How to shoot long exposure in daylight without nd filter Tutorial

Forgot your ND filter or don’t have an ND filter. Don’t worry, you can still get those long exposure shots that you love.

There all came a point in time where we either didn’t have an ND filter on hand or we never purchased one and you’re at the perfect location to get that shot but you wanted it to be a long exposure.

Well in this tutorial on “How to shoot long exposure in daylight without nd filter”.

we will show you a process called image stacking and it is done in adobe photoshop.

Even if you’re not a regular user of photoshop, never worry! This process is so simple and it will blow your mind!

What Is The Purpose of Stacking Photos

The term stacking simply means that many images are combined to produce a “master image.” 

Several types of stacking are available. The first one is called focus stacking. It involves taking several images with different focus points and blending them into one that is in focus from foreground to background.

The second way to stack images is to create a Panorama. Instead of placing one image above the other, it stitches the images side by side to create one larger picture.

The third way of stacking images is used to combine multiple images into one which gives you that long exposure look. And in this tutorial, this is what we will be learning how to do.

A two-step process is involved in each of the stacking methods we described in this article. The first part is to take a sequence of photographs, preferably in RAW format. 

And in post-production, the second step is merging them. Adobe Photoshop is the perfect editing software for this reason, and that’s what we’ll be using this tutorial for.

Why should you photo stack images for long exposure

why photo stack for long exposure

A lot of issues can easily ruin your shot while doing long-exposure photography

With an exposure time of 1 minute or even longer, a lot of things can easily go wrong.

From false light to camera shake, you may experience different problems. Not to mention  vignetting (hot pixels, thermal noise) and image noise!

But you can solve most of the problems by splitting the shot into many shorter exposures. In Adobe Photoshop, to achieve that one perfect shot, you can stack your files together. 

Photo stacking is not a technique for all situations. But sometimes stacking multiple shots is the only method to get a good long exposure shot. It’s vital to understand when and where you need it through shooting.

When should you photo stack images

Bad Lighting

You can do 2 or 4 minutes of exposure without using neutral density filters at night when the light is reduced. 

However, during the daytime, for long-exposure photography, you will always have too much light available. Using slow shutter speeds with a ten-stop ND-filter in the daytime could still result in an over-exposed image. 

You may also face problems due to diffraction effect (mostly over f/16) by narrowing down the aperture too far. 

Image Stacking your long-exposure images throughout the day ensures that you get properly exposed pictures. If you don’t own a ten-stop neutral density filter or more, you’ll find this particularly useful.

Or you could skip this whole process and purchase an ND filter here:

ND-Filters On Sale
ND-Filters On Sale

No Camera Tripod

Shaking, in addition to lighting, is the most common cause in long-exposure photography for failed shots. 

Since your camera shutter remains open for a few minutes, it will record any motion it captures as light streaks or motion blur. That’s the same explanation why the sky’s clouds or the ocean’s waves look wispy. 

But tiny movements in your camera can also cause motion blur. Your shots could easily be ruined by either a breeze or a soft nudge. 

So, while taking long-exposure, remember to take the tripod strap off your camera. It serves like a sail in the wind and causes the tripod and camera to shake. 

Sometimes, you’ll forget things which is unfortunate but hey! We are all human. And forgetting your tripod could be a reason to use photo stacking.

Or, maybe you want to get a shot near moving water and don’t want to risk mounting your camera on a tripod.

However, this method works best mounting the camera to a tripod but having a firm grip on your tripod in a stream or with moving water can still cause slight shaking of the camera.

No Camera Remote

Of course, all the unexpected hiccups that can ruin a major long-exposure shot, we also need to factor in. 

Regardless of whether it’s daytime or night, actually losing your remote is another common mistake. You can only go up to 30 seconds comfortably without it, which is the longest exposure time your camera allows. 

Without a remote, bulb mode allows you to click the shutter all the time. And if you want to stop shaking your camera, that ‘s certainly a no-go. 

So make sure you have all the supplies you need before you head out. A tripod, ND filters, and your remote trigger will be required in this situation. 

You can also practice taking long-exposure photos before doing a major project to prevent user error. Being acquainted with the method helps you to prevent errors and even troubleshoot problems.

How to make a long exposure effect in Photoshop

We have learned a lot about the different problems that you can experience while making long exposures. The question now is: how do you render pictures for stacking? 

We’ll show you how to do it on the field in this chapter and how to combine the exposures in Photoshop afterward.

Camera Setup

Upon getting there, set up your stuff just as you usually would. Make certain your camera settings are okay and that your exposure is good. When using an exposure time of 30 seconds, your histogram should peak just over the middle to the right.

To get a two-minute effect, you will need to shoot four shots at 30 seconds each (4 x 30s = 2 minutes).

In our example we shot this picture with the following camera settings:

1/125 F2.8 ISO 100

fast shutter photo

We then combined 13 of those shots and came out with these results:

Feel free to experiment with different exposures to confirm the best photo quality. Even though  you’re stacking the photos, it will help a lot if all the shots are usable to begin with.

Just in case any shots get blurred due to camera shake, get some extra exposures. In the picture stacking process, you can leave out a particular shot from your sequence. 

The first part of this method is very simple, as you can see. This is no different if you’ve done long exposure photography before. 

How to merge all those images in Photoshop is the aspect that you’ll need to understand. Now, let’s go through the process.

Image Stacking In Photoshop For Long Exposure Photo Effect

For this tutorial, we will skip lightroom colorgrading and editing. And leave that for another tutorial.

For this tutorial, we will focus on how to achieve an image stack using photoshop.

  1. Open photoshop
  2. Load your first image – IMG_2821.JPG
  3. Then add the rest of the photos into the same comp
  4. IMG_2822.JPG, IMG_2823.JPG, Etc.
  5. Once they are stacked on each other in separate layers
  6. Select all of the photos by clicking on the first image, hold down the shift key and click on the last image to select all of the images
  7. With all of the images selected, hover your mouse over the selected images
  8. Right click and select “Convert to Smart Object”
  9. Next hover your mouse over “Layer”
  10. Find Smart Objects 
  11. Then hover over stack mode
  12. Select “Mean”

And that’s all there is to it!

Video tutorial on creating long exposure without a filter

In case you want to follow along in a video. We decided to make this our first video tutorial on youtube. So, if you’d like to see more video tutorials please help us out by liking and subscribing to our channel.

For this video tutorial on “how to shoot long exposure in daylight without nd filter” 

See the video below:

Frequently Asked Questions

What is a ND Filter?

a ND filter is essentially a filter that decreases the amount of light making its way into the camera by being put before the lens (or dropped into a filter slot). “Think of the ND filter as sunglasses for your camera, albeit sunglasses that do not change the camera and lens’ color of the light captured, thus the “neutral” nomenclature.

How do you do a long exposure without ND filter?

The best way to get a long exposure effect without an ND Filter is to do what’s called Image Stacking. This is done in Adobe Photoshop. Our tutorial above takes you step by step to do this process.

Do you need a ND filter for long exposure?

It’s as easy as turning on our camera’s Multiple Exposure mode, then tapping the shutter. A long exposure look can be achieved easily using the in-camera Multiple Exposure feature without the need to resort to ND filters.

Why would you need an ND Filter?

One of the key reasons for using an ND filter is to minimize light and improve exposure time, ex: long exposure photography.

Bottom Line

Long-exposure daytime photography will give you some wonderful and groundbreaking results. But patience and practice are required. 

It will save you a lot of time using picture stacking and help you get amazing shots that would not be possible otherwise. 

We hope you found this tutorial on “How to shoot long exposure in daylight without nd filter” helpful and again, we decided to make a video tutorial for those that want to follow along with a video.

Also be sure to check out our article on best cheap cameras for instagram