Long exposure traffic photography


Over the past couple of months we’ve talked about ways to create exciting images using long exposure techniques. This week we’re expanding on that idea by introducing you to a style that’s simple, effective and makes for fantastic canvas prints – yes, all you need is a camera, tripod and sense of adventure to produce stunning long exposure traffic images.


Wrap up warm and go for it!


As the nights draw in, there’s a temptation to leave the camera in its bag and stay at home, but if you’re brave and willing to be proactive it’s also the perfect opportunity to wrap up warm and get out and produce something really creative.

Traffic Photography

What gear do you need?


As with all types of long exposure photography, the gear requirements are pretty basic:


  • Any camera will work just fine because cars move pretty fast, so you won’t necessarily need very slow shutter speeds
  • A good quality tripod is essential to prevent camera shake
  • A remote shutter release will make the process easier, but it’s not absolutely essential because you can use your camera’s timer instead


And that’s about it! Now let’s think about location…


Choosing a location


Because the actual technique is so simple, so much of the groundwork for your images is in the choice of location. For wider shots with longer light trails we recommend shooting from bridges over motorways or busy A-roads, but it’s also worth trying some urban shots by finding a high vantage point in a town or city.


You might also try getting a little closer to the action by setting up beside a roundabout or curve on the road because you can capture sweeping light trails that move close by the camera – it’s almost a 3-D effect and looks very dynamic.


Oh, and it makes sense to shoot during rush hour so you can be sure of a steady stream of traffic – this method won’t work unless you have cars!

Long Exposure Photography

The technique


The basic technique is simple:


  • Set your camera up on a tripod and frame your shot
  • Shoot in manual mode, ISO 100 – 400, f/8-f/16, and with shutter speeds of between ¼ and 2 seconds, but be prepared to experiment
  • Time your shots to coincide with a steady stream of traffic


With this basic method and a little bit of practice you’ll soon build up a catalogue of impressive light trail images, so why not send a few over to us to print onto canvas for you. A series of images on a feature wall will make perfect statement pieces because they appear to be both realistic and abstract at the same time.