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Long Exposure Maternity Portraiture sessions available in Richmond, VA and a tutorial.

My first experience with long exposure photography was in 2007. I was at a festival and still shooting performance on film when I found a vendor tent set up for long exposure light painting. I went over to check it out and ended up spending a lot of time with the light painters that weekend.

As soon as I got my first DSLR I began experimenting with long exposures. It occured to me one day while I was pinteresting back-lit maternity photos that this could be done with light painting and that it might be something that expecting families would enjoy as a non-traditional option.

After much practice I am offering long exposure maternity (or family or couples) sessions in my new studio. If you would like a session on March 5th go to my facebook page and read the details and instructions for signing up from the pinned post.

I also want to offer this tutorial, so that you can do it at home. It will be fun. Give it a go. Do not expect your first 3-5 attempts to be awesome. Pre-requisite skills are an understanding of exposure and how to use your camera. You will have to make adjustments as you experiment.


-Camera with Manual setting and remote shutter option


-Remote (compatible with camera)

-light source such as glowsticks, sparklers, flashlight (you can actually shop for light painting tools online, google it)

-extra dark darkness

-A pregnant mama that can be veeeeery still and who you trust will be patient with you

I use a crop sensor for long exposure. The extra distance reduces blur from movement.

STEP 1: Put your camera on a tripod

STEP 2: Frame your model

STEP 3: Focus your camera. If you are in the dark at this point then you can easily autofocus on your subject by first shining a flashlight on her. *It is courteous to ask her to close her eyes before doing so*

STEP 4: Mark the location (distance from tripod) of your model somehow

STEP 5: Switch to manual lens focus and be careful through the rest of the session not to adjust the focus.

STEP 6: Set your camera on Manual Mode

STEP 7: Set your shutter speed to BULB -- Bulb mode is when you click to begin exposure and then click again to end exposure. It is the "slowest" shutter speed...on Canon cameras and I am guessing others

STEP 8: Set your aperture to 3.5 *Aperature is what I adjust as needed as I go, but 3.5 is my preferred starting point

STEP 9: Put your ISO on 100, or even lower if you've got it.

STEP 10: Switch drive mode to remote (for some cameras timer/remote)

STEP 11: Have your model return to the location that you marked in STEP 4

STEP 12: Pose her in a position that is very comfortable because she needs to be motionless in this pose during the entire exposure. Any movement will show as blur.

STEP 13: If you are not already in the dark at this point then turn off all of the lights

STEP 14: Click the remote to start exposure.

STEP 15: Go behind your model and move your light source around making designs so that all of the space behind her frame has been "colored" Each movement will be recorded on the image. I have found the easiest way to cover a large area with light is by taping glowstiks together.

STEP 16: Click the remote to stop exposure

STEP 17: Look at what you did. If your image is overexposed, either turn the f-stop up or work faster next time. If it is underexposed turn your f-stop down or slow it down a bit. Generally, the shorter the exposure, the more crisp the mama's silhouette will be.

STEP 18: Repeat 10 or more times and marvel at your new trick

STEP 19: Edit using your preferred software. You will see that even images that seemed a flop in camera are usually relatively easy to fix up in computer.

STEP 20: Export to instagram and tag @joyful_birth_services so that I can see what you did

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