Its a kind of Magic

The Magic Cloth Technique, The Magic glove same same technique different names is a simple way to control the exposure on different parts of your scene when you are shooting long exposure photography. The technique is not exactly new, it is well known from the wet darkroom, blocking off light with your hands or a piece of cardboard enabled dodging of highlight areas.


This technique is about the same on our digital cameras. By obscuring the sky area and then smoothly withdrawing my hand roughly for the last 1/10 of the exposure time. Some people prefer to use a cloth, others a glove, personally I just use the arm of my black jacket. Black in a get here, what every you chose to block with can otherwise be illuminated by the daylight and would be recorded by the camera.

What we achieve is roughly the effect of a graduated neutral density filter. It is possible to use the view finder to find the right position, but it takes a little more experience, that with our modern SLT cameras, where we ca use the Live View feature which is much more convenient.

But why

Personally i love doing as much magic in camera as possible, it saves me from complicated works in post production. that being said, the result is different from a gradient filter, the longer the exposure time, the more complex obscuring you can make. It is true that the technique is not as flexible exposure blending (HDR) but again the result is also different. It also saves you from carrying a number of different ND and Gradient ND filters, by varying the time can different expressions be achieved.

s2Time it roughly, and then experiment

Roughly, should the highlighted areas of the photograph only be exposed to light 1/10 of the time. When I say roughly I do mean roughly, you may need to adjust your timing increase or decrease mood and contrasts in the photo. If the exposure is not long enough for you to control the 1/10th in a timely manner, then you can combine this technique with a ND filter.

The technique is intriguingly simple, I usually compensating by +2 stops with the aim to well expose the landscape and intentionally blow the skies out. I then start with covering the photo with my underarm in order to cover the highlighted part of the photo. There is a great deal of trial and error in this technique, I combine the method with a way of counting seconds in my head to roughly control time. Needless to say should you be careful to introduce movement on your camera, so make sure its bolted firmly to the ground on a steady tripod.

the sway I sweep out my harm is also of importance. Do in rocking manner, tiny smooths movements, and towards the section with the most highlight.




  • Honesty and Satisfaction, personally I find it greatly rewarding doing as much magic in the camera as possible. Being in control of some very extreme scenes and being able to change the strength of the effect as I am taking the picture is a must for me.
  • Night Photography. Lets say you want to expose the foreground well, yet having the milky way standing sharp and without any trails. This technique is the only solution for achieving this.
  • On a budget, no need to buy all sorts of expensive filters. All you really need is a piece of dark fabric and possible a ND 3 – 6 filter.


  • Consistency it takes a great deal of practice to produce the same result in repetitively. This makes it almost impossible to combine the technique with stitching into panoramas.
  • Time, to time 1/10 of the exposure time you need a fairly long exposure time.
  • Error, the technique requires practice and it is easy to make mistakes, I recommend having tried the technique beforehand before shooting on your dream location.

3 thoughts on “Its a kind of Magic

  1. Interesting and something I am definitely going to try; cheers buddy 🙂

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