Articles, Blog

How to take long exposures with film

January 24, 2020

Hello, everyone! Tonight we’re going to be doing something different I’m gonna be capturing that tree back there And hopefully, some star trails behind it, that’s the idea It’s obviously gonna be a long exposure of around an hour and a half, something like that That’s what I’m aiming for I’m gonna be using film for this, I find film to be much better for exposures this long so I have the Bronica back there, it’s already set up I did it a while ago when there was still light out I find it much easier that way I just need to figure out the settings It’s a little bit complicated, this is about reciprocity failure and things like that I’m gonna just show you a few videos and then hopefully the final image and then I’ll be talking about how I figured out the settings for this we’re gonna be talking about reciprocity failure and how to make long exposures with film in general All right, so the image kind of worked it wasn’t the best subject because it was lit by a streetlight so it was going to be hard to capture that lit tree and the star trails in the background I had to work a little bit in Lightroom to bring those star trails back It got a little bit cloudy too as you can see here, above the tree But what matters here for this video, what I wanted to talk about is about the exposure and how I figured out the settings to use with the Bronica for this shot So for those who don’t know, I have a whole a book about long exposure photography that I’m gonna link in the description down below, it’s free so you can download it it’s a PDF, almost a hundred pages And I talk about everything that you might need to know for long exposure from camera gear to the subjects that you can capture, why to do it and how to do it with both digital and film So as I said earlier, I prefer film over digital for exposures this long, for many reasons We have to keep in mind reciprocity failure, that’s something that happens with film and that happens because film is made of chemicals and those chemicals become less and less sensitive to light the longer we are exposing an image So we have to compensate for that, and the way to do it is to expose that film for even longer What this theory means in practice is that we need to adjust the shutter speed and make it much longer I exposed this image for an hour and half, to get to a shutter speed as long as that one with a digital camera I’d have to use ND filters, but I didn’t need them at all with the film camera, thanks to the reciprocity failure Reciprocity failure is different for every film stock and there are usually tables that you can find online or even apps, I think that Ilford has an app For this, I used HP5 and I have a table that I’ve been using for years So I know that if I wanna get an exposure of an hour and a half, I need to meter for 10 minutes So, to get this exposure, to get this brightness with a digital camera I’d have to have the shutter open for 10 minutes but to get the same brightness with film, I need to have it open for an hour and a half I’m gonna show you really quick how I did the math for this as we said, this is gonna be a 1h30min long exposure when we look at the reciprocity failure table for HP5, that is in equivalent of 10 minutes when we meter with a digital camera or a light meter I took a photo with my digital camera and the values that I got were one second, f/1.4 and ISO 1600 the ISO is the same that I was using for film, I was pushing HP5 2 stops so that is done, we can’t change that value with film We need to somehow transform this 1 second into 10 minutes as you saw in the video, probably, I was using an orange filter I need to compensate 2 stops for that orange filter, so that changes the shutter speed to 4 seconds The lens I was using, the 80mm, the maximum aperture is f/2.8, that’s another 2 stop difference so, f/2 would be 8 seconds, and another stop, 16 seconds at f/2.8 The shutter speed is getting slower and slower, but still pretty far from the 10 minutes The only option that we have here is to keep stepping down the lens So if we do step it down to f/4, that’d mean 32 seconds if we step it down to f/5.6, that means 1min and 4 seconds To f/8, that’s 2 minutes and 8 seconds To f/11, that means 4min and 16secs and finally, f/16, that means 8min and 32secs and this is what I went with, settings of f/16, pushing HP5 to 1600, 8 and a half minutes but that would be for digital, we need to compensate for reciprocity failure so I eyeballed this, if 10 minutes were an hour and a half 8:30 I assumed it was going to be around 1h and 15mins that’s what I did and the image turned out pretty well when it comes to the exposure values this is how I did the math This is what I wanted to share about this Some people had asked me in the past about this topic It’s a little bit complicated to explain, but I hope that this helps someone If it’s still not clear for you, please leave a comment down below I’ll try to get back to you or send me an email from my website and I’ll try to help you and now, some of my favorite long exposure images I’ve made at night Thank you so much for watching, and see you in the next one!


  • Reply Wahyu Prasojo January 22, 2020 at 8:19 pm

    great vid, thankyou very much 😁

  • Reply Miguel Melchior January 22, 2020 at 8:35 pm

    Gives you time to sleep for an hour, walk the dog, read some e-mails..and done..😄

  • Reply Ruud Maas January 22, 2020 at 8:40 pm

    The long exposures with film do look more beautiful somehow.

  • Reply Joseph Asghar January 22, 2020 at 9:24 pm

    Like the full moon shots.

  • Reply Andrew Criswell January 22, 2020 at 9:55 pm

    Thank you for making your book available to us. Your channel is the best.

  • Reply Gianluca Russo January 22, 2020 at 10:07 pm

    Nice video and beautiful shot!
    I do love the topic and my question is the following: what if I don’t have a digital camera or a digital lightmeter? Is there a way to know/predict what’s the correct exposure time (e.g. the 10’ in the case of your video) to multiply for a reciprocity factor (in order to compensate for reciprocity failure)?

    P.s. I used your values for compensating the reciprocity failure in a shot of mine, I did use ilford hp5 plus at f/2.8 for 45mins, no filters, and the shot came out nice but not good as I expected (it was overexposed by two stops I guess). I’ll send you an e-mail, maybe it’s better 🙂

  • Reply Brian H January 22, 2020 at 10:31 pm

    Great subject! I have only tried really long exposure at nights with digital. I think in spring I will give it a go with some Acros (original stock) in my Bronica ETRS.

  • Reply canturgan January 22, 2020 at 10:48 pm

    What about the extra dark exposure for digital noise?

  • Reply Daniele Milazzo January 22, 2020 at 10:57 pm

    Los videos mejoran cada vez. Y la casa de enfrente con todos esos colores es fenomenal!!!!

    Un saludo desde Australia. Espero pasar a ver a mi familia en Salamanca este año. Por su pasas por ahí 🙂

  • Reply Paul Beck January 23, 2020 at 1:33 am

    Great topic Adrian. This will help me a lot.

  • Reply mdboone00 ** January 23, 2020 at 3:44 am

    thank you for this video. a question because I’m new to this: why did you push the film to 1600 when you were already doing long exposure?

  • Reply still shooting film January 23, 2020 at 7:42 am

    Thanks for the introduction… fits pretty well as i am gonna go for some long exposure shots the next weeks with my hasselblad 500cm. lets see how they will turn out. could get any of the really long exposure shots in my last video. I think the longest was a 9min exposure from the Lofoten. 😀 Enjoy your day and keep up the nice work.

  • Reply joseba iñaki elorriaga arrieta January 23, 2020 at 9:40 am

    todavía no me he atrevido a hacer largas exposiciones con la Bronica,y eso que me encantan las sedas marinas….,asignatura pendiente,aunque ya lo hice una vez con la Olympus y un carrete de Fuji Acros ,que apenas tiene fallo de reciprocidad ,pero salía muy caro el carrete y encima de momento es difícil de conseguir ,solo en japón.La App de Ilford lo tenía en mi teléfono Android ,pero no lo encuentro para Iphone .Que es mejor ,tener una tabla ya hecha en un cuadernillo ,o empezar con el móvil a trasegar mientras estás con poca luz y se te está haciendo de día a marchas forzadas … momento intentaré hacerlo en pleno día con un filtro de 10 pasos hasta coger ligereza en el manejo

  • Reply JayGrapher.Th January 23, 2020 at 10:08 am

    very interesting subject about film , totally didnt know about it – will be prepared in the future when doing film long exposure night photography

  • Reply Saimon Pérez January 24, 2020 at 5:58 am

    Excelente, muchas gracias voy a intentarlo con una canon ae1

  • Reply Matthew Parrish January 24, 2020 at 2:24 pm

    Thank you for making this video
    I have been meaning to get around to reading your book, ive had it downloaded to my phone for a couple of months now, I will probably read a bit of it sometime soon.

  • Reply joseba iñaki elorriaga arrieta January 24, 2020 at 4:43 pm

    He revisado la APP de Ilford reciprocity y me da un resultado un poco extraño da igual que modelo de película sea , el fallo de reciprocidad es el mismo.
    Una foto con el fp4 si tengo un FR de x1,4 ,osea si la medición me da 2 segundos ,la Recip…me dice que tengo que disparar a 2,8 ,pero si utilizo otra película de otro modelo Ilford ,incluido xp2 que se revela en C41/color ,y también es una medición a 2 segundos ,el disparo tiene que ser a 2,8 segundos.Me falla la APP ?,en teoría son otras emulsiones ,y me supongo que el resultado tendría que ser diferente,o no?

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