Here’s that “Shooting Long Exposure” HDR Video Tip I Mentioned Last Week

Hi Gang, and greetings from Photoshop World Las Vegas!!!

I’m pretty swamped today, but I wanted to share this video tip with you that I mentioned last week in my report about my trip to Maine. In that post, I mentioned how I went shooting with Scott Eccleston from, and that I did a tip for shooting long exposure HDR’s.

The video (below) looks tremendously brighter than it actually was when we shot the video (as you’ll see by how long the exposures take). It was really really dark—so dark I wasn’t sure it was going to work at all, but the video camera did such a good job of exposing for the tiny amount of light that was there, that it looks a lot brighter than it was. (Thanks to Mark Hensley for the awesome video work).

Anyway, here’s the clip (below), but make sure you check out (link) because he’s always posting lots of cool tips…well….weekly!). :-)

  1. Nice tip Scott.

    Would be very interested to see how you processed this particular HDR image as well, along with knowing which shots to use (you mentioned in this that you did a 5 shot bracket, but only used 3 of the shots).

    1. Hi Sam:
      That only applies if you’re shooting Nikon, because it will only bracket in 1-stop increments. So, to get one normal shot, one two-stop over exposed and two under, you have to shoot a five bracket exposure.

      Then you only actually use the first shot (the normal exposure), the 2nd shot (it’s 2-stops underexposed), and the 5th shot (it’s 2-stops over exposed).

      Hope that helps. :)


  2. On Canon I’d use my RC-1 remote control. Also I’d also use the menu option “mirror lockup” to prevent the camera from shaking because of the mirror movement… But I’d have thought everyone knows these beginners tips for hdr photography – nothing I’d make an video of …

    thanks for sharing.

  3. Three things worth mentioning here that will help get sharp shots in this situation. Use mirror lockup if available. Use the tripod with the column at its lowest if possible (Is that a monopod I see before me?). Turn off image stabilisation even if it is tripod-sensing for long exposures.

  4. If you’re shooting a higher end Nikon, there’s and even easier way where you only have to touch the camera once, and you don’t even have to touch the shutter release button. Se the camera up to auto bracket 3, 5, 7, or 9 shots and set the camera in Continuous High mode. Then go into the “Shooting Menu” under “Interval Timer Shooting”. Inside that menu scroll to the right to the “Select intvlsXno. of shots” screen. Below that you will see “001 x 1”, set the “1” (on the right) to however many shots you have set for your HRD. Then scroll to the right to the “Start” screen and highlight “On” and click “OK”. You have to click OK, scrolling to the right will just take you to another menu. That’s it, your camera will then take all of your bracketed shots with one push of the button. I have the “Interval Timer Shooting” menu set up in my custom menu so it’s really easy to get to. Makes taking HDR’s a sinch, no matter what the lighting conditions are.

      1. Jon – I was writing this tip also, glad I decided to read the previous replies, I couldn’t of stated it any better! I often use this method – thanks Jon!

    1. You can even skip entering the numbers – just select “Interval timer shooting”, then go Left, Up and hit OK – it’ll fire all brackets automatically in 1 second or so. Also enabling “Exposure delay mode” in menu is recommended.

  5. Why wouldn’t you use “Interval Timer Shooting” instead of just pressing the button after ever auto-bracketed exposure? When I’ve done multiple exposure shots, I’ve set my auto-bracketing to the number of frames at a specified stop interval, then I set my “Interval Timer Shooting” to shoot the specified number of frames. All I have to do press the shutter button 1x.

    Thanks Scott for all of your insight and tips that you share on your website. It’s my morning ritual to come and read your blog before I start my day! Thanks for all the work.

  6. Nice video and a great tip indeed. One question though – why is your center column extended on the tripod? I bet you’d avoid even more camera shake by extending the legs and lowering that column.

    When are we going to see the final edits of the images?

  7. A couple of other tips for long exposure HDR shots:

    1, If you’re outdoors, remove the camera strap, having the strap move on even a gentle breeze will cause shutter vibrations.

    2. Use the Mirror Lock Up option on your camera (if it has this feature) in conjunction with the self-timer tip Scott shared.

    Prior to exposure, the mirror flipping upwards is potentially the most harmful to image sharpness. Having your DSLR lock the mirror in the up position before exposure will eliminate vibration caused by the mirror flipping up and out of the way of the sensor.

    3. Buy a wireless remote. You can find these really cheap on eBay for just about any DSLR.

    So for super sharp images…
    1. Remove the strap
    2. Use the self-timer
    3. Use the mirror lock up
    4. Use a wireless remote

    Hope that helps. :)

    1. Mitch – any particular wireless remote you have success with? I have bought two different ones (different “brands”) from eBay over the last year for my Nikon D700 and both worked for a month or so then the wireless part dropped dead. Lights up like signals are being sent but they stop releasing the shutter for some reason. New batteries make no difference.

      1. Wayne,

        The Nikon ML-3 remote works great. It’s pricey, but it’s never failed me. You’ll likely spend more on cheap eBay clones than you’ll spend on one ML-3.

      2. Wayne,
        I use the Nikon ML-3 wireless remote and have never had a problem with it (other than the occasional operator error). It’s pricey, but probably less costly than several failed eBay clones.

  8. My favorite part of this tip was the “roll your finger across the shutter button” advice. WAAAY back in the old days we used to be taught to shoot this way. Most people today have never been taught this tip. I shoot that way for every shot. It allows me to shoot at very slow shutter speeds compared to “pressing” the shutter button. Nicely done Mr. Kelby – as usual.

  9. Scott… You have grown so much in the last year as far as HDR is concerned….
    I appreciate your open minded approach to this type of photography. I recall a video you and Joe M. were making degrading comments about HDR.
    Will done with your new approach.


      1. I have to disagree…. It’s a tool to the end result!
        A result that the other tools (your camera, PS, LR or whatever) can’t produce.

  10. I can vouch for Scott, the video really did lighten it up. It was so dark that you could not see the wall at the other end of the room!

    I feel fortunate to have spent some time with Scott while he was here in Maine. Wish I was in Vegas with him.

    Weekly Photo Tips

  11. I would add to the great tips by the other commenters, close the viewfinder shutter to prevent light contamination from the rear of the camera on long exposures.

    I also use a Nikon ML-3 wireless remote for very long exposures (up to 30 seconds on a Nikon). That, together with mirror lock up, removing the camera strap, not using VR, using the self timer set at 2 seconds, and not having the tripod center column extended, produces sharp shots.

    I’m surprised no mentioned that you don’t have to continually press the shutter release once the shutter activation sequence has begun, even when you’re not using the self-timer. It’s that initial “touch” that causes camera shake, and that can be reduced or eliminated by rolling your finger across the shutter button, as you pointed out, or using a remote release cable or wireless remote.

  12. I always use my cable release with MUP (mirror up mode) on my Nikon. This is the only way to eliminate mirror slap vibration. Everything has its place but if you shoot in continuous high the vibrations will be compounded as vibrations from earlier shots will be present in later shots. And I would never do this on an extended tripod column.

  13. On most Canon SLR’s, when you set it up to auto-bracket, and add the timer, it will take all three in succession and you only press the shutter once.

    Used this technique for a while now – great tip though! :)

    1. I was just going to say the same thing. The Canons will take all three shots (wish I could program more) with one button push if you use the self-timer.

      I also launch the sequence from Live View which locks the mirror up. You get the best of all worlds


  14. I keep am ML-L3 remote attached to my D90 strap so it’s always available. I only have a cable release for the D700 but always use this when shooting HDR on that body.

    Here are another couple of tips:

    1. Don’t throw away the -1 and +1EV exposures. Throw them into the mix and I bet you’ll be surprised how much lower the noise in your final HDR is. I’ve moved from 2 stop bracketing to 1 stop and am enormously impressed at the quality difference I get.

    2. For Nikon shooters who don’t have Mirror Lock Up, most of the Nikon DSLRs (certainly including the D90 and D700) include a great option in the menu called “Exposure Delay”. When this is on, the mirror is lifted then the camera waits for a second or so before firing the shutter. This delay doesn’t sound a lot but it gives vibrations a chance to decay and gives you a sharper image in the end. Remember to turn this off when you’ve finished using it or you will find yourself very confused at why the shutter lag became so horrible next time you pick up the camera :-)

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