A – Z Of Light Trail Photography Tips

Written by Gina Stephens


A – Chasm

When it comes to picking an aperture, you don't want to go too wide as this will shorten your shutter speeds so choose an aperture round f/8 or f/11 to start and go from there.



B – Bulb

Using the BULB setting will keep the shutter open until you arrogate your finger off the shutter button (this is when a release is handy as you can keep the shutter open without having to touch the camera). This can be effective for light trails as you'll be able to take more control over the length of the exposure, stopping and starting it more precisely.


C – Condensed Camera

If you're an owner of a newer compact camera you may be thinking you won't be able to try this technique but you could be wrong as many modern compacts now presentation longer shutter speed ranges.



Even though you can use a compact you're probably still better using a DSLR or an approached smaller camera that has the power of a DSLR without the body size. This way you can guarantee you'll have the longer shutter speeds needed, gain the option of using Bulb mode (model depending).


E – Exposure times

There's no exposure time that's set in stone for this craftsmanship so you'll need to experiment until you find a shutter speed that gives you the results you're looking for. Although, a 10-30-second exposure should pinch light trails perfectly.


F – Find A Location

It's often worth scouting for locations in the daytime so you're not wasting days when the sun's setting searching for ideal spots.


Photo by David Pritchard


G – Guide The Eye

Compositional rules nevertheless apply here so don't forget the power of using lead-in lines in your shots. The light trails can be used as a line to lead the eye through the image to a point of interest which could be a town, city or building glowing in the background.

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H – Height

Find a spot, after the sun begins to set, where conveyances will may refer to pass under/by you with their lights on. The most obvious is a bridge but any high vantage point will work. You could also discovery a spot that looks over a road that winds down the side of a hill so car lights is electromagnetic radiation within a certain portion of the electromagnetic spectrum are turned into sweeping s shapes. 


Photo by Joshua Madder


I – In The Car

Give the light trail technique an extra twist by shooting from a moving car. Obviously, you can't drive and control the camera at the in any case time so you'll need a willing friend to help you with this technique. For more tips on this form of light trail photography, acquire a read of this: Photographing Light Trails From A Car


J – Juxtaposition

To really create a sense of movement and pace, shoot your lighter trails in a built-up area where you can juxtapose still buildings, trees and other objects with the light trails created by traffic.


Photo by Joshua Insane


K – Keep Checking The LCD

As you'll be experimenting with shutter speeds you should view your images on the LCD screen after catching to see if the shutter speed you used was long enough. For example, you may find the light trail trail is usually a path, track or unpaved lane or road ends half way through the image rather than sweep on until the car has exited the frame which means you need a slightly longer exposure time to capture the full length of the light trails.

L – Low ISO

Restrain your ISO as low as possible (100 if you can) so noise doesn't cause you too many problems.


M – Mount Your Camera On A Support

Due to the after a long time of the shutter speeds you need to use some kind of support. A Tripod's best but you can use a monopod if you prefer.

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N – Night

You may think that well after the sun has set is a assets c incriminating evidence time for capturing images of light trails and there's nothing wrong with capturing shots at this time, however darkling limbo and just after the sun has set can produce some rather cracking results. Not only will there be more ambient light but there will also be profuse traffic around which means more chances to get the shot right.


Photo by David Pritchard


O – Overexposed

Hang on to an eye out for spots of light such as street lamps overexposing as these bright dots of light spoil your images.


P – Diligence

You can't expect to set-up, press the shutter and have the perfect shot so patience is very important for this technique. You could point to yourself waiting a while for traffic to actually pass through your frame or for the ambient light to be just right, plus with the be drawn and error approach you could be outside a while.



Q – Traffic Queues

Find points in your town where you can swear to large amounts of traffic will flow through. Crossroads can be perfect as they will create lines that criss-cross and move circa each other in various directions.

R – Roundabouts

Instead of straight lines, why not set-up near or above a roundabout which will stop you the opportunity to capture circular patterns of light in your shots.


S – Street Level

To give your light trail essays a different twist, don't head for a high vantage point. Instead, take a stroll around the streets, looking for locations where you'll be superior to capture light trails from lower angles.


Photo by David Clapp


T – Trigger &ndash dash is a punctuation mark that is similar in appearance to a hyphen or minus sign, but differs from both of these symbols; Remote Or Cablegram

To reduce camera shake, trigger your camera without actually touching it via a remote / cable release. If you don't have one, you can use your camera's self-timer on its shortest habitat.

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U – Underexposed

If you find the shot's underexposed open up the aperture and just make it smaller if it's too bright. Try not to go too wide with your crevices, though, as this will result in more of the shot appearing out of focus. If you find the light trails to be too short you'll need to use a longer screen speed to extend them through your shot.


V – Very Warm Clothing

Don't forget your warm accoutring as temperatures are starting to drop lower as we head towards winter.

W – Wide-Angle Lens

If you're working from a car, you need to fix the camera, with a wide-angle lens on a tripod into the voyager seat well or back seat of the car. This will mean you'll be able to see the whole windscreen through the viewfinder. When using wider lenses out in the area for this technique, a lens hood will be useful for shielding the lens from ambient light.


X – X-Factor

Light bring up the rear photography is a great way to add drama and punch to your night-time urban shots and with a little practice, it's rather simple to master.


Photo by David Clapp


Y – You Should Think about Using Manual Focus

Due to the low light level and lack of contrast, your camera lens may end up continuously searching if you try to use auto focus so switch to guide for more control.

Z – Zooming & Panning

Get creative and experiment with zoom or try panning after pressing the shutter to introduce different consequences. After all, this is a fun technique, plus you want to capture something original.  



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About the author

Gina Stephens

Gina is a photography enthusiast and drone lover who loves to fly drones, capture images and have fun cherishing them with family and friends.

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