below, a series of 12 images was taken at 1/4 second each and then stacked to produce the final result.
The stacking process
The stacking process begins by taking a test shot of your subject. This can be achieved using the same camera as the main exposure, as in the image below. A tripod is unnecessary for this step, but a flat surface is essential.
1. Use the camera’s manual settings to position your subject in a central location.
2. Set the shutter speed to 1/4 of a second.
3. Adjust the aperture setting until you have a clear image in the viewfinder.
4. Take a test shot.
5. Now use the camera’s autofocus system to focus on the same point.
6. Take another test shot.
7. Rotate the camera so that the vertical line in the viewfinder runs through the middle of your subject’s face.
8. Take another test shot.
9. Adjust the shutter speed and aperture settings so that the two images overlap.
10. Take a final, sharp image.
11. If you wish, combine the layers of the final image in Photoshop to remove any unwanted objects.
12. Delete any background information, such as a wall or window.
13. Save the image in your computer.
You can then share it via social media and show it off to your friends.