Using Long Exposure in Fashion Photography

Long exposure allows you to create a wonderful photograph that is different from almost anything else out there. Have you ever wondered how they get lighting into shots that looks almost like laser lights or an afterglow? With just a few simple tools, you can recreate these types of photos on your own. In fashion photography, using longer exposures will give you that dragged effect of your subject, almost like vapor trails. The way this works is that film captures the light coming off of a subject. How long you expose the film determines how long the streaks will be. A few things to consider would be what camera and tools to use, how to set up your shoot, and how to edit the image.

Camera Tools

The type of camera you use for this is highly important; use an analog camera that does not give you digital prints. Another item you want to use is something that lets you control the aperture of the camera. Otherwise, you want to make sure you can set your ISO rating high enough, sometimes just a few seconds can be enough.

Using a tripod for something like this is a must as any type of movement will effect the shot as well. For this process, it is not recommended to use a digital camera, as the digital noise can reduce your shots and create grain distortions. Having a cable release is the best tool to have for something like this. Remember, the longer you expose the film, the more light that will be absorbed.


  1. Find your spot and open your tripod, mounting the camera on top.
  2. Attach your shutter release bulb and flash to the camera.
  3. Take light readings so you can set your ISO.
  4. When the model is in frame, trigger the shutter release bulb.

Image Editing

After you have the shots you want, you can then proceed to process the film and upload them to a computer. With different image editing software, you can add subtle changes and clean up the image. Remember that fashion photography is more about the clothing then the actual model, and in this process is where you can highlight that effect. Different layers can be selected to darken or shadow appropriately to bring a selected garment to the foreground of your image. Making a red shirt glow or a purple skirt vibrate with color can add the proper effect to your print.

Play with these tools and have some fun with them to get the feel of how they work. Before too long, you'll be creating some awesome photographs that have a professional quality about them. Investing in quality equipment can go a long way to make your fashion images magazine cover ready. Using a longer exposure on images and the proper lighting will help to accentuate stubtle colors and contours of any fashion under the lens. Couple this with some image editing software, and you could be on your way to an exciting and rewarding career as a new photographer.

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