Home Photography Questions What is preferred DSLR settings for light trails?

What is preferred DSLR settings for light trails?

Nisarg Pandya

answered on February 5, 2018

Types of equipment that are needed to shoot long exposures

A tripod – this is a good piece of equipment to have in most instance, but is a critical piece of equipment for shooting long exposures. Make sure your camera is properly mounted on the tripod before you start shooting.

A camera – obviously you will need a camera, but many people assume you can only do this type of photography with an SLR. Some advanced point-and-shoot cameras can also do long exposures if they have a Shutter Priority function. Take a look in your camera’s manual to see if it has this function, you may be surprised.

Cable release – your camera will be on a tripod, so it should be very still, however, sometimes the action of pressing the shutter release button can cause the camera to move slightly and this movement can cause your image to blur very slightly. You may not notice this on the LCD screen, but when you open the image on your computer, it will be evident. I recommend getting a cable release (also called a remote trigger). It is simply a cable that attaches to your camera and acts as a shutter release button. Using a cable release means you can set up your camera, step away from the tripod and press the button without touching the camera. Cable releases can be wireless too. If you don’t have a cable release or don’t want to buy one, you could use your camera’s self-timer function to trigger the shutter.

Camera settings should be used

Shutter speed – depending on the light in your scene, your shutter time will need to be at least 10 to 15 seconds, or longer if necessary. If you are doing a seascape and the water is moving quickly, then a few seconds may be long enough to make the water look misty.

Aperture – you will want to have your aperture set at anywhere between f/8 and f/16. This again will be determined by how much light is in the scene and how long you want to expose for.

ISO – keep your ISO settings as low as possible, ISO 100 is what I use for long exposures.

It’s normally a good idea to shoot long exposures as the sun is setting, or just after sunset. My suggestion is to be on the scene an hour before sunset. That way you can test some shots, make sure your composition is good and be sure all your settings are correct. 


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