Effective Tips for Light Trail Photography

by Tristan Taylor January. 07, 2016 2111 views

Light has always been a popular subject in photography. Light holds so much importance that its right usage can turn photos into memorable shots while a hint of wrong usage can ruin the entire purpose of it. As much scope light offers us for manipulation, moving light holds equal potential.

Long exposure photography has created a niche for itself. It goes hand in hand with low light photography. And light trail is one of the wonderful products of the two combined together. Light trails [howitworksdaily.com] can make the city come to life with its spectacular shots.

Light trails can be produced by keeping the shutter of the camera open long enough to record the head or tail lights of moving cars on the streets. Light trails are not essentially restricted to car lights, anything that is moving while emitting light can be the subject. Capturing the perfect light trail depends on a number of factors. These have been discussed below.

Choose the Right Location

The amount of light the sensor of your camera receives will determine the consistency of the light trail. For example, a busy street with constantly moving traffic acts as a constant source of light to create the perfect light trail. On the contrary, a road with fewer and irregular sources of light may not be enough to capture a trail.

Additionally, you need to consider the surrounding structures and light from those since these would also be captured in the shot. An appealing surrounding could go quite well with the light trail. All you need to do is understand how to position these in order to make the light trail the hero of the shot.

Plan Your Shot

For a light trail shot to be as strikingly beautiful as you want it to be, you need to put some planning into the process. You need to ask yourself how you want the shot to be. A lot of factors come into play in a light trail. The good news is, most of these depend on your preference.

# A light trail is going to take the shape of the road the vehicles are traveling on. For example, if you choose to shoot on a winding road, the light trail will shape up accordingly. So you need to select the location accordingly.

# You do not want light trails which appear like tiny trails a long distance away. You can avoid this by determining the distance of your setup from the road.

# A little height would accentuate the trails considerably. You can also shoot a light trail from a level lower than that of the road. These would make the image stand out.

# Another major consideration is the time of the day you wish to shoot the light trail in. Even though night time is ideal, a light trail in the dusk can be made to look quite unique.

Once you plan out your shot before execution, you can avoid getting into a fix about what you want to incorporate in your shot.

The Right Gear and Camera Settings are Essential

Since the exposure time for shooting a light trail can range from a few seconds to a couple of minutes, steadiness is key here. But it can be very difficult to achieve the same if you decide to hold the camera through the process. Use a tripod instead. Make sure that the tripod is sturdy enough to withstand motion.

Quick tip: the heavier the tripod, the better.

Needless to say, a remote to control the shutter is another gear that the perfect light trail needs.

Next in line is to understand the shot you are going to take. You need to determine the length of time your camera's shutter needs to stay open to capture the trail. You can do this by measuring the amount of time a car takes to drive through the frame of the shot. The shutter speed needs to be according to this time. Manual mode is always recommended since it gives you better control over the shutter and aperture speed. Additionally, understanding your camera's ISO settings [wikihow.com] is also important. It should be just enough to keep your photos from turning out to be too dark.

A light trail isn't as easy as it sounds. It takes some time and effort to perfect. A bit of trial and error would get you there. Additionally, a little help along the way is always beneficial, which is why you can consider enrolling in a photography course to get your basics right.

Shared by: Gulf Photo Plus [gulfphotoplus.com]

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