How to shoot car light trails

What you'll learn

1. How to use long exposure photography at night

2. The pros of using long exposures

3. How to use ambient light to artistic effect

Nighttime photography opens up exciting new lighting opportunities that aren’t available during the day. The lights of passing cars make for atmospheric features in urban nighttime scenes.

What you'll need

  • Camera
  • Sturdy tripod
  • Cable Release OR
  • Triggertrap Mobile Kit (Buy Here)

A bit of theory

Nighttime photography can pose some interesting lighting challenges. Unless you are in a situation where using your own controlled lighting is an option, you can wave goodbye to short exposures. Although long exposures may seem impractical, there is a lot to be said for the atmospheric manner that ambient light will have on a scene over time, and for the way that brighter light sources work like paintbrushes in the dark.

The key things to consider when shooting at night are the exposure length, the stability of the camera and, of course, safety.

As the exposure length will be a number of seconds (as opposed to the fraction of a seconds you’re used to in the daytime) you’ll need to consider how to stabilise the camera. A good, sturdy tripod is key here, unless you’re able to mount the camera onto a railing or similar using a clamp. Any movement of the camera throughout the exposure will ruin the shot, so stability really is crucial. A cable release is also a pretty good idea too as this means once you’ve set the camera up and composed your shot, you won’t need to touch the camera again – helping to eliminate even more movement.

Keep your wits about you when shooting at night and stay safe!

The setup

Capturing the photos