Learn about Long Exposure and Architectural Photography

Long exposure photography is a specialized type of photography that relies heavily on dark ND filters. Click to learn more about long exposure techniques and how to apply them.



Architectural photography can be broken roughly into two genres, commercial and fine art. Commercial photographers seek to cast the most favorable light on a building by creating images that are flattering to the property. Fine art photographers seek to transform the architecture into fluid forms and patterns that are pleasing to the eye.

Formatt-Hitech Signature Edition artist Joel Tjintjelaar is one of the leaders of a movement in photography where artists are using long exposures combined with advanced post-processing techniques to create visually stunning photographic fine art. This genre focuses largely on architectural expression and its place in our world. The long exposures are used to create surrealism.

Fine art architectural photographers shoot at all times of the day, including the midday times that landscape photographers tend to avoid. Because of the great variance between the luminosity between sunrise/sunset and midday, architectural photographers will typically carry a range of ND densities to allow them to adjust the exposure time with the prevailing conditions. Here are some popular densities and their usage.


Filter Techniques

3-4 stop ND are best at sunrise and sunset when even a mild ND will create sufficient long exposure.

6 stop ND filters create a moderate lengthening of exposure time to create a misty effect in moving water. Usually around 1 second.

10 stop ND filters create long exposures in lower light conditions and can be stacked with the 3 or 6 stop filters to create true long exposure filters.

13 stop ND filters are used to create ethereal effects in water and clouds, with exposure times around 2 minutes in duration, especially in areas where clouds are moving quickly such as coastal cities. The 13 stop filter is popular for shooting the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco.

16 stop ND filters are used to create the long exposure effects - such as streaky clouds and flat water - that have been popularized by photographers such as Joel Tjintjelaar. 16 stop filters allow the photographer to make 5-8 minute exposures, even during mid-day lighting conditions.

Example Kits


Long Exposure Kit #1, Joel Tjintjelaar Signature Edition

This kit was designed specifically for the long exposure architectural genre by the leading architectural photographer in the world. The kit contains three ND filters (3, 6, 10 stops), no grads. The NDs were chosen to allow both moderate ND effects with the 3 and 6 stops, but also longer exposures with stacking the 10-3 or the 10-6. No grads are included because the sky is typically darkened in the black and white conversion. You can always supplement this kit later on with dedicated 13 or 16 stop Firecrest filters, giving you the ability to shoot long exposures with a single filter.


Long Exposure Kit #2, Joel Tjintjelaar Signature Edition

This kit was designed for users who are dedicated to long exposure photography and don’t want to stack filters. The kit includes 10, 13 and 16 stop filters. This means that you can achieve your desired long exposure times using a single filter, giving higher image fidelity. You can always supplement this kit later on with the Firecrest 3 and 6 stop filters to add versatility to your filter collection.


Master Filter Kit, Ken Kaminesky Signature Edition

The Master Filter Kit is a large filter kit containing 6 filters that were expertly chosen by Ken Kaminesky to provide the perfect filter kit for multiple genres including architecture, landscape, travel, and fine art. The kit contains the same three ND filters as the Joel Kit #1 (3, 6, 10) and adds the 2 and 3 stop soft edge ND grads, plus a circular polarizer. This kit contains the widest selection of filters applicable to architecture photography that we offer.


Travel Photography Kit, Elia Locardi Signature Edition

Travel photography differentiates itself from landscape photography because the subject of the photography tends to be cities, and in our book that means architecture. However, while fine art photographers are standing at the base of the building, shooting almost straight up, travel photographers tend to photograph from vantage points further back. This travel photography kit contains three highly effective filters for architectural photography and still allows for long exposures. The travel kit contains a 4 stop ND for moderate lengthening of exposure time, plus a 10 stop ND for long exposures. The 10 and 4 can be stacked for true long exposure. Finally, the kit contains a 3 stop soft edge ND grad filter to control the luminosity of the sky.