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How to Create a Fake Long Exposure in Photoshop

Add drama to an image by creating a simulated long exposure in post-processing
Photo of a fake long exposure

Long exposure photography is a great way to give your images impact. But what if you didn’t shoot a long exposure while on location?

There’s actually an easy way to create a cool fake long exposure effect in Photoshop. In the below tutorial, photographer Glyn Dewis shows you how.

“I love how using a long exposure to create much more drama and impact in pictures,” Dewis says. “But what if we didn’t use a long exposure when we took the photograph? Here’s a super easy and effective technique I use to recreate the long exposure look and it works like an absolute treat.”

We’ve included timestamps where you can find Dewis’ demonstrations of his dramatic fake long exposure technique in the video at the bottom of this post.

#1 The Long Exposure Effect (Part 1 – Clouds) – 01:11

“Let’s first start off showing how to do this technique on this picture here of clouds where there is no ground at the bottom of the photo,” Dewis says. “If you don’t have your own picture of clouds, there’s actually one built into Photoshop you can use.”

#2 How to Use the Radial Blur Filter – 02:41

“To create that long exposure effect, what we would do is go to the filter menu, choose blur and then radial blur. The method we want is zoom and we can see that the preview area changes. If we increase the amount, you can see the lines there get longer.”

#3 The Long Exposure Effect (Part 2- Car) – 05:18

To follow along with the next part of the tutorial, you can download Dewis’ image of a car for free here. “Now what we have is sky and ground so we would need to make a selection of the sky because that is what we’re going to blur.”

#4 Quick Mask Settings – 07:12

“One thing to mention at this point. If you press Q and you notice that the red overlay covers over everything except what you selected, there’s just one small change you need to make in the quick mask settings. Open the toolbar on the bottom left-hand side, we’ve got the quick mask icon. If you double click on that, you’ll see the default settings showing mask areas.”

#5 The Long Exposure Effect (Park 3- Church) – 10:27

“Now to finish off, let’s apply the long exposure effect on this picture [of a church] because this one is a little bit more involved. We don’t just have just the distant horizon line; we have this church right in the middle as well.”

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