Traffic is frustrating when you’re behind the wheel, but when you’re behind the lens it can be much more appealing.
Ever wondered how to capture night time traffic on camera and achieve those colourful light trails? We’ve put together a quick and simple guide to help you master the technique – perfect if you want to capture an impressive entry for CEWE’s Our World is Beautiful photography competition!
The Traffic and Infrastructure category of the competition features some great examples of light trail photography, a few of which you’ll find in this blog post. Follow our tips and you’ll soon be capturing your own portraits of traffic – showing that there truly is something beautiful to be found in every corner of the globe, even on car-clogged roads!
Tip One: Use a tripod
To capture the lights from moving cars, you’re going to need to use a long exposure, and for that you’ll definitely need a tripod. Find a place that’s safe to stand, away from the road but with a good view of the traffic. It might be easier to scope out a good spot during daylight, before returning once it gets dark.
Lichtjes in Amsterdam (Light in Amsterdam) – Jorien van Dort
Tip Two: Head out at dusk
The blue hour – or the hour just after sunset – is the best time to practice light trail photography. Not only is there often more traffic, but the light conditions at dusk are much better.
Autófolyó (Car Flow) – András Rutnai
Tip Three: Use a long exposure
Set your shutter speed to at least 4 seconds. The longer the shutter, the longer the light trails, so experiment and increase the shutter speed until you get your desired effect.
City Lights Going By – Leah Henssge
Tip Four: A remote trigger may be handy
If you have one, use a remote trigger to avoid having to touch your camera to take a shot. This will minimise movement and help ensure your picture is as crisp and clear as possible. Alternatively, use your camera’s timer.
Spuren der Nacht (Traces of the Night) – Kay Ludwig
Tip Five: Choose a smaller aperture
You’ll want to get as much of the image in focus as you can, so choosing a smaller aperture will give you a larger depth of field. Try starting at f/11 then experiment going up or down a couple of stops to get the best exposure.
Schnelllebig (Fast Moving) – Perry Wunderlich
Tip Six: Select a low ISO
A good starting point is ISO 100. You want to keep the ISO low to avoid noise, and to compensate for the long exposure.
Chengdu Square – Luca Mueller
Tip Seven: Consider composition
Remember the basics of composition (like the rule of thirds and finding a point of interest) when framing your shot. Think about where the light trail will begin and end in the shot and frame around it accordingly.
Once you’ve mastered this technique, remember that your images could help you win the holiday of a lifetime when you enter Our World is Beautiful! Click the link below to submit up to 25 of your best images. And good luck!