How to Shoot Light Trails Motion Time-Lapse

Capturing light trails is a way of making your night shots more dynamic. By using the same technique with proper gear, you can create your own time-lapse videos with light trails.

In urban night photography, light trails add motion and emphasize the feel of a living city. Basically, to capture the light trails, all you need is a sturdy tripod and a camera. Preferably, having a remote controller might come in handy, but you can still shoot long exposure photos by using your timer on your camera to avoid camera shake. Same principles apply when capturing motion time-lapse with light trails.

In this five-minute video by Rhino Camera Gear, you will see a demonstration of using the required gear with additional tips about composition and timing. For this video, Rhino Camera Gear crew uses the brand’s renown motorized camera slider ROV Pro and a Sony a7 series mirrorless camera with a Laowa 15mm f/2.0 lens attached. An ND filter is attached to the lens to avoid overexposed areas and extend the exposure time when shooting in bulb mode.

You can achieve the same effect with any slider and camera combinations, however a motorized slider will be more practical for achieving precise and better results.

Have you ever tried capturing light trails in your time-lapse videos? Please share your tips and tricks in the comments section below.

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why not small aperture instead ND filter?!

A very small aperture may cause a fair bit of diffraction. Of course an ND filter will degrade the image quality to some degree as well, but not necessarily as much. Another reason could be that at small apertures you can get more flickering from inconsistent exposure if the lens is not able to close down to the exact same aperture every time. I know some time lapse photographers use older lenses so that they can stop down the lens all the time to the correct aperture to prevent flickering.

Jack Bolshaw's picture

Another huge consideration is sensor spots. You have far fewer sensor spots at wider apertures. They are so easy to remove in still but can be a pain to remove in video.