Become a MASTER OF LIGHT! // Light Trail Photography Tutorial

Are you intrigued by the mesmerizing effect of light trail photography? If you’ve ever wondered how photographers capture those stunning streaks of light, then you’re in the right place! In this blog, we will guide you through the process of becoming a master of light and creating captivating light trail photographs. From understanding the basics of camera settings and long exposures to mastering techniques for capturing light trails, we have got you covered. So, grab your camera, unleash your creativity, and get ready for a thrilling journey into the world of light trail photography. Let’s turn ordinary scenes into extraordinary works of art with our light painting brushes!

Become a MASTER OF LIGHT! // Light Trail Photography Tutorial


What is up people gonna hear and today we’re gonna be talking about how to create light trail photography using long exposures and today I’m going to show you exactly what I did to shoot this photo so that you can go and recreate that look for yourself.

Understanding Shutter Speed

Shutter speed may be a simple concept but the things that you can do if you truly understand how to utilize shutter speed are anything but basic. In photography, your shutter speed is one of the three pillars of the exposure triangle. That means that we use shutter speed in conjunction with ISO and aperture to dial in how much light is coming into the camera so that we can properly set our exposure.

The slower the shutter speed, the more light we’re going to be letting into the camera and the brighter the picture. Essentially, what’s happening is you’re opening the shutter for a certain amount of time and then closing it again. The longer that shutter is open, the more light gets in. For example, a shutter speed of 1/200th of a second is going to be a darker image than 1/50th of a second. But if you’re shooting a moving subject, the shutter speed is also going to affect the motion blur or lack thereof in your photo. For example, at 1/200th of a second, you can basically freeze the motion of a moving car. However, at 1/50th of a second, you’re gonna see motion blur on the car because it’s moving through the frame while the shutter is open. These are the two basic things that you need to understand about shutter speed to do long exposure photography: the longer the shutter is open, the more light you’re gonna let in and the more motion blur you’re going to get from moving objects.

Benefits of Long Exposures

Once you understand that, you can start to manipulate this in a way to get really magical results. And one of the best things about understanding long exposures is that there’s so many things you can do with it. You can smooth out water in your shots, you can do astrophotography, and of course, what we’re gonna talk about today, light trails.

Preparing for Light Trails

So here’s what you’re gonna need for doing light trails: you’re gonna need a camera that allows the use of all manual functions, and you’re gonna need a tripod. Optionally, you can also use an ND filter, and if you want to, you can use a Shutter remote, but those aren’t technically necessary, just kind of helpful in certain situations.

Shooting Light Trails

Now that we have all our equipment ready, let’s head out and get our photo. I specifically chose to come out to this bridge because I knew there would be a ton of traffic underneath it, so we’re gonna get a lot of headlights and taillights. Unfortunately, it’s also quite loud out here, so I’m gonna try my best to make sure that you guys can hear me.

First, I set my camera on the tripod and framed the shot how I want it. I chose to use the Sigma 30 millimeter lens, but you can use any focal length you want. Once the camera is set up and the shot is composed, I set the camera to all manual mode and set a two-second timer. This allows me to hit the shutter button and then back off to avoid bumping the camera. I set my ISO to 100 for the cleanest shot and started experimenting with different shutter speeds to see what works best.

Getting the Perfect Shot

If we set our shutter speed too quickly, we won’t get the full trail of light. We want to allow the cars to pass through the whole frame while the shutter is open. After trying different shutter speeds, I found that setting it to around 10 seconds gave me the right amount of motion blur in the headlights and taillights. At this point, you can also experiment with focusing on different objects to create unique effects.

Final Thoughts and Contest

Every situation is going to be slightly different, and you’re gonna have to adjust your settings accordingly. But understanding the basics of shutter speed allows you to work with moving light in your photography and create some really cool effects. I’m hosting a contest on Shutout for long exposure light trail photography, and you can enter using the link in the description. You can even win money if you win the contest. Make sure to enter soon, as there are limited spots available for a special offer for Shutout Prime. I’m excited to see what you guys come up with and don’t forget to leave a comment below if you have any suggestions or experiences with this technique.


Mastering light trail photography through long exposures can open up a whole new world of creative possibilities. With the right equipment and technique, you can capture stunning and mesmerizing images that will leave people in awe. So go out there and become a master of light!

Become a MASTER OF LIGHT! – Light Trail Photography Tutorial

Frequently Asked Questions – Light Trail Photography

What is Light Trail Photography?

Light trail photography is a technique that captures the movement of light sources, such as car headlights or fireworks, to create mesmerizing trails of light in your photographs. It involves using long exposure settings on your camera to capture the continuous trails of moving light.

What equipment do I need for Light Trail Photography?

To get started with light trail photography, you will need:

  • A camera with a Manual mode or the capability to set long exposures
  • A sturdy tripod to keep your camera steady during long exposures
  • A remote shutter release or timer to prevent camera shakes
  • A location with moving light sources, such as traffic or a busy city

How do I set up my camera for Light Trail Photography?

To achieve stunning light trails, follow these steps:

  1. Set your camera to Manual mode
  2. Choose a low ISO setting (around 100-200) for better image quality
  3. Select a smaller aperture (higher f-number) like f/8 to ensure a larger depth of field
  4. Use a slow shutter speed (start with a few seconds) to capture the light trails

How can I find good locations for Light Trail Photography?

Look for places with vibrant city lights, moving traffic, or other fascinating light sources. Bridges, busy intersections, and urban areas with colorful neon signs can provide excellent opportunities for capturing captivating light trails. Experiment with different locations to find the best results.

What are some creative tips for Light Trail Photography?

To make your light trail photos stand out, try these ideas:

  • Create patterns by capturing light trails from different directions
  • Add foreground elements, such as people or landmarks, to enhance the composition
  • Use different colored light sources to add variety to your shots
  • Experiment with different shutter speeds to achieve various light trail lengths

How can I avoid overexposure or underexposure in my light trail photos?

Depending on the brightness of the light sources and the ambient light, you may need to adjust your exposure settings. If your images appear too bright (overexposed), try decreasing the shutter speed or using a smaller aperture. On the other hand, if your photos are too dark (underexposed), increase the shutter speed or open up the aperture to let in more light.

I hope you find useful my article Become a MASTER OF LIGHT! // Light Trail Photography Tutorial, I also recommend you to read my other posts in my blog at this link.

If you need help with anything join the community or do not hesitate to contact me.

Best of luck! and follow your passion.

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