How to Capture Light Trails
Updated: Jul 22, 2020
Want to take pictures of light trails but don't know how? Then this article is for you.
What you'll need
You're going to be taking pictures of the light trails from passing cars and to get those trails you're going to need to leave the shutter open for a few seconds. You'll need a tripod for this, otherwise there will be a lot of camera shake and the image will come out blurry. You'll also need a camera that gives you full control over the shutter speed.
Lastly, you'll need to take these pictures at night, so bring anything you need that will help you see and be seen.
This can be a tricky thing to give advice on because it depends. Light conditions, the speed of the traffic and the time of night can influence the shutter speed you use. Having said that, these are my recommendations to get you started:
1.Use Shutter Speed priority
2.Use a shutter speed of 5 seconds or more
3.Use ISO 100 to get the image as sharp as possible
4.Put the camera on a 2 second timer so it can stabilize after you press the button
5.Don't use the flash
But remember, these are only recommendations. You'll know after taking the picture if you need a longer shutter speed or adjust the exposure compensation. Make sure the cars have enough time to pass through the frame, otherwise you'll get gaps in the trail lights.
When you're starting out with light trails, keep in mind that it's a new skill that you have to learn. It will take time to get completely comfortable with. For this reason, I wouldn't worry too much about composition when you're practicing. Just focus on getting the light trails looking good, then implement composition rules after.
If you found this blog helpful, check out my YouTube channel where I show a time lapse of the whole process.