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Getting Started with Long Exposure in Fashion Photography

Editor’s note: Once you try to use long exposure in fashion photography, you’re likely to do it again and again. Not only can it bring outstanding results in terms of originality of your images, but it’s also a great way to add a funny bone to your portrait sessions and thus, get more natural, sincere model looks.

Long Exposure in Fashion Photography

In this post, our regular contributor Barbara Stitzer shares on her own experience with long exposure fashion photography. Read on and learn how to get started with this awesome technique!

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I love shooting fashion. It makes me feel so free… It’s like anything that I might have in my head just kind of works its way out when I shoot a fashion piece. But my results have always been pretty predictable, until one day, I accidentally knocked my camera mode out of manual exposure, and onto “B”, which keeps the shutter open as long as you’re holding the button down. There was this explosion of color and light, and I was hooked.

Materials

You’ll need complete darkness and at least one light, on or off camera, other lights with gels on them if you want to play with color, and a tripod is nice, but not really necessary.

Using Long Exposure in Fashion Photography

Technique

So the thought is that if you’re in total darkness, the flash will freeze any motion that your model makes, then you can keep the shutter open and try either moving the camera, moving the models, or moving the lights. I have kept the camera open anywhere from 3.2 seconds to 30 seconds. I really like the look of around 4 seconds, but you will need to experiment in order to see which works best for you.

Results

If you try a shot twenty times, you’ll get twenty different looks…it’s always different. This is play time. Have fun with it!

Using Long Exposure in Fashion Photography

Moving the Model

In this setup, The model had a beauty up high and to the right of the camera and a rim light behind her facing the camera. She also had a boatload of glitter in her hair that we were trying to make fly around. I opened the shutter, the lights flashed, she bent down ( Thus the “light from within” look) and flicked her hair back and forth so that the glitter would fall, all in 3.2 seconds.

Using Long Exposure in Fashion Photography

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Moving the lights

I was trying to get the twinkle lights to glow around the models, something that every iphone can do automatically, but printing one of those from an iphone is pretty rough from all of the noise and camera shake. I put my camera on a tripod, since the room wouldn’t be completely dart, due to the twinkle lights, told the models to hold their breath, and exposed for 8 seconds. One of the kids watching the shoot started playing with one of the strings of lights, and it looked cool, so I had a couple of kids make jump rope motions behind the models, and it gave off this cool effect.

Using Long Exposure in Fashion Photography

For this shot, I loved the geometric shapes in the room and just so happened to have these strands of glow lights left over from summer fun. I had Michael hold his breath for 15-30 seconds, and some of my helpers made long, slow circles with the glow lights.

Using Long Exposure in Fashion Photography

Moving the camera

For this shot of Erica, I had one softbox camera right, and two gelled lights on the ground facing her, one red, and one blue. I had the camera on a tripod for 30 seconds and I moved the focal point of the lens in and out while giving the camera a pretty good roundabout shake. I have no idea why all of those lines are in there…I did the same thing on 10 exposures and this one was the only one that they’re in, but I really like them.

If you’re feeling kind of creative this weekend, think about trying to lengthen your exposures and see what you come up with. Send your wins and your fails to barb@barbstitzer.com and we can talk about them. Let’s get better together!

Barbara Stitzer

Barb Stitzer is an award winning Master Photographer living in Hudson, Ohio with her husband, her teen, Zoe and her tween, Tenley. She creates beauty and memories worldwide. Feel free to find her on Facebook or check out her website.
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