So what is a light trail? Well you will see them given a number of different names, (Light Trails, Light Streams, Light Streaks, Traffic Light Trails etc). But in essence they are a long exposure capturing the movement of light sources.

What will you need to take the photo?

• Camera (one that allows you to control the shutter speed/exposure time)
• Tripod
• Remote Trigger/cable release

These are the big three, that you will need to capture a great light trail, although strictly speaking you do not have to have the remote trigger/cable release but for the £10-£15 cost this will make your life a lot easier and will ensure that you have more keeper images as will allow you to avoid camera shake from contact with the camera.

Other suggested kit.

• Torch
• Warm Clothes
• Hi-Visibility Clothing (remember you will often be on active road bridges)
• Ear Protection (It can get very noisy)

Setting up the camera.

Since you will be shooting using a tripod, remember to turn off the image stabiliser  as you do not want you image to be ruined because of the tiny vibrations this feature delivers to the image. Also switch to manual focus since it can be hard for the camera to focus in dark conditions and this will allow you to focus onto your subject and maintain the focus.

Aperture (f/stop) depends mainly on the amount of light in the area that you are taking the picture, if there is a high level of light you will want to consider a aperture in the region of (f/16-25) though depending on the individual situation you  may find that as wide as f8 works so why no experiment and find what is best for you by taking a couple of test shots and seeing what works. I

Exposure time, as I recommend using a remote trigger when you are shooting a light trail I would recommend you select the Bulb Mode (Canon and Nikon). When in Bulb mode the exposure time will basically be as long as you choose or until the battery is flat as for the timing this is up to you as the photographer, I have found that my best images have come from exposure of 90 seconds at this tends to be long enough to have sufficient trails in shot that any trails that start or finish mid frame are not overly apparent in the final image.

ISO, basically because you are shooting a long exposure you are using the exposure time to ensure that sufficient light is getting to the sensor so for this reason to keep the noise down on the image you will want to keep your ISO value low, I never venture away from ISO 100 but 200 would also work in most conditions.

Location, now this is a very subjective section so I am not going to give out to much advice as if you like your image that is the main thing. I tend to like locations where there are  few obstructions to the actual light trails so avoid lamp posts, signs and other street furniture although, there are of course times when these items are unavoidable so you have to try and minimise their effect where possible or make them a feature of the image. It is nice to have an interesting sky in the image so sunset and the hour after sunset are always good times as are clear moon lit nights.

Try and have some interest in the image, this can be something other than the light trails or even in the trails, such as a junction where cars are leaving or joining the main stream of vehicles, winter can be a good time as it will often give you more opportunity to get the likes of gritting lorries (flashing lights) into the shot, if you are really lucky you will get an emergency vehicle in the image.


I hope that you have found this informative but if you have any questions please contact us and  we will be more than happy to help out. Remember to include information on the location to give other photographers ideas on locations to visit.

Final though, don’t forget that you light source doesn’t have to be from a car.