Light trails from airplanes on approach to Phoenix Sky Harbor create a magical sky over Tempe, Arizona

How to Photograph Light Trails

Bryan Snider Tutorial

One of the popular aspects about night photography is the ability to capture light trails.  Light trails of cars, stars and even the paths of airplanes add interesting subjects to a nigh time photo.  However, sometimes one exposure isn’t enough.  The image was captured using 70 individual exposures.  But how did I do this? Well it’s easy! Watch this FREE tutorial below and find out how I created this stunning image!

“The Rhythm of the Urban Sky” License this Image:

How I captured this Photo:

Gear Used:

As a photographer I’m always looking for unique ways to tell the story of a landscape, person, or moment.  Everything has a story and it’s my job as a photographer to find a creative way to share the stories of my surroundings, even if it appears to be hidden or forgotten.  Light trails are a very creative way to tell the story of a busy metropolis!

The Basics of Capturing Light Trails

  • Tripod:  Having a nice sturdy tripod is a MUST!
  • Shutter Release Cable/Remote: (Highly Recommended) This is a relatively inexpensive investment.
  • Shutter: 30 Seconds:
  • Aperture: F16

At bare minimum you could set your tripod and camera up on a busy street.  Set your camera to a shutter of 30 seconds and an aperture of  F16.  Then use the camera timer feature (to reduce vibration) and let the camera take a single light trail exposure.  Being that your on a busy street your going to see light trails.  However, for more complicated images the process requires a little more work.

So how did I process this photo?

Equipment and Settings for Capturing Complex Light Trails

  • Tripod
  • Shutter Release |  I like this wireless  Satechi WTR-M Wireless Timer Remote
  • Shutter 30 Second (Adjust as needed)
  • Set the shutter release to an interval of 1 second at a length of 30 seconds (Or your shutter length)
  • Aperture F16 (Adjust as needed for light)
  • Start your shutter release and make sure it takes one photo right after another

Still have questions? Then feel free to e-mail me at bryan@bryansnider.com.  Make sure your subject line is “Light Trail Tutorial Question”