Through this post you will able to learn how to shoot light trails. Photography is all about playing with lights. And the best time to shoot stunning and amazing pictures like Sunrise, sunsets, beaches, landscape images or cityscape is the time when the sun is at the horizon (morning and evening time). For example, which picture will look great boat in a river with the sun or without sun at its horizon. Obviously, the image with sun will look more better because it add a live element to the image.

Light trails are one of the best way to add wow factor in your urban photography. The moving lights of car, traffic, Trains, metros is a basic element of the city and town that add a  life to the picture. And best time to shoot cityscape light trails is after sunset when the city lights up with a colourful lights.

Whenever you see any light trails, you might think that it may require a huge photographic gear and skills, but it is not so even it is quite easy and simple to click amazing light trails. What you have to do is just follow the steps –

Requirement For Shoot Light Trails : –

  • Location
  • Dslr or Mobile
  •  Tripod
  • Remote Shutter(optional)

Location

Obviously, if you want to capture anything, you need a location but this location is different. You have to choose a  location with moving cars, trains, metros or traffic.

Choose a location busy with the traffic or a high vantage point, from where you can easily get an aerial(bird’s eye view) or a wide coverage of the area like from the roofs, and you can also shoot from the bridges, across the river or across the roads/traffic.  For example you can choose Rashtrapati bhavan in raisain hills, new delhi ; London bridges etc.

How To Shoot Light Trails From DSLR Or Phone

You have no need to expend huge bugs of dollars on the camera gear to click the light trails, what basic you need is just a mobile phone with the manual mode settings or a basic dslr cameras like Nikon D5300, D5600 or Canon 200D or any basic camera that you already have.

Lenses: If taking about the lens, since you are going to click landscape, cityscape light trails, You need a wide angle lenses like 10 mm focal length. You can also use the kit lens(18-55mm) that usually people have. Wide angle is advisable because it covers a large area in a frame.

Tripod

To capture light trails you need to bring  down your shutter upto 20 or 30 second, that a human hand cann’t manage to hold the camera or phone for such a long time. So, you can  click sharp, focused, and steady images without shake in  images. This is the one of the most essentials to shoot light trails. If you have not this you can easily find it in any camera store at a very low price.

Remote Shutter

If you are a mobile photographer, you might be not aware of this term, so let me tell you that Remote Shutter is a wireless device that is used to avoid shake in images while pressing the shutter. Using remote shutter You ca get your camera’s control remotely after establishing wifi connection to the camera.

It is not essential, you can skip using this by using techniques, that set a timer of 5-10 seconds , so that when you press the shutter the camera did not shake and your final output images will be sharp and clear.

*You can also use ND filters to get better images but it is not essential to use it, you can also click amazing photos without using ND filters. 

Camera Setting

Now coming to the most important part of the light trails that is camera settings. To photograph light trails, put your camera on the manual mode, to get a flexibility in aperture, iso, and shutter speed.

  • Focal length: Keep the lowest local length, better you use wide angle lens and lower focal length. If you have not wide angle use kit lens.
  • Iso: Iso is determined  by the lights present. Down your iso  as low as you can. More iso brings grains to the image that spoils the image quality of the picture. Some full frame or expensive camera have capacity to reduce grains upto 1600 iso but basic cameras starts graining image as you put your iso more than 500. Keep your iso to 100 to get grain free images.
  • Aperture: you are clicking in nights, so there must be low lightening conditions if so you have to open the aperture more to enter more lights to the sensor. Ideal aperture is atleast more than F8. you can keep it to upto F22 if you want a detailed image and also adjust the shutter speed accordingly untill you get correct exposure.
  • Shutter Speed: Light trails is a game of shutter, if you keep your shutter to low (1s-8s), it will bring a steady in the traffic lights as shown in image 1 with EXIF details Aperture F14, Shutter 6 sec., and Iso 100 and if you keep  more than 10s shutter, the lights will be smooth. Always keep shutter between 10s-30s to get a smooth traffic lights in the image as shown in image 2 with EXIF details F11, 10 sec., Iso 100. And the Exif details of the featured image in beginning is F14, 13 sec, 100 iso.
light painting
Image 01
Rashtrapati bhavan light trails
Rashtrapati bhavan india gate light trails in new delhi india in,ong exposure

After setting all these basic camera settings, aperture, iso and shutter, focus your subject and keep all focus points active and once done bring your camera focus to manual mode, so that during exposure (While capturing photos) the focus did not move/shift with the moving traffics.

Once all done, balance to correct exposure and set the timer and click amazing pictures.

Bonus Tips

  • If possible shoot in RAW format, it’ll give you flexibility in post processing.
  • Use tripod
  • Try again and again until you get the perfect short
  • Keep the patience and keep practicing, more you practice better you will able to click next time.

Happy Clicking

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