Quick Tip – Light Trails


ISO 200, 23mm, f/9, 26 sec.

Light trails not difficult to capture if you’ve a camera with manual settings.  You don’t need a fancy DSLR, some point and shoot cameras are perfectly capable of capturing light trails.  The key is your ability to slow the shutter speed sufficiently on your camera.  You’ll want to make sure your shutter speed is at least 30″ (that’s 30 seconds not inches) to give you a light trail that travels through your entire frame.

The photograph at the top of the page was taken with a shutter speed of only 26″ and if you look closely you can see a light blue line that was the top of a bus.  Too slow of a shutter speed and you’ll catch ghost images of vehicles passing by.


ISO 200, 23mm, f/6.4, 26 sec

[alert type=”notice”]Use a Neutral Density filter to slow your shutter speed to 30 sec or slower when there is too much light.[/alert]

The winter is a great time to do light trails because it gets dark far earlier and you’ll be able to photograph safely before all the nefarious individuals start roaming the street.  Summer is great too if you can stay up late and are smart about your safety.  I highly recommend photographing in groups at night around cities, if you are alone you should carry protection (pepper spray, taser, gun, sling shot, sword, etc.).  If you don’t have a group try searching on Google for “Your City Name” photo groups or put check photography forums across the internet.  Better yet, create your own photography club and dazzle them with everything you have learned from PhotolisticLife.


ISO 200, 23mm, f/6.4, 27 sec.

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2 replies on “Quick Tip – Light Trails”
  1. says: Liz

    Great shots, John, and great advice. I was wondering if you used a tripod when taking these photos?

    1. says: JohnBarbiaux

      Thanks Liz! Yes I did use a tripod, with a shutter speed an slower than 1/30 I will always use one otherwise my images look soft from camera shake.

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