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Bulb mode

What is the bulb mode? 

Tutorial to learn how to use the bulb mode on a camera 


We have learned how to adjust shutter speed on a camera, but there is another way to use this setting by controlling the exposure time. “The Bulb mode” 

In this tutorial we will learn what the bulb mode is and how to use it. 

To fully understand the bulb mode you need to know how to adjust the shutter speed. See this tutorial. 


What is the bulb mode? 

The Bulb or pose B mode is a mode that acts on the pose time without determining it in advance. 

The exposure time is controlled during shooting. You press the shutter release to open the shutter and it will remain open for as long as you hold the button. 

A tripod is mandatory to avoid motion blurring for bulb mode. The use of a remote control will also be very convenient to avoid movements of the camera. Pressing the shutter release will also be easier. Press once to open the shutter. It will close only when you press the button again. 

To access this mode set the exposure to M (manual) and increase the exposure time to the maximum. After 30 seconds the camera will switch to the bulb mode

Photo edited in Lightroom. [Click here to learn how to use Lightroom.] 


When to use the bulb mode 

This mode allows to photograph scenes requiring an exposure of more than 30 seconds. 

It is usually used to take photos at night, capture fireworkslightning, or light painting. Some photographers also use it during the day to make smooth and flat sea from very rough sea for example, for the clouds moving in the sky, a river flowing peacefully, etc. 

Photo edited in Lightroom. [Click here to learn how to use Lightroom.] 


The equipment you’ll need for bulb mode is: 

  • A remote control to prevent the camera from moving by pressing or holding the finger on the shutter release.
  • A tripod – a strong heavy model is recommended as the weight of the tripod helps with stability of the camera. There are photo tripods with a hook to hang the photo bag on in order to weigh the whole apparatus down.
  • Neutral density filters – if you want to do long exposure during the day, you will have to decrease the amount of light entering the camera. For this there are Neutral Density filters (ND).


These filters are numbered, indicate the degree of opacity of the filter, and correspond to the multiplier value of the exposure time. It is possible to assemble several filters together, but if you do that, you will run the risk of vignetting

Example: An ND8 filter screwed to an ND1000 filter will give you a total attenuation factor of 8000 times the initial exposure time. 

There are two types of filters: 

1. ND filters with a screw thread come (as their name indicates) to screw on the lens. The simplicity of use of these filters is an advantage, plus you can keep using the lens hood. On the other hand the screw-in ND filters have a very precise screw diameter, hence you will need to obtain a filter for each of your lenses according to its diameter. 

Neutral Density filters (ND)

2. ND filters on filter holders for bulb mode. The principle of these filters is the same as that of screw-in filters, only the fixing system changes. These filters are usually square and slide into a filter holder which is screwed onto the lens. The filter holder has a specific screw thread for the lens, but the filters fit all filter holders. You will then need to obtain a filter holder for each of your lenses according to its diameter. 

ND filters on filter holders

A long exposure time of 3 years 

The photo with the longest pose in the world was taken by the German photographer Michael Wesely during the construction of the Museum of Modern Art in New York. Exposure time was from 2001 to 2004. 



Long pose is an extraordinary world, but also difficult and requiring a lot of practice. 

To become a master of time you will need to test several techniques and materials. Once you find what suits you best, the fabulous world of long exposure will be yours! 


Give us your opinion on this article and share your experiences in the comments. 

And if you think that this article helped you, please share it with you friends and family! 


Have a nice photoshoot! 

Lightroom and Photoshop Tutorials 

December 28, 2019

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