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【Fun Fact】Capture vehicle light trails easily with your smartphone.

Level 10

Times have changed, and now you don't need professional-level cameras to capture light trails.

Capturing light trails is not difficult at all. As long as your camera equipment allows you to extend the shutter speed to 10 seconds or more, you can typically achieve the effect of light streaks.

Here are some general settings you can use:

1.First, the camera needs to be switched to manual mode so that you can freely control the ISO and exposure time.

2.Try to keep the ISO setting as low as possible. Start experimenting with the lowest ISO value your equipment offers, and remember to disable the Auto ISO function if your camera has it.

3.Experiment with exposure times starting from 10 seconds. Typically, exposure times for capturing light trails range from 10 to 30 seconds.

4.Use a wide-angle lens for shooting. The wider, the better.

5.Use a tripod. Alternatively, place the camera on any stable surface. Since longer exposure times require more stability for the shot, using a tripod is the safest option.

6.It's recommended to set the aperture around f/11, but you can also experiment with apertures between f/8 and f/18. A larger aperture results in thinner light trails and requires shorter exposure times, while a smaller aperture produces thicker light trails and requires longer exposure times.

7.Use a shutter release cable. Triggering the camera's shutter button with your finger may cause camera shake, so it's advisable to activate the shutter without touching the camera body. You can use a remote shutter release cable if your camera supports it, or set a delayed shutter release (though this may make framing more challenging).

If you're unsure about the specific parameters to set, you can consider switching to shutter priority mode first and setting the exposure time to around 15 seconds to see what kind of results you get. Then, you can adjust the ISO and aperture based on the values provided by the camera's automatic settings.

When composing your shot, it's recommended to look for elevated vantage points. Intersections with heavy traffic and pedestrian footbridges are ideal locations for experimentation.


An even simpler method is available.

A simpler approach is available with some newer smartphones, which may have built-in light trail shooting modes.

For example, the ROG Phone series has had this feature since the 6th generation, allowing users to directly activate the light trail mode in the camera app.

With this mode, capturing light trails becomes much easier. Just find a good shooting location, ensure stability during the shot (I still recommend using a tripod), and you're set.

If the smartphone has strong anti-shake capabilities, you might even be able to skip the tripod.

Taking the ROG Phone 8 as an example, all you need to do is find an elevated point with sufficient traffic, activate the light trail mode, keep your hands steady, and set the exposure time to 3-5 seconds.

However, it's worth noting that smartphone light trail modes may have some limitations. The resulting light trails may not be perfectly smooth and could appear slightly sharp or even segmented. This is mainly because the light trails are synthesized using 1-second intervals.

Below are some light trail effects captured by the author using the handheld ROG Phone 8 with the light trail mode enabled:


If you find the light trail too sharp, you can consider adding some lens flare using post-processing software. If you're not familiar with post-processing, that's okay too. Just throw it into Instagram and try adding a filter effect when uploading. Halo and Soft Light are both worth trying.


Wishing everyone can capture magical and enchanting photos.