Portrait photography is an art form that allows us to capture the essence and beauty of an individual. While there are many traditional techniques for capturing portraits, there's a captivating and ethereal quality to portraits taken using the long exposure photographic technique. Long exposure photography involves using a slow shutter speed to capture motion and create a surreal effect. In this blog post, we will delve into the world of long exposure portrait photography and explore how you can create mesmerizing and unique portraits using this technique.

Understanding the Technique

Before we dive into the practical tips, let's briefly understand the technique of long exposure photography. Typically, long exposure means using a shutter speed slower than 1/30th of a second, but the exact duration can vary depending on the effect you want to achieve. During this slow shutter speed, any moving elements in the frame, such as flowing water or swaying trees, will create a beautiful blur in the final image. This blur can evoke a sense of motion, mystery, and elegance in portraits.

Finding the Right Location

To create captivating long exposure portraits, start by finding the right location. Look for places with interesting elements that can add movement or texture to your portraits. For example, a beach with crashing waves, a forest with swaying trees, or a busy city street with passing cars can provide a dynamic backdrop for your long exposure portraits. The key is to choose a location that complements the overall mood and complements the subject.

Stabilizing your Camera

To achieve a sharp and well-composed long exposure portrait, it's crucial to stabilize your camera. Since you'll be using slow shutter speeds, any camera shake can result in blurry images. To stabilize your camera, consider using a tripod or any stable surface to place your camera on. This will eliminate any unwanted movement and ensure a crisp, in-focus portrait.

Controlling the Exposure

With long exposure photography, controlling the exposure is vital. Depending on the available lighting conditions, selecting an appropriate aperture and ISO is essential. Start with a low ISO setting to minimize noise, and choose a narrow aperture (higher f-stop number) to achieve a greater depth of field. Remember, it's the slow shutter speed that will create the desired effect in your long exposure portraits, so adjust your camera settings accordingly to maintain the correct exposure and avoid overexposure.

Capturing the Motion

To master long exposure portraits, you must experiment with the motion in your frame. While the subject needs to remain still, encourage them to incorporate subtle movements, such as flowing hair or gentle hand gestures. These movements will be accentuated in your long exposure portraits, creating a sense of fluidity and grace. Additionally, pay attention to any other elements within the frame that might introduce motion, such as flowing fabric or leaves blowing in the wind.

Adding a Personal Touch

Long exposure portraits offer an excellent opportunity to infuse your personal style and creativity. Experiment with different compositions, angles, and poses to bring out the unique qualities of your subject. Have fun with light painting techniques, where you can use handheld light sources to draw or illuminate specific areas within the frame. This will add a touch of magic and create stunning visual effects in your long exposure portraits.

Post-Processing Magic

Once you capture your long exposure portraits, the adventure continues in the realm of post-processing. Editing software such as Adobe Lightroom or Photoshop can help you enhance the final image and bring out its true potential. Play with colors, contrast, and sharpness to create a cohesive and captivating portrayal of your subject. Remember, post-processing should be used to enhance your vision, so strike a balance between artistry and maintaining the integrity of the photograph.


Long exposure portrait photography opens up a world of creativity and imagination. By embracing slow shutter speeds and the resulting blur and movement, you can create unique and mesmerizing portraits that evoke emotion and capture the essence of your subject. So, grab your camera, find an intriguing location, and embark on the journey of long exposure portrait photography to unleash your artistic vision and create portraits that stand out from the crowd.