How To Shoot Beautiful Traffic Trails

In this tutorial, I am going to show you step by step how to shoot traffic trails/light trails with your DSLR camera. It’s very very simple !

coming up !

 

Shooting traffic and light trails can be one of the most impressive photography skill. For the beginners, it is very very simple and easy to practice. First of all, you have to understand how long exposure works. When we’re shooting at a long exposure, the camera is able to see things differently to the way our eyes see them. For example, if you shoot at a long shutter speed such as 10 seconds, the camera will capture everything in that 10 seconds. That means all the movements and light will be captured when the shutter is open. That’s how you shoot the light/traffic trails

What do you need when shooting traffic trails ?

So what equipment do you need to actually shoot traffic trails ? Well, you need: A DSLR camera and a solid tripod. That’s it ! The reason why you have to have a DSLR is that a DSLR allows you to shoot everything manually. You’re able to use longer shutter speed to capture the traffic trails. Some advanced point-and-shoot cameras can also do long exposures, but we will normally use a DSLR to get better result.

Whether it’s a professional or a entry-level DSLR, they all allow you to do long exposure(long shutter speed). So it doesn’t really matter what DSLR you’re currently using. That means you don’t have to invest thousands of dollars to buy a new DSLR just for shooting traffic trails.

 

Camera settings

1.Shutter speed: When it comes to the camera settings, the shutter speed matters the most. The longer the shutter is open, the longer the footage is captured. You will want to be using a long exposure so you should probably use a shutter speed ranging from 6 seconds to 20 seconds. There is no exact shutter speed to use. Basically, the shutter speed will depend on the lighting situations in your scene, as well as how fast the traffic is moving. Most of the time you will want to shoot at a shutter speed that is slow enough to allow traffic to pass completely through your scene.

2.ISO: When shooting in low-light conditions, ISO can be a huge problem. But now it’s not a problem anymore because we’ve already got the long shutter speed(long exposure). That means we can use ISO 100 without worrying about not getting enough light in our scene. So I will definitely shoot at ISO 100.

2.Aperture: When you’re shooting at a long shutter speed, you’re gonna get tons of light into your footage. So just keep the f/stop as high as possible. Normally, I will shoot with an aperture ranging from F/8 to F/22. Again, it all depends on the lighting situations, as well as how fast your shutter speed is. Another advantage of using higher f/stop is that it will make the street lights  look like shining stars.

 

Oh no… almost forget to tell you that I took all the pictures in manual mode. If you shoot in auto mode, the camera doesn’t even allow you to change the shutter speed. So you should be shooting everything in manual mode.

Should I use a tripod ?

You just learned how to setup your camera, and the next thing we’re going to do is that “mount your camera on a solid tripod” Honestly, without tripod, you cannot shoot traffic trails. You will be shooting at a very slow shutter speed, so it’s gonna be impossible to stabilize the footage without having a tripod.

Also, make sure that the tripod won’t move during the shots. I would also recommend you to use self-timer. When we hit the shutter button to take a photo, we might accidentally shake the camera. So it’s better to use self-timer. I always set my self-timer to 2 seconds.

Since you will be shooting traffic trails in low light, you want to switch your camera’s focus mode to manual focus. The autofocus systems on most DSLR cameras don’t function accurately in low light environments, so we will normally use manual focus.

 

 

  • Shutter speed – 10 sec
  • ISO – 100
  • Aperture – f/22
  • Focus mode – manual focus
  • Focal length – 35mm
  • Tripod – Albott 70 inch

When is the best time to shoot traffic trails ?

It’s a great time to shoot long exposures when the sun is setting, or after sunset. You can test some shots to make sure your composition and all your settings are correct. I personally like to shoot traffic trails at night because the light source will be much better when the scene is dark. You can also shoot traffic trails when the sun is setting, but the scene will be much brighter. You may need a ND filter which allow you to darken the scene so that you’re able to shoot at long shutter speed.

Be patient and experiment. I will sometimes stay there, and shoot a bunch of photos until I get the shot I am looking for.

 

It’s all about imagination and creativity !

After understanding how photography works, it’s time to use your imagination and creativity! Honestly, shooting this kind of photos is very addictive. Once you realize how to shoot traffic trails, you will do it again and again. You can also stand next to the traffic and then you will get a cool photo like this:

  • Shutter speed – 8 sec
  • ISO – 100
  • Aperture – f/22
  • Focus mode – manual focus
  • Focal length – 24mm

It’s very easy to shoot this photo. You can simply stand next to the traffic(light source), and DO NOT move when the shutter is open. I set my self-timer to 2 seconds so that I have time to hit the shutter button and do a pose I want. Also, be very careful ! Watch out the cars !

 

Light trails tips

After understanding how to shoot traffic trails, you can also use this technique to create light trails. It’s very very simple to create light trails photos just like what you see below. I kept my room as dark as possible, and drew those light trails with the flash light on my phone. It’s all about your imagination and creativity. Just keep practicing and experimenting, and I’m pretty sure that your photos will get much better next time !

 

  • Shutter speed – 5 sec
  • ISO – 100
  • Aperture – f/22
  • Focus mode – manual focus

 

  • Shutter speed – 15 sec
  • ISO – 100
  • Aperture – f/22
  • Focus mode – manual focus

 

 

  • Shutter speed – 10 sec
  • ISO – 100
  • Aperture – f/22
  • Focus mode – manual focus

 

 

  • Shutter speed – 10 sec
  • ISO – 100
  • Aperture – f/22
  • Focus mode – manual focus

 

 

 

 

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