Everything You Need to Know About Bulb Mode

And here we are again to unravel little by little this twisted dictionary of verbiage that the photographic world gives us. Today we will see the Bulb mode, which will go from (perhaps) being a complete unknown to a great travel companion. Of course, if you want to know why it is called Bulb and not something else, the truth is that I do not know. Bulb of what? From a light bulb? no idea! But I do know what it works for and how to use it, so if you’re interested, forget what it’s called for now and let’s see how it works and what you can use it for :-).

But before we get into the matter, I have to recommend this mega guide that we have prepared for you to learn to master Manual Mode once and for all.

What is Bulb mode?

To explain the Bulb mode we will start at the beginning. Doesn’t it sound like something called shutter speed? Shutter speed is nothing more than the speed at which the shutter opens and closes. shutter of your camera, or what is the same, the time that your sensor is in contact with the light that penetrates through the objective.

We have faster and slower speeds. The slower we say the speed is, the longer the shutter remains open and, consequently, more light enters. On the other hand, the faster the speed at which we work, the less time it remains open (the shutter opens and closes quickly), allowing less light to pass through the shutter.

If you like to fiddle with your camera, which is highly recommended if you intend to get to know it thoroughly, you may have noticed that when you move at slow speeds, there comes a time when the letter appears on the camera B. (usually when you get past 30 seconds). The camera seems to tell you something as if you want more, choose it yourself, I can’t offer you more πŸ˜‰ And it’s more or less that. Bulb mode is a way to manually control slow speeds (where the shutter remains open the longest). Where the camera does not offer more or where the times it offers do not convince you, the Bulb mode comes into play.

How does it work?

Basically, and as we just discussed, Bulb mode allows you to open and close the shutter manuallyletting the light through time that you indicate. It can work in two ways:

  • well squeeze once to open the shutter and again to close it (thus ending the capture)…
  • …or else it forces you to hold the shutter hand tightened the time you are exposing and ends the capture when you release it.

I would dare to say that the most abundant mode is the first, but you will have to do the test or take a look at your instruction manual.

When to use it?

As we have already anticipated, the Bulb mode is used to control manually speed. I suppose you have noticed that when your camera sensor has a lot of ambient light, the shutter opens and closes very quickly and, on the other hand, when it has little ambient light, it opens and closes more slowly. If you were using a tripod no problem, if not, you will surely find yourself before an image move or flustered. If you have just landed in the photographic world and you had not yet noticed this, try it, even if it is automatic, take the camera and go out to the street or to the balcony or a fully lit corner of your house, you will see how the sound shutter speed is fast. On the other hand, if you do the same test in a dark environment, you will see how the shutter takes considerably longer to close. That’s because it tries to compensate for the lack of light by having the shutter open longer. And that’s what Bulb mode is all about. Of those types of images where you want or need to work with a good margin of time because you don’t have light enough, or because you want to catch the movement for a long period of time, or where you simply need accurately control the moment your shutter opens and closes.

long exposure photography

And that translates, generally, into long exposure photography, which is one where the shutter remains open longer than “usual”. Surely you have seen a lot of fascinating images made with long exposition. Perhaps until now you did not know how they were done, or the speeds of your camera fell short. Well, the time has come for you to photograph stars where you could not see anything before, to turn night into day, to write with light, catch lightning or turn water into silk. How do you stay? πŸ˜‰

  • Whenever you work with long exposures you will need a tripod so that your images are not moved.
  • A remote Switch It will be of great help when you work with slow speeds so that the camera body does not move when you press the shutter (long or twice).
  • ISO as low as possible: You will preserve image quality and allow you to work with slow speeds.
  • Search dark environments. To work the long exposure and the Bulb mode, you will need to look for scenarios with very low light, since keeping the shutter open for a long time in full light would only burn the image (totally white).
  • visualize what you want to achieve before you even leave home. The themes that you can work with long exposure are many, do not just go on a night adventure without having any idea of ​​​​the result you want to obtain. To photograph stars you will need a suitable and different environment and material than to photograph with the Lightpainting technique or to photograph a waterfall with a silky effect.
  • bulb mode uses up a lot of battery (especially if you have the camera working at very slow speeds) do not forget to take at least one more spare.

Other uses

lightning and fireworks

Yes, as you hear. These are not times when you want super long exposures like you might need to shoot a night sky, but you do need to control with precision the moment the shutter opens and closes. The results of both images depend on luck, patience and stubbornness, especially that of lightning, less common due to its difficulty and the risk involved. On the other hand, with fireworks you will find yourself more than once and twice, and they generally give us some very photogenic images πŸ™‚

Well, that’s it. Easy, right? Just one more way to master all aspects of a shot. Now all that remains is to put it into practice, which is what this blog is about. To practice photography and above all to enjoy it and not lose the desire to learn πŸ™‚ Oh, and if you found it useful, don’t hesitate to share it on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram. Thank you very much and until next time πŸ™‚