A place for experimental photographers

Long Exposure Photography (inside a car)

Following a recent trip to the mountains with a friend of mine, I decided to write about long exposure photography again. This time, however, realised in a different and rather tight shooting location.


Although these shots may look difficult to capture, the basics behind this kind of photography are rather straightforward. If you are new to long exposure photography, please familiarise yourself with my previous posts: Painting with Light, Painting with Light (continued), Long Exposure Photography – Capturing Car Lights.

Once again, just a quick reminder. In long exposure photography, any moving source of light will produce light trails. So, what you will need to take such pictures yourself is: a DSLR camera, a wide-angle lens (provided you want to achieve greater field of view, if not an ordinary lens will do), a sturdy tripod, a remote control, a spacious car, a straight road, a good driver and lots of street lights.

Once you set up your tripod on the back seat, mount your camera, compose the picture and try to level the horizon. You can use your camera’s built-in level or a separate bubble level attaching to the hot shoe. You may want to do this while the car is still as it is way easier to get a straight horizon. Also, use a tripod which has separately adjustable legs. That way you will be able to position your camera between the front seats, as close to the driver as possible. Remember, trigger your camera with a remote and don’t even touch your tripod while driving to avoid repositioning the tripod accidentally or camera shake which affects your exposures.

Finally, select the right setting. The above shots were taken with an f/8 aperture, 4-8s. shutter speed, ISO400, auto white-balance and matrix metering mode in RAW. However, selecting the right setting is a creative process which largely depends on the driver and the conditions on the road. If you are lucky enough to find a long and perfectly even stretch of road, go for longer exposures. Then you will be able to achieve longer trails and your images will remain sharp. If not, go for shorter exposures. The trails may be shorter but your images, including the driver, will be sharp. Remember, camera shake is the only obstacle that may blur and ruin your pictures. Secondly, capture the areas of the city that have a lot of lights coming from all directions. In addition, if there isn’t enough light inside the car, you may want to use the spot or center-weighted mode to capture only the outside view. Otherwise, use the matrix metering mode. Experiment with the settings yourself and eventually you will find the right combination to get the desired effect. Also, ask the driver to slow down, stabilise the car and not to move. This will help a lot.

Thanks for reading and good luck with your photography.

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5 responses

  1. This is really interesting, You are a very skilled
    blogger. I’ve joined your rss feed and look forward to seeking more of your great post. Also, I have shared your site in my social networks!

    June 21, 2013 at 10:28 am

  2. Good post I have to admit. Simple yet somehow useful
    and also engaging. Keep up the awesome work! Thank you,
    so much!

    June 21, 2013 at 4:33 pm

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