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Back to Basics – Using the Camera Bulb Mode


On this video we get back to one of the most basic camera features which exist on almost all modern cameras (except the most basic ones) and that is Bulb mode – we will look at what it does, how it works and give you some tips with the help of the good people at from Wex.

When you are shooting in either manual mode or shutter priority mode you have the option to change the amount of time your shutter will stay open. However on almost all cameras today this has both a maximum and minimum time limit. Basically on almost all cameras you can set this the shortest amount of time to 1/8000 sec (on other models it can be either 1/4000 sec or 1/16,000 sec) and on the other end of the spectrum you can make a long exposure of up to 30 seconds (60 seconds on a number of cameras).

But what if you want a longer exposure? well there is a way around this and it is done using a feature called Bulb mode which allows you to set the shutter speed to more or less any length you want. But there are a few things you need to know about it.

First like any long exposure you usually would like to keep the camera very steady when using bulb mode (a good tripod is always good to have). Next you need to make sure that once you start and stop the bulb mode you will not make the camera shake – the best way you can avoid this is by using a remote (wired/wireless it doesn’t matter). We would also recommend to activate the mirror up feature in your camera which work by lifting the mirror on DSLR cameras (compact and mirrorless cameras don’t have this) and thus prevent even further movement even with a remote.

On every camera model setting Bulb mode is a little bit different (although on many cameras you simply move the shutter speed to 30 seconds and go one step beyond where you can see BULB on the screen).

Now the big part is understanding how long you need to set your exposure to – on many advanced remotes you can actually set a timer which is helpful (see this for example) – otherwise you need to sit with a stopwatch and time the start and stop times of your exposures (in either case you need to figure it out on your own since the camera meter will not help you – trail and error is what we usually do).

You can check out many more helpful photography tips on our Photography tips section here on LensVid.

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