Home Photo Tech 10 Things To Consider For Shooting A Beautiful Light Trail Photography

10 Things To Consider For Shooting A Beautiful Light Trail Photography

Does the light keep any trail behind as it moves? I did not think so. It was a great curiosity of mine until I came to know about light trail photography. From then I was too interested in this light trail photography. Then I found it very exciting. So, let me share my experience on this topic by giving you some tips on it.

A Better Light Trail Photography

In this article, I am going to show you a detailed process of taking a good Light Trail Photography. If you follow or consider all these Tips step by step process, then you will be able to take a fantastic and jaw-dropping Light Trail Photography in any circumstances in spite of being a novice or advanced Photographer. So guys, sit tight and make yourself knowledgeable with these best tips and considerations for shooting a fabulous Light Trail Photography.

1. Select the Spot

Where to take this kind of photography? How many places can it be? Well, there is no specific place suitable for this kind of photography. It may be a long field, sea, sky, room or any particular area. However, some recommended sites are:

  • Long road
  • Bridge
  • last nearer to the airport where aircrafts movements are often
  • Rail track
  • Hilly roads
  • Any other places for a customized photo

Spots for Light Trail Photography
Spots for Light Trail Photography

2. Select Light Trail Photography Object(s)

Like the spots for photography, there is no specific object for this kind of photography. The thumb rule is that it has to be a light source which is mobile thus makes a trail as it moves. Some examples in line with the spots mentioned earlier are:

  • Traffic lights path of a vehicle on a road or bridge
  • Train lights trail
  • Aircraft in the skies
  • Any light naturally moves or made mobile intentionally

Light Trail of Vehicle
Light Trail of Vehicle

Light Trail of Moon
Light Trail of Moon

3. Select a Vantage Point 

For this type of photography; we need to take a vantage point from where we will get the desired frame for the photo. We must imagine the shape of the last light trail which will be formed at the end. It will depend on the creativity and imagination of the photographer. So how can we develop this imagination and finally produce a good image? We can see examples of light trail photography on the internet. Watching these photos will increase the idea.

4. Basic Requirements for Light Trail Photography

  • Camera
  • Lens
  • Tripod
  • Remote/ Intervalometer (Optional)
  • A Creative Mind

These are the necessary things required for this type of photography. Now let’s see how can we use these requirements:

5. Camera

a. Configuration

A full frame camera is always recommended for long exposure photography, but, in this case, it is not mandatory. In some cases, it is not at all necessary.

b. Setup

We have to set the camera in manual mode, and for long exposure, we have to set the camera in bulb mode. Usually, all cameras possess the system to select exposure up to 30 seconds.

c. ISO

We will capture single or multiple lights for light trail photography. So we have to keep ISO to the minimum level. Bigger ISO range will create noise in the photo. We may have a wrong idea that photography at night always needs a higher ISO. But we must remember that in most of the cases for this type of photography we will take the photograph of one or multiple bright lights. So higher ISO is not required. The suggestion is ISO 100.

6. Lens

a. Type

A lens with a wide aperture is recommended. Wide angle lens is also suggested. However, an angle of the lens depends upon the intention of the photographer and the area to be covered.

b. Aperture

Aperture range can be f/2.8 or lower to 3.5 or little more than that. Do not ever think that you always have to select a small aperture size. You have to use your judgment for selecting the proper aperture range. However, for learning details about selecting aperture range, you can read the article ‘Everything You Need To Know About Aperture Size for Better Photography.’

c. Mode

Must be in manual mode. For focusing purpose we can keep it in auto if it is possible to concentrate in said mode, but during the operation, it has to be in manual mode.

d. Focusing

We can do it manually or automatically. We can also use the live mode for focusing. There are three modes in the camera if you focus automatically using the intelligence of your camera. Those are AI Servo, AI Focus and One Shot. For this photography always use One Shot or AI Focus. I have written an article on One Shot, AI Servo and AI Focus: Things To Know Before Choosing The Right Focusing Mode, which will let you know details about focusing.

7. Tripod

a. Placement of Tripod

Placement of the tripod has to be such so that under no circumstance it can cause movement of the camera. Before placing the camera, we must check that the tripod is stable on the platform. The platform must be static. Boat, moving vehicle, etc. are not platforms to place a tripod. Because the platform will cause the tripod to shake.

b. Using Weight

If the spot is in such a place where the force of wind is too high which can cause the tripod to vibrate, then we must use a weight beneath the tripod to make it perfectly stable.

c. No Movement

Once the trigger has been pressed no movement of the tripod along with the camera is allowed till the whole process is finished. We have to ensure that the setup is not disturbed either by a photographer or any other means.

8. Remote/ Intervalometer

Remote is recommended for light trail photography but not a must. Remote ensures no movement while pressing the trigger. But if we do not have a remote, then we can use the self-timer for initiating the trigger which is available almost in all cameras.

An intervalometer is necessary if we take multiple exposures for making a single photo with more than one picture by blending. The magic lantern can be installed in the camera if your camera supports it. Magic-lantern provides a feature using which you can get the intervalometer without a costly remote. Before installing Magic Lantern in camera, we must read the terms and conditions and the risk factors of it.

9. A Creative Mind

This is a necessary element for this type of photography. It is otherwise an essential element for all type of photography. How can we be more creative? The answer is simple, see and learn. When you look at many examples, maybe on the internet, you will be able to create your self-imagination. That imagination will lead you to creativity.

10. Capturing the Trails

a. Setup Everything

After selecting the place and object, we have to go to the perfect vantage point. Then we have to place the camera with the help of a tripod. After that, we have to set up the camera as mentioned above. When all are done, then we are ready to press the trigger.

b. Exposure

What should be the exposure time? Well, this is a matter of simple understanding. Suppose I want to take the trail of lights of a vehicle. The is which I want to cover is an entire bridge. So, in that case, I must take the exposure until the time the vehicle completes its journey from the starting to the end of the bridge. So there is no time limitation for light trail photography. Again it must not be so long that the photo is overexposed.

The Last Words about Light Trail Photography

Whatever mentioned above are just the basic guidelines. It is like you have learned how to make a sentence after learning alphabets and words. Now it’s your turn to write an article. Your knowledge and creativity will make it a good one. For increasing knowledge, you have to read and see. When you imagine those together, then it becomes creativity.


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