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Lazy shutterspeed effects

by Editor Radu R. 

As a young kid I was envious on my friend that owned a Smena camera, because he could trigger several times without puling the film, which meant that he could do double or multiple exposures on film.

The second fascination I got was the bulb timer – we stood in the dark playing with a light torch, creating abstract shapes.

I’m still in love with slow shutter speeds, even more today in a world where everything needs to be sharp and in focus.

But what does “slow” really mean? Well, for me it would be anything ranging from something under 1/30th of a second to several hours, or even days. What about years?! The longest exposure that I know of belong to Michael Wesely, who left the shutter open for up to 34 months! This really widens the interval.


Michael Wesely
August 2001--7 June 2004 The Museum of Modern Art, New York

But what is so interesting about long exposures?

A first element is creativity.
The potential is huge. Among different techniques, this is one that has a unique blend of artist’s intent and incertitude, always leaving some room for chance, for something to intervene with the potential to ruin or elevate the final work. And there are lots of options to experiment with:  the camera can be fixed and capture movement(s), or the camera itself can move. While the shutter is open you can zoom in or out, you can temporarily hide parts of the frame (with a black cardboard for example), add filters and so on.


“The windbreaker” by Lou Urlings



“Vortex” by Radu Rad



“Dive into the Matrix” by Stan Huang

I’m not really sure if Stan used here a long exposure, but it’s a good example of a combination of different perspective, with a zooming effect which really absorbs the viewer  into the city below.

A second important element is mystery, not knowing how the final shot will look like.
Playing in the dark with the light torch like a modern dancer, we didn’t know how the light trails will end up. The joy when something turned up really interesting, the eagerness to experiment more, to plan ahead the moves, to improve on the best results – meant that even if in the end there was nothing of real artistic value, the time spend shooting like this was always fun, and giving us the impression that we were creating something from nothing, that we were, as the cliché goes, “painting with light”.


“Light in motion IV” by Fritz Loipeldinger

Let’s explore some examples (grouped in categories where long shutter speeds can be applied), which I hope will open up your appetite and your diaphragm for longer.

Light trails


“Heavenly” by Ales Komovec



“…stripes” by Joerg Vollrath


Panning shots


"Lowrider” by Leif Løndal



“Running through the city” by Mastrisland




“Spirit of dance” by Nuno Borges



“Waves of Balerina” by Antonyus Bunjamin (Abe)




“Birch trees” by Ales Komovec



“Wormhole” by Alfred Myers



"Ghost” by Mohammed Alnaser



“Flames” by Radu Rad




“Quiet” by David Senechal Photographie (polydactyle)



“Power of nature” by Raymond Hoffmann



“Lighthouse rock” by Christoph Hessel




“City of Blinding Lights” by Carlos F. Turienzo



“Future church” by Juan López Ruiz



“Chicago” by Carmine Chiriaco




"Speed” by Milan Malovrh



“Waves” by Lou Urlings



Untitled by Margit Lisa Roeder




“Painted Hills with Solar Eclipse” by Wenjie Qiao



“In The Dead Of The Night” by Marsel van Oosten



“Watching the comet and the meteor shower” by Hua Zhu




“chaos in the streets of HK” by Carmine Chiriaco



“Taxi” by Carmine Chiriaco


If you want to explore even more examples, I’ve created a list when documenting for this article, which you can find here. 


Super interesting article and amazing photos! Great to have examples from many photography genres in one place. Many congrats, Radu!! :-)
Nice article with lovely photos. I am also a fan of long exposure and motion of object or camera. It is exciting, but results are not always as expected, but all the more gratifying when it becomes one that you think is great.
Very useful comment. I need to practice much about the slow shutter speeds. And you guide me which direction I need to learn. Very thanks
i'm very glad you feel inspired by the article
A great article, Radu! I love long exposures, we can get free from reality to our world of emotions and stories . Thanks for including an image of me in it. Best regards and happy new year!
Great article. Exellent photo. Thank you Radu . Thank you Yvette. As an addition, I can add the use of a long exposure in a still life.
Thanks Vlad ... for your appreciation and for the link to a fine still life long exposure of yours.
thank you Vladimir for your addition
Excellent photos, supper panning management. Well done Radu, congratulations to all authors for magic photo work. Ant thanks to Yvette for publishing it.
Excellent article indeed, Miro! Thanks for your appreciation ...
Dear Radu, very good article and selection! Thank you, Radu!
A great and very interesting article dear Radu, thank you for publishing it and thanks for including an image of me in it, I feel very proud for it I thank you very much and I hope to continue growing and contributing to your magnificent gallery, thank you and happy new year !!
Great article, Radu! So fine to show the many effects one can obtain with long exposures. Love the title 'Lazy shutter'... We can make it as lazy as we want to get stunning images. Cheers, Yvette
Thank you Yvette. Glad to be able to share it with you all ...
Great images and creative effects, congrats.
Very nice. Thanks!!!
A Great surprise. Thank you Radu. Thanks Yvette. Congratulations to all other photographers
As said previously, all honour goes to Radu and to the authors! Thank you so much for your appreciation, Joerg!
Article really interesting Radu!! Many thanks for choosing my shots. Thanks so much Yvette and congrats to all.
Thanks for your appreciation, Carmine! Radu did a terrific job here ;-)
I really appreciate your work Carmine, and I'm glad if you enjoyed the article. you know, I'm thinking we could write a tutorial for one of your images
Wonderful exposure results, thank you for sharing!!