How to shoot light trails


I replied to a question on Facebook today and wanted to share it here. I cover this subject in the series of photography courses which I run so if you’ve ever wanted to shoot some light trails (like car headlights) follow this advice;

Firstly don’t forget the basics; a fully charged battery and room on your memory card (it does happen!). You’ll also need a tripod.

Start with the light fading in the sky after sunset because a little light in the sky will help separate the landscape from the sky. 

Pre-focus your lens/camera before it gets too dark because you can struggle in low light to achieve focus. Once you’re happy with the focus switch the lens to Manual focus and don’t touch it for the rest of the night.

Light trails – surprisingly easy to shoot

Set your ISO fairly low (maybe 100-400) and your camera to Manual.

Set your shutter speed to somewhere around the 30 second mark and if the resulting picture is too dark then just open the aperture one stop at a time (if it’s too light then close the aperture one stop at a time) until you’re happy with the result.

Top tip – either use a remote shutter release or if you don’t have one use the 2-second timer because this will help get a stable shot.

Don’t forget your composition either, just because it’s dark doesn’t mean it goes out of the window. Remember the Rule of Thirds for example and consider getting some foreground interest in the shot

My 10 tips for photographing fireworks


With the International Whitehaven Festival starting this week I posted in a recent thread on Flickr about some tips on taking firework photos.    I hope this is useful…

10 top firework tips from me;

  1. Use a tripod!  And also use a remote shutter release so that you don’t transmit vibrations when you press the shutter button on the camera with your finger.
  2. Make sure you have a full battery and lots and lots of memory card space (obvious but you’ll be surprised!).
  3.  If your camera struggles to focus in low light, set it up before hand while it’s light and switch your lens to Manual focus and don’t touch it.
  4. Don’t use auto modes (including Aperture and Shutter priorities). Use manual.  And turn the flash off 🙂
  5. Shooting in raw instead of JPG will give you better pictures. But be aware that raw will use a lot more memory card space and you may need to process each shot individually depending on what software you use.
  6. Exposure?  Get the right amount of ambient light with the shutter speed, a few seconds should be enough for each shot. Adjust the aperture to get the exposure on the fireworks right and use your ISO to control the overall brightness of the scene..
  7. Don’t use a long exposure because the results will just be a complete mess of whited-out over-exposed-ness. Instead, try to time each main burst from start to finish.
  8. Don’t be afraid to blend two or more shot together afterwards to get the shot you need.
  9. Don’t get in anyone’s way!
  10. Don’t forget to enjoy the show! I’ve shot loads of fireworks where I’ve concentrated so much on the pictures I didn’t get time to enjoy it.
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