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Book Review: Mastering Long Exposure

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Book Review: Mastering Long Exposure
Antony Zacharias

A guide for photographers


Whether at night or in bright sunshine, longer exposures change the way your photography captures the world around you.

The longer timeframe can combine static and moving elements in novel and revealing ways.

Keith has been reading this book devoted to helping photographers master the techniques and equipment needed, as well as suggesting ideas and locations that might never occurred.

Book details
  • Paperback: 176 pages
  • Publisher: Ammonite (7 April 2018)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1781453217
  • ISBN-13: 978-1781453216
  • Dimensions: 24.8 x 24.8 cm

The longer view

Using longer than normal exposures is one of those things that any serious photographer should try – just to get a feel for how the normal photographic process of capturing a small instant in time is missing out on an important part of the field.

However many people just try a few night-time shots, with car headlamp trails or illuminated buildings and think that’s another technique to cross off the to-do list.

There’s so much more you can do, and this book offers a pretty comprehensive round-up of the field.

The book is of very good print quality, with no shortage of photos to illustrate ideas, techniques and themes.

Book Contents

Whilst the book follows a fairly conventional, here’s what you need, here’s what you do and here’s some things to try approach, it flows very well. It moves from relatively straightforward sunsets and sunrises, through artificial lighting and on to more specialist concepts and ideas you might just never have thought of.

  • Chapter 1 – Equipment
  • Chapter 2 – Technical considerations
  • Chapter 3 – Sunset to sunrise
  • Chapter 4 – The city at night
  • Chapter 5 – Photographing the heavens
  • Chapter 6 – Painting with light
  • Chapter 7 – Daylight exposure
  • Chapter 8 – Intentional blur
  • Chapter 9 – Postproduction

RRP in the UK is £19.99

Throughout the book there are valuable tips that show that real experience has driven this book. An example would be the attention given to focusing your camera in the dark (p51) – if you’ve not tried using a modern autofocus camera in near pitch dark, you may never have even thought of this as an issue (I use a green laser pointer to project a spot I can focus on – but be careful what you point it at!)

Neon signs are another area that can catch the unwary (p66). It really is worth experimenting with signs on local shops to get a feel for how your camera (and choice of RAW processing software) handles these strong and intense colours.

In terms of what was new to me, light painting is something I last tried with sparklers and black and white film, some 20 years ago – perhaps time to revisit my own list of ‘ticked off’ things to try…

There is a nice mixture of colour and black & white images in the book, showing a delicacy of post-production, where many less experienced photographers would have supplied images with sharpening halos and intrusive local contrast enhancement.

Where I was particularly impressed was with some of the long exposure daylight photos – I personally find a lot of misty waves and misty waterfall photos you see in this genre as a bit formulaic. It’s almost (as with a lot of ‘HDR’) “Hey look at this smart technique” rather than creating an image that works on its own.

I guess my rule of thumb is ‘Does the technique jump out at me before the image itself?’
If it does then it’s lost for me. Fortunately the book has lots of images where the technique is secondary, or only noticeable because you are reading a book about it.

Further thoughts…

This book passed my instant flick-through test – flick through quickly and see how many photos grab your attention or elicit the “Ooh, I wish I’d took that” reaction.

Why is this important? It means that there is stuff here that reaches out to me at an emotional level and the strong possibility that I’ll learn something that makes me think seriously about some aspect of my own photography.

A longer look shows the technical details for each shot – sometimes in photography books this really doesn’t matter, but here, it’s an essential element of finding the ‘how’ associated with any image.

It’s also nice to see attention given to other photographers’ work in this field – the examples help you realise just how big this subject can be and offer alternative views that may -or may not- inspire you.

All in all, a book that’s made me think…

Book Contents page

book contents page

Book Cover

Mastering Long Exposure

Publisher’s author information

Antony Zacharias is a former solicitor from London and a full time self taught commercial photographer specialising in travel, landscape, architectural, commercial and long-exposure photography. He teaches photography through his blog https://antonyz.com and private tuition.

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