How to do Light Trails Photography?

Light Trails at Hawa Mahal, Jaipur took this Shot on 18-Dec-2012.
Camera body - Canon EOS 50D, EF-S18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 IS, Focal length - 23mm, Shutter Speed - 1.6 sec, Aperture - f/4.5 and ISO - 250
After my recent article about Which is the Best Camera and lens for Photography? I got lot of inquires about how to shoot Light Trails, but before I proceed I want to let you know that everything takes time, practice and patience. For example I am sharing these four photographs with you; First one of Albert Hall, Jaipur below this text, which I took in 17-Oct-2009. The second one of Hawa Mahal, Jaipur on top, which I took on 18-Dec-2012. Third one of a balloon seller at statue circle, Jaipur took on 24-March-2015 and the fourth one of Vidhan Sabha Jaipur which I took on 2-March-2016. With the help of these four Images you can easily understand that what effect time, experience, knowledge and bit of modern equipments can bring to the quality of Photograph. In 2009 there was little knowledge and Information about Light Trails even on the Google. But with the time people had shared lot of stuff, tutorials, photographs and experiments which helped lot of people to learn and here are the result of reading all that . . . :)

Ok so today we will try to learn the right technique and approach to shoot Light Trails but first let me tell you that Light Trails is just one of the small part of big subject Night Photography. Hopefully everyone who is reading this knows what photography is? If not let me repeat its definition “Photography is technique of capturing the light with the help of camera”. So In Light trails also we are capturing the lights but with some proper settings cause if you will capture too much light the picture will over expose (Too much Bright) if the light will be less then it would be under expose (Too much Dark).

First we have to find a Background or a Still subject which is not too much lit up. If it would be too lit up then in our long exposure it will get over exposed. You can also shoot without any significant background or subject but those shots will be hard to compose. I will say if you are newbie go with this approach and once you learn it then experiment as much as you want. Newbie’s will need a tripod any cheap tripod will do but it has to be sturdy. After finding the right place to shoot, Place your tripod, fix your camera on it and then compose the shot. Make sure there is some moving traffic between your camera and subject or in front of your camera and I don’t think I need to tell this to anyone that Light Trails will be taken in the night only or in the dark conditions. Now once you had composed your shot we have to understand and adjust the camera settings. 

For Light Trails we need to have a long exposure it means that we have to open the face of our shutter for long time. So that we can record the moving light on our camera sensor but the longer the shutter is open the more light will hit the sensor and it will create a chance for your pic to get over exposed. So with the help of ISO and Aperture we will try to balance the light conditions and what kind of effects we want (All this will be done on manual Mode). We even have to make sure that we don’t shake our camera at time of shot because that will give you a blur image. For example in the Jaipur Vidhan Sabha pic my settings were Exposure - 6.0 sec; Aperture - f/14 and ISO – 100 and you can see that because of 6sec exposure I got the beautiful wave of Light Trails. This shot was without the tripod I just done the settings put the camera on the ground and pressed the shutter but the road gave me the nice and sturdy base for my shot and Kaboom. Next shot I would like to discuss is the shot where Hawa Mahal is in the Background settings for this shot were Exposure - 1.6 sec; Aperture - f/4.5 and ISO – 250. The reason for this setting was the conditions I was in I did not had the tripod and still I wanted to take this shot because I felt that the moon was at perfect spot. I didn’t even had any sturdy place to keep my camera for this composition so I used the roof of my car but that was also giving vibrations as any heavy vehicle pass by it. So I had to do it fast and by fast I mean can’t leave the shutter open for long time so after finalizing these settings I put the camera on the roof of my car and pressed the shutter and Kaboom. So by these two examples I think it would be clear to you that there is no set settings for Light Trails but you have to experiment a bit according to your conditions. Go and take some pics don’t worry or lose your heart if you don’t get it right for the first time just practice and experiment.
Light Trails at Albert Hall, Jaipur took this Shot on 17-Oct-2009.
Light Trails at Albert Hall, Jaipur took this Shot on 17-Oct-2009.
Camera body - Canon EOS 6D, Lens - EF50mm f/1.4 USM, Focal length - 50mm, Shutter Speed - 1.0 sec, Aperture - f/4.0 and ISO – 100
Light Trails with a Balloon seller at Statue Circle, Jaipur. took this Shot on 24-March-2015.
Light Trails with a Balloon seller at Statue Circle, Jaipur. took this Shot on 24-March-2015.
Camera body - Canon EOS 6D, Lens - EF50mm f/1.4 USM, Focal length - 50mm, Shutter Speed - 1.0 sec, Aperture - f/4.0 and ISO – 100
You can also check the article on him at this link - What Next?
Light Trails at Jaipur Vidhan Sabha took this Shot on 2-March-2016.
Light Trails at Jaipur Vidhan Sabha took this Shot on 2-March-2016.
Camera body - Canon EOS 550D, Lens - EF50mm f/1.8 II, Focal length - 50mm, Shutter Speed - 6.0 sec, Aperture - f/14 and ISO - 100
If you have any questions you can ask them on comments below, I would try my best to answer them as fast as possible.  You can also share the links of your pictures you clicked after reading tutorial, that will surely help you me and newbie’s. The best way to learn is to do experiments, feel free to share these free tutorials because more you share more you learn. 
Happy Clicking. . . :)

17 comments:

  1. Amazing clicks. Thanks for sharing this wonderful article :)

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  3. Wow...Jaipur is indeed beautiful...it's on my wishlist now...Would love to visit place soon...All these clicks are FAB

    www.theinstylejournal.com

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  4. Amazingly beautiful captures, Manav! Thank you for the write too:)

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  5. Wow really amazing shots. Great work

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  6. Beautiful photos and wonderful tips! :)

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  7. Amazing pictures! Thanks for sharing! Have a nice day!
    xx
    cvetybaby.com

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  8. Wow, these are stunning!

    -Kati

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