Top Tips on Bulb shooting for epic photographs

July 4, 2024

Bulb shooting is a photography technique that allows the photographer to manually control the duration of the shutter being open. Enabling long exposure shots beyond the camera’s standard settings. In bulb mode, the shutter remains open as long as the shutter button is held down. Which is ideal for capturing scenes in low-light conditions or creating artistic effects with moving light.  Such as light trails, star trails, or light painting.


To achieve the best results, it is essential to use a sturdy tripod to prevent camera shake, a remote shutter release for precision and stability, and often neutral density (ND) filters to manage light exposure during daytime. This technique provides photographers with the flexibility to experiment with exposure times, allowing for creative and dynamic images that capture the passage of time and movement in a unique way.

Getting up at 3 am to get the Milky Way and Star Trails.  That is pure perfection and dedication!  Using, the bulb function on your camera is great fun and there are several cool ideas to make photography fun!   Here are some top tips to help you get the best results when using bulb :

Understanding Bulb Mode:

What is Bulb Mode?

Bulb mode allows you to keep the camera’s shutter open for as long as you hold down the shutter button. This is useful for long-exposure photography, especially in low-light conditions, or for capturing motion over time. For example, the Milky Way.

Equipment Needed:

Camera and Lens:

A camera with bulb mode capability (DSLR or mirrorless). A lens that suits your subject (wide-angle for landscapes, standard for general use).


It is essential to keep the camera steady during long exposures. Get yourself a sturdy tripod! There is nothing worse than having a broken tripod!

We had the pleasure of taking photographs of fire dancing in Thailand.  Best experience ever!  Check out my photographs!

Remote Shutter Release:

To prevent camera shake when starting and ending the exposure. Be careful when buying this.  Make sure it’s not a cheap Shutter Release, as it needs to be reliable and strong! Most importantly, make sure the lead is long!

Neutral Density (ND) Filters:

Another, is useful for reducing the amount of light entering the camera, allowing longer exposures during daylight.

External Light Sources:

Flashlights, glow sticks, or any other portable light sources for light painting.


Setting Up the Shot:

Choose a Suitable Location:

Look for scenes with minimal ambient light if shooting at night, such as cityscapes, starry skies, or isolated landscapes. Unfortunately, in Cape Town, you cannot hike alone to the top of Table Mountain to take night shots, it’s unsafe.  You cannot walk around the city at night with your camera equipment either!  Therefore, you get a group of people, the bigger the numbers the better.

Compose Your Shot:

Frame your composition before it gets dark or use a flashlight to illuminate the scene temporarily to help focus. Seriously, you should scan the internet and get some ideas of what you want to do.  Be inspired by others!


Manual Focus:

Use manual focus to ensure sharpness, especially in low-light conditions. Autofocus may struggle in the dark.

Capturing Moving Light:

Exposure Settings:

Set your camera to manual mode (M) and choose a low ISO (100-400) to minimize noise.

Select a narrow aperture (f/8 to f/16) for a deeper depth of field.

Use the bulb mode for shutter speed, and determine the length of exposure based on your light source and movement.

Light Painting:

Use a flashlight or other light sources to “paint” or draw in the scene during the long exposure. Move the light source around to create patterns or illuminate specific areas. I love this one. I have had heaps of fun with friends!  Using steel wool, lasers, and all types of lights!


Capturing Light Trails:

For car light trails or star trails, keep the shutter open for an extended period (from a few seconds to several minutes). Experiment with different exposure times to achieve the desired effect.

Managing Exposure Time:

Use a remote shutter release with a timer function to avoid holding the button manually. Start with shorter exposures (e.g., 30 seconds) and gradually increase the time if needed. Make sure your camera setting is on Bulb.

Review and Adjust:

After taking a shot, review the image on your camera’s LCD screen. Check for correct exposure and composition. Adjust settings as needed. Longer exposures will create longer light trails, while shorter exposures will capture less movement.

Experiment with Different Light Sources:

Try using different colored lights or multiple light sources to add variety and creativity to your shots.


Use photo editing software to adjust exposure, contrast, and color balance. Noise reduction tools can help minimize any noise introduced during long exposures.


Safety Tips:

Avoid Overheating:

Long exposures can cause the camera sensor to heat up, leading to noise or potential damage. Allow the camera to cool down between shots if doing multiple long exposures. Enjoy your Bulb Mode photos!

Stay Visible:

If you’re shooting near roads or in potentially hazardous areas, wear reflective clothing and stay aware of your surroundings.

By following these tips, you’ll be well-equipped to capture stunning long-exposure photos that showcase moving light in creative and dynamic ways. Now, pack your gear, and make sure your batteries are full.  Pack your headlight, so you can see the settings.  Dress warmly and hit the streets.  It’s fun, and magical, and being creative is good for your soul!

night shooting

Thank you so much for taking the time to read my blog! I appreciate it. I believe that sharing valuable information, such as tips, tricks, and advice, to help our adventurers alike, improve their lives. We strive to create interesting, informative, and entertaining content so that our readers can always find something valuable to read. We do our best to provide timely and relevant content, so our readers can stay up to date with the latest trends. We also aim to provide unique and engaging content, so our readers can learn something new and be inspired. We hope that our blog provides you with the necessary information and resources to make your life easier and more enjoyable. Please note that although most photography belongs to Pure Photography.  I rely on and for updated images.

Thank you again for taking the time to visit Pure Photography!

    Leave a comment