How to Shoot Light Trail Photography on Your Phone

By making long exposures, you are able to slow down the test of time and view the world from a whole different perspective, one that only the camera can see.

Light Trail Photography 05

Shooting light trails adds a unique flare to photography. By making long exposures, you are able to slow down the test of time and view the world from a whole different perspective, one that only the camera can see. It’s also a great way to toy around with manual settings to increase your understanding of the exposure triangle (ISO, shutter speed, and aperture). However, speaking specifically in the context of the Moment Pro Camera App, you are now able to select “Light Trails” mode as part of our latest Slow Shutter feature.

Here are some hot tips to help you create stunning light trail photographs in a way that’s unique and advanced.

Photo By: Taylor Pendelton

Photo By: Taylor Pendelton

Moment Pro Camera App’s Light Trail Mode

The Moment Pro Camera App provides advanced features to mimic a DSLR in the palm of your hand. One of the most beloved tools is the shutter speed adjustment for any and all motion blur / long exposure tactics — a resource responsible for changing the brightness of your photos and creating exciting, dramatic effects with movement. Understanding the basic fundamentals of shutter speed is crucial for any beginner photographer, especially for the topic we chose to discuss in this article.

However, in addition to manually controlling shutter speed to create long exposure light trails, we’ve added a brand new feature: “Slow Shutter”. What is slow shutter? It’s how you add the illusion of motion to your photography. Set your tripod, open the shutter, and stop when you have the shot. The end result is a new kind of Live Photo, that you can review on your phone and then export as a beautiful image or short video. You can manually change the setting to “Slow Shutter” in the right-hand corner of the app.

Like everything we do with Pro Camera, we give you the manual control to pick your type of blur and then select how long you expose the shot. We have two kinds of image blur.

  1. Motion blur adds a smooth motion blur effect, it can be used to emphasize the path of moving subjects or to smooth running water.
  2. Light trails, on the other hand, draws streams of light coming from moving subjects in the scene; it can be used to capture trails of cars on a night highway or the chaotic path of exploding fireworks.

When you’re done, we save your images to your camera library as a Live Photo. Press and hold to see what you shot or export it in the final format you want.

Sweet light trails done FAST.

Faster shutter = segmented lines.

Start With a Tripod

Because the camera’s sensor is open for a longer period of time than a regular photograph, your subject must stand very, very still in order to stay tack sharp. Tripods are a good piece of equipment to have in most cases, but this is a critical tool to use for shooting long exposures. Make sure your phone camera is properly mounted onto the tripod before setting your shot.

Check out this article I wrote on the best mobile tripods on the market to see which one suits your fancy. From hand-held ball heads to backpacker models, we’ve got you covered on all fronts.

Slight motion blur in the model's movements.

Corner light trail.

Add Some Extra Lighting Tools for A Sweet Effect

For the shoot you see above in particular, our photographer and in-house filmmaker, Taylor Pendleton, took both LitraTorches and LumeCubes to create a secluded, moody photoshoot displaying expert level portrait techniques. These images are the perfect testament to conceptualized long exposure photography.

We offer both light sources in our shop, for those interested. The LitraTorch™ is the world’s most versatile adventure photo and video light. At 1.5"x1.5" in size, the Torch provides 800 lumen of continuous, high quality light. It's built with a waterproof, drop proof aluminum body construction so you can take it with you into extreme elements and still have professional lighting available.

The Lume Cube represents the future of LED Lighting, as it’s built with professional quality specs. The Lume Cube is pocket sized at 1.5 inches cubed, emits a powerful 1,500 Lumens of daylight balanced light, and is waterproof to 100 feet and made with a custom lens. You can also use a variety of vibrant color shades to filter the light from the Lube Cube, as represented in the pictures above. Taylor used both the bright blue and red LED filters, displaying a purple-ish backdrop.

Blue and red lights on either side of model.

Pro tip: move the camera and NOT the subject in "Light Trail" mode.

Time Your Shot

In the moment app under the Light Trail setting, you have the ability to set a specific time for how long you want the shutter open. It goes anywhere from 4 seconds to Bulb mode (we’ll get more into this in the later tip). Choosing the amount of time the shutter will be open for greatly varies how the light will be displayed in your image. The images where you see the line chopped into mini segments, rather than one continuous line, means that the shutter was open for a shorter period of time. Experiment with how long you’d like to keep the shutter open for and see what look you best prefer.

Make cool light trails by designing them yourselves.

Motion blur.

Bulb Mode

Bulb mode is a camera function that allows the photographer to take a picture for however long the shutter is pushed down. You can manually choose Bulb mode by sliding the number sequence over to the right until you see the button “Bulb” in the Moment Pro Camera App. While bulb mode is particularly useful for astrophotography and night-scapes, you can use Bulb mode for virtually any function, as it’s up to the photographer for how long the shutter is open.

Sparkler exit!

Happy Creating!

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