How to Make Long Exposures With a Canon Rebel

By Shea Laverty

Your Canon Rebel camera can be set to take long exposures in two ways: Using manual shutter control and using Bulb mode.

Canon Rebel cameras use two different modes to capture long exposures: Manual Exposure, which uses a defined shutter speed range, and Bulb mode, which leaves the opening and closing of the shutter entirely in your control. Current Rebel models access both of these modes in almost identical fashions, although there are some minor differences.

Basic Setup

Set up your camera with a tripod and line up the shot. Long exposures require stability, and while it's possible to hold still for the length of the exposure, you're more likely to get good results with a tripod. If you have one, connect a remote release according to your camera's user manual. Like the tripod, the remote release provides stability for the shot by making it less likely you'll bump the camera while shooting the exposure. For bulb shots, especially ones that take a significant amount of time, this tool is essential.

Tip

  • When taking any shot, especially long exposures, avoid pointing the camera directly at intense light sources like the sun or strong artificial lights. These sources can damage the camera's sensor and internal components.
  • Long exposures can produce a lot of noise and grainy pictures, especially if you use Bulb mode. To reduce this noise, enter the settings menu and set Long exp. noise reduction to Auto or Enable.
  • Use the eyepiece cover to block the viewfinder when you're taking long exposures. This prevents stray light from entering the viewfinder and darkening the picture.

Canon Rebel Shutter Speeds

All current Canon EOS Rebel models have the same maximum shutter speed, clocking in at 1/4000 second. The lowest speed available varies from one model to the next: The EOS Rebel T6s, T6i, SL1 and T5 can be set to 1/30 second, while the T5i, and T3i can be set to 1/60 second.

Manual Exposure Mode

Using manual exposure mode, you define the length of the exposure within the bounds of your camera's shutter speed range. This gives you a lot of control over how long the shutter remains open without requiring you to manually time each exposure.

Step 1

Set the Mode dial to M.

Step 2

If your camera has ISO lighting control, set the ISO speed by pressing the ISO button on your camera and using the Main or Control dial to set the ISO number. Higher numbers are generally better in low-light situations.

Step 3

Set the shutter speed using the Main dial.

Set the aperture using the Control dial or the Main dial while holding down the AV+/- button.

Step 4

Press the Shutter button halfway and adjust the focus for your subject. Check your exposure and aperture settings to ensure they're set as desired.

Step 5

Press the Shutter button fully to begin the exposure.

Bulb Mode

Bulb mode puts you in complete control of the exposure time. Using this mode requires more patience and focus, as you have to carefully time the exposure yourself. A tripod and remote release are strongly recommended for this mode.

Step 1

Set the Mode dial to M.

Step 2

If your camera has ISO lighting control, set the ISO speed by pressing the ISO button on your camera and using the Main or Control dial to set the ISO number.

Step 3

Turn the Main dial to the left until the shutter speed reads as Bulb.

Step 4

Press the Shutter button halfway and adjust the focus for your subject.

Step 5

Press and hold the Shutter button for the desired length of the exposure and then release the button.