Shooting Car Trails

In this photography class, Karl spent some time doing long exposures and photographing light trails in front of the Eiffel Tower.

Experimenting with long exposure photography at night can yield some lovely results. The final image is spectacular, and is easier than you think.

In this class, Karl explains how to photograph car trails, the equipment you’ll need, which camera settings to use and when the best time for night photography is.

In this class:

  • Night photography
  • How to photograph car trails
  • How to do long exposure photography
  • Camera settings for long exposures at night

Questions? Please post them in the comments section below.


  1. Really nice framing

  2. Hello Karl,
    Would you ever try to mitigate or eliminate the star burst patterns around light sources in long exposure night shots? You didn’t here but sometimes they can be distracting. Is there a way to do it in camera or is it strictly a retouching job?

    1. Hi, They are an artefact of a small aperture setting. If you shoot with a larger aperture setting and use an ND filter they would be gone. The difficulty is seeing your image in lowlight through the ND filter so it’s best to compose your shot first and then add the ND.

  3. Hi Karl, how to set up like your pictures but I put one model standing look like stoping the car in crowded city..? Do I need speedlite to capture the model ?

    1. Hi Andrew, yes that was the setting here but that doesn’t necessarily mean that’s what will be needed at your location. Light levels may be different, you can use that as a starting point but you should really be thinking about using the camera in manual, doing a test and then adjusting one of the three exposure options that best suits your pre-visualised image. If you are not 100% confident of knowing the camera in manual mode or how many stops difference f9.5 is from f22 or how many stops difference it is from 1/30th to 1/250th then I’d recommend that you visit the essentials section and recap on everything there to get completely familiar with using manual mode.

  4. Karl, thank you mate! I really want to try this shot in a busy street in Madrid. Whats the setting on a 28-300 Nikkon lense ?

  5. Every day I learn something new. Its awe inspiring and getting to know the correct method which I was missing. Thanks Karl. You are a champ…

  6. Thanks Karl, a good suggestion, and a good point about second curtain sync – I think that I know what I’m doing with that but I’ll also check out your tutorial – although I was maybe visualising triggering the flash independently of the duration of the shutter opening time…..

  7. Thanks Karl – a ghost image would do, but I think that I’ll have to set it up with some friends driving their cars so that they know to expect some flashes…..

  8. Hi Karl,

    Another fab video – thanks. I’ve tried this kind of shot too, and would like to somehow also have the vehicles visible as well as their tail lights/headlights. I thought of using a speedlight to capture & freeze the movement of the cars, but reckoned that pointing a bright flashing light at moving traffic was probably a bit uncool! Any suggestions?

    1. Hi Graham, a speedlite or flash would be the only way to do it but it would create a semi transparent ghost image unless you got the car to stop and then flashed it.

  9. I am enjoying the content of your vids so far but I would like you to talk us through your composition and show us what you are seeing in the viewfinder when you first set up. Explain what you are hoping for, where you are aiming/focussing. You do it better in some vids and not so much in others. You are very good at talking us through the process etc but I wish you would spend a little more time teaching. It all feels a bit hectic.

    1. Hi Maysie, keep going through our other content including the portrait, fashion and studio stuff and you’ll hear me comment on those details too. Describing the ‘why’ of composition is often a difficult process as sometimes it is intuitive via practise. Chapter 63 of ‘Light Source’ in the ‘Portrait’ section might give you some new insights.

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