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Bulb Mode. Everything you need to know. As fast as possible!

bulb mode

If you’ve recently owned a professional camera (that is usually a DSLR or a mirrorless camera), you may have discovered something called Bulb mode usually marked as B in the mode dialer or in the settings.

Even if you don’t own a professional camera, as a photographer, it is crucial for you to understand what Bulb mode is and why is it used.

I’ll be breaking it down as fast as possible.

What is Bulb Mode?

Bulb mode is a camera mode available on a DSLR or a mirrorless camera (sometimes even on point and shoot cameras), that allows you to open up the camera shutter for the manual amount of time.

This allows photographers to capture light for a longer amount of time than usual.

Let me explain why.

Why should I use it?

As I said, bulb mode allows you to open up a camera shutter for a longer period of time than default shutter priority mode would allow you (which is up to 30 seconds). So, this makes it really really useful for creative photography sessions like Long Exposure Photography.

Long Exposure Photography includes anything from Light Trail photography to Astrophotography.

In long exposure photography, sometimes you need to open up shutter for more than 30 seconds. Like in Astrophotography, the night sky contains a much low level of light. In those situations, Bulb mode is an absolute blessing.

Not limited to Long Exposure Photography, if you’re using filters like ND filter in your session, Bulb mode may come handy to you. Because ND blocks a portion of light, you may want to open up shutter for a longer period of time.

How do I use it? + Do this.

In most of the cameras, bulb mode could be selected from the mode dialer at the top of the camera as shown in the picture above.

While using bulb mode or longer exposures in general, you should really care about camera shakes and movements. Because your camera’s shutter is opened for a period of time, the sensor will capture every little movement of the camera. That could result in a shaky or blurry image, which nobody wants. To avoid this you must have a remote shutter release or really sturdy tripod.

And note that, you need to manually open and close the shutter in bulb mode. That means you need to close the shutter yourself after you’re done taking the photo.

Here’s how you take photos in bulb mode.

STEP 1

Switch to the bulb mode from your mode dialer. It is usually marked as ‘B’. If you don’t see that, switch to shutter priority mode and slow down the shutter up to your camera’s limit, and after that, it should switch to bulb mode.

STEP 2

Frame your subject and click the shutter button. If you’re using a remote shutter, click on the shutter release key on your remote. And shoot for the desired amount of time.

STEP 3

After you finish off shooting, press the shutter button again to stop the camera from capturing the light. Again, if you’re using a remote shutter, click on the same shutter release key to stop close the shutter.

So that’s how you shoot photos using bulb mode.

Variation

Not all brands have the same way of triggering bulb mode. So, below I’ll explain a little bit about the variation of bulb mode varying on different camera brands.

Bulb mode on Canon

Canon cameras have normal Bulb mode marked as ‘B’ and it could be set using mode dialer at the top.

Bulb mode on Nikon

Nikon cameras have a slight different way of triggering Bulb mode. Instead of using mode dialer, you need to set it up from Manual mode by bringing down shutter speed up to 30 seconds. If you go below 30 seconds, the camera would switch to bulb mode.

Bulb mode on other brands

Different brands have a different approach to bulb mode. Plus, sometimes it even varies from model to model. So, the best way to know about your brand + model-specific settings is to check out the camera manual that came along your camera or directly check the manufacturer’s blog.

Conclusion

So, that’s about everything you need to know about the bulb mode. In short, Bulb mode is a camera mode that is used to take longer exposures or more specifically manual exposures. Using it creatively could result in photos like these.

Photo by Luca Laconelli
Photo by Bailey Heedick
Photo by Cody Board

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4 Comments

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