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Creative Camera Controls — Using The Bulb Mode To Get Awesome Night Shots

If you are a fan of long exposures, your camera’s bulb mode is perhaps the best utility mode for you. It allows you to shoot ultra long exposures. The story doesn’t end with it. The camera’s bulb mode the best for taking night photography shots; with dramatic effects as the twist to the tale. The ability to expose the camera’s sensor to light for as long as 60 sec or even hours is superb option for creating some cool effects in-camera — graffiti, light painting, amazing star trails are just the few to mention.

You can do a lot of creative stuff with your camera’s bulb mode. So lets get started with understanding what the bulb mode is all about.

What Is The Bulb Mode?

The Bulb mode is the special manual mode offered by your camera. It is a shutter speed setting on an adjustable camera that allows for long exposure times under the direct control of the photographer. With this setting, the shutter simply stays open as long as the shutter release button remains depressed.

As a general scenario, when you take the photograph, depending on the camera’s shooting mode the shutter opens for a fraction of second, collects the right amount of light and closes down. There are circumstances when you need to open the shutter a little longer. Shooting in low light for instance requires you to slow down the shutter speed to make the exposure. Photographers thereby prefer to shoot in shutter priority mode for making longer exposures.

Long exposure smoothens water which compliments well with moving clouds.

In shutter priority mode, you can manually set the shutter speed so that the shutter remains open for specified interval of time and closes down automatically when the time expires. However the slowest shutter speed offered by most of the camera is 30 seconds. What if you want to make an exposure for longer; say for instance 60 seconds? This is where the bulb mode comes in the foreplay.

Press the shutter, and the shutter opens; release the shutter and it closes. You get the flexibility of keeping the shutter open for as long (or as little) as you want.

How To Use Bulb Mode On Your DSLR?

Set the camera to manual mode or shutter-priority. Use the command dials to set the shutter speed. Scroll or slide the shutter speed all the way down. This is where you will find “bulb” or simply the letter ‘b‘ used my many cameras. Now, you are in the bulb mode. That is, now the camera will make the exposure for as long as you press the shutter or until your finger gets tired :).

Well, it is not that tiring an experiment. Just get hold of a remote cable release and you are all set to make ultra long exposures; for hours long. You can easily find one on Amazon or Adorama at nominal cost (starting as low as $10).  Also don’t forget to set your camera on tripod, the slightest of motion or hand shake will completely ruin the photograph.

So are you using your camera’s bulb mode or is it still an under-utilized control?

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