3 Great Tips for Capturing a Light Trail

Light trail photography is a visual treat and offers many surrealistic notions on how the photograph was achieved. A light trail photograph is a picture (or progression of pictures) that follows the exact movement path of singular or multiple light sources. A technically modern art form, light trail photography shows the symmetry of time, movement, speed and light all in one.

Professional and amateur photographers find many purposes for this method, but usually employ it to evoke thoughtfulness, contemplation and imaginative deduction from the viewers. To achieve such an effect, here are a few tips on how to effectively capture light trails.

1. Your Equipment

Make sure your camera is capable of taking exposures from three seconds and above. A camera with Digital Single Lens Reflex (DSLR) set to bulb (B) and remote shutter is optimum for this method. Carry a sturdy tripod with you and always bring an umbrella to protect the exposed camera in case it rains.

2. Your Location

It’s usually best to capture light trails at night, when there is minimal ambient lighting to corrupt or obstruct the photographing process. A common example of the best location would be by the roadway or where there is a lot of vehicle traffic. Please be very careful when taking photos by the roadside and never point your camera directly at oncoming traffic.

3. Your Subject

As mentioned above, moving traffic is a good place to start with capturing light trails, though it doesn’t end there. Fire dancers, fireworks, carnival rides and practically any moving object with a visible light source is capable of creating a light trail. If you wish to take very long exposures because of a subject’s slow movement (like the moon), then longer exposure times are required.

With practice, patience, dedication and a developing sixth-sense for serendipity, light trail photographs will become a powerful medium of aesthetics, emphasizing the relationship between the photographer, his camera and his subject.