Long exposure photography is generally refered to when the photographer uses shutter speeds greater than can be hand held and still get sharp images. There are several options to turn to when this occurs.
Image Stabilization or Vibration Reduction which is built into some lenses, will assist in allowing the use of longer exposure times, in some circumstances this can be by the equivalent of three to four stops. This means that a shutter speed which would normally 1/100 of a second hand held could be extended to possibly 1/10 or 1/5 of a second, using one of these lenses. Image stabilization lenses compensate for the movement of the camera and lens by moving an element inside the lens to stabilize for any movement of the image at the sensor plane. Image stabilization or vibration reduction can be very usefull in longer lenses from 100mm and upwards.
Tripods can be used as an excellent means of steadying the camera and lens to enable extremely long exposures. Exposures can be made for many minute or even hours. Tripods have the capability to improve the sharpness of images, particularly for landscapes, night scenes, fireworks and camera work with long telephoto lenses. Small and flimsy tripods are not recommended as the tripod needs to be very sturdy to hold the camera steady particularly with long lenses. Tripods are difficult to use in crowded areas due to the arrangement of the legs. Tripods also prove to be very usefull for remote control photography.
Tripod Heads are very important and should be regarded as part of the complete tripod package. Fluid tripod heads are available which provide very smooth adjustments and should be considered in addition to quick release plates to allow fast connection of equipment.
Remote Control Cables are a very good option to use with tripods to help reduce any camera movement on release of the shutter.
Camera Self Timers can also help to release the camera shutter without camera movement when the camera is used on a tripod.
Monopods are a good alternative to tripods where it is inconvenient to use a tripod. Monopods are very mobile and give excellent support to cameras and long lenses with shutter speeds down to 1/4 to 1/2 second. Monopods can also be used with tripod heads described above to give the monopod more flexibility.