Long exposure photographs seem pretty difficult to click as a viewer. In reality, it's not so difficult to achieve the picture you had in your mind. We have broken down the whole procedure of long exposure photography into small steps which will make the work easy for you and make you achieve that perfect long exposure shot.
Learn the weather: A day with no clouds is a good day to hang around with friends but not for clicking long exposures. Clouds create depth and layers on your photograph. Try studying satellite images rather than meteorological sites. Figure out if there's any storm about to come or if the downpour is about to end.
Go for Recce: It is important to visit the location before the shoot and even try to perform a short exposure image to have a better idea of composition. Try to avoid including the Sun in your composition as its movement will trouble the exposure which will not be recoverable. In case the sun is impossible to avoid, at least it should be behind the clouds.
Tripod is your best friend: Tripod is the most important equipment in long exposure photography, without it, you cannot perform the shoot. Stability in the camera is very important during the shoot and the only tripod can provide it. Also, it allows you to install all the accessories such as remote shutter release and filter holder without any jerk.
Lock the focus: Compose your frame and lock the focus. If you are using manual focus: refine the composition, focus on the subject, and lock the focus. If you are using Autofocus: You should focus by half-pressing the shutter button, once the focus has been made, hold the half-press button and turn on the manual mode. In this way, your camera will maintain its focus.
Exposure setting: Set your camera to Manual (M) or Aperture Priority (A/Av) mode. Take a 'test shot' by setting an appropriate value of aperture. Keep the record of different shutter speed values and go with the best exposure result for your final shot.
Add filter: In this step, add your Natural Density (ND) filter. If the filter is very strong, for example, 10 stops, you will not be able to see through the viewfinder or the live view. You don't have to worry about it if you have followed all the steps till here. We have already set our composition and focus, you are blind at this step but your camera knows what to click.
Switch to Bulb mode: Set the shooting mode to Bulb (B) to take over the 30 seconds limit of the camera. Remember, DO NOT change the aperture and shutter speed you've set in the test shot.
Take your Final Shot: After doing all that struggle, it's time to click your final Long Exposure shot. The question is how long will you keep your shutter open? It's not that difficult, recollect the shutter speed that you noted down from the 'Test Shot' and go for your final shot.
It's so easy, isn't it? Following a process always make difficult tasks easier. So, what are you waiting for? Take your backpack, camera, and filters and get set ready to achieve the long exposure image you always had in your mind. It's time for the execution.