Photographing Car Lights At Night

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I have ever loved dark photography – the coaction of different light sources produces a fantastic array of colours, and the contrast between light and dark areas creates a vibrant, engaging scene.

Calorie-free trails are 1 of my favourite dark photography subjects. Their twisting shapes atomic number 82 the viewer’s heart around the image, producing some wonderfully abstract photos. They are also a peachy manner to begin experimenting with your camera’due south transmission exposure settings.

The key to photographing automobile lite trails is choosing a good composition and capturing plenty of trails. The great news is that they can be very easy to shoot, and y’all can produce some amazing images with even the well-nigh basic of equipment.

Location and Viewpoint

Cull a shooting location that volition produce some interesting shaped lite trails, and preferably somewhere with plenty of traffic so that you lot get lots of machine trails. Moving picture the cars moving through the scene and imagine how their light trails will look. Winding roads and traffic islands are ideal shooting locations, but a straight road can too be interesting provided you capture enough light trails.

Move away from center level for added depth and a more engaging photo. Prototype by Sparky.

Information technology is our first instinct to shoot from heart level, merely this volition normally produce a load of horizontal car trails with nothing much happening in the residual of the frame. Look around for a bridge or ledge and then that y’all tin can go upwards to a higher place the cars, or alternatively hunker down close to the ground. This will fill the frame meliorate and give the photo a more three-dimensional, dynamic feel.

Car Direction – Towards or Away?

When choosing your viewpoint behave in mind that car lights have dissimilar colours – white at the forepart and red at the back. The colour of the light trails in your photo can dramatically touch the feel of the image. Often yous will not have the luxury of choosing the light color, but if you do then consider which would conform your scene all-time.

Car light streaks on a motorway

Different coloured trails give a unlike feel to the shot. Paradigm by Thomas Bresson.

Plan Your Exposure Fourth dimension

Exposure time is a critical factor when photographing dark time motorcar light trails. A longer exposure will give you lot more trails, and extend their length, but if your exposure time is too long you lot will see the brightness of each trail beginning to fade, which is particularly noticable on a quiet road.

A skilful starting point is to expect through your viewfinder and time a car passing completely through your scene. Then set your exposure time to this value plus a few seconds, to allow you to open the shutter just before the automobile enters the scene, and to ensure the car exits before the shutter closes.

A winding road with car light trails

Fourth dimension how long it takes for a car to move through the shot and apply that as the basis for your exposure time. Image past Aitor Escauriaza.

Experiment with longer and shorter shutter speeds. This volition yield varied, and oft more interesting, images.

If your camera doesn’t requite you full control over exposure fourth dimension, such as with a digital compact, y’all tin still photograph automobile calorie-free trails by switching to night mode. This should give you an exposure time of a couple of seconds, more than than enough to produce some great photos.

Tripod or Not?

The question of whether to use a tripod depends entirely on the sort of image you are trying to capture. Personally I prefer my night shots to exist nice and well-baked, and so I like to use a tripod (or at to the lowest degree a sturdy surface), but the camera milk shake caused by manus holding your camera tin can produce some interesting abstract effects.

Abstract yellow car light trails

Create some stunning abstract effects by taking your camera off its tripod. Image by Rick Harrison.

Taking It Further

Accept fun and experiment when shooting car light trails – try panning, zooming and spinning the camera whilst shooting. Each will create a dramatically different epitome and may help to turn a good photograph into a great i.