How to shoot a light trail photo where an object is still in focus?

by Niyaz   Last Updated February 19, 2018 18:18 PM

I have come across this picture of a car where the background has a light trail effect but the object (which is the car) is still in focus.

I know how to create the light trail effect but I'm not sure how to keep the foreground in focus. I'm a beginner.

Does anyone know the name of this technique? Was this achieved with just photography or would Photoshop be required?

See example below: light trail effect with foreground in focus

Answers 2

This is motion blur caused by 'panning'. Ideally, you would use a tripod and track the car (panning) as it's moving with a relatively slow shutter speed. The background will blur as you move the camera, but the car will stay in focus as it's relative position with the camera hasn't changed.

The slower your shutter speed the harder it will be to keep the vehicle in focus, and the faster the vehicle will also be harder to keep in focus. You can start at something like 1/30s and then try lowering the shutter speed. It will take some practice to find the right balance between the speed of your subject and your shutter speed to get the effect you want.

Try reading this article for more details.

February 19, 2018 17:48 PM

This technique is called “panning”. Panning produces the effect you are asking about however panning also allows the photographer to freeze action using a lowered shutter speed. Panning the camera is often employed when imaging airplanes, cars and running athletes. The photographer composes the fast moving subject and swipes the camera, keeping pace with the subject, as the shutter is pressed. It is important that the photographer follows through. In other words, pressing the shutter while maintaining the swing. The net effect is, the subject is imaged frozen in place whereas the background is imaged as a moving blur. This technique contribute a feeling of motion that will not be realized is the camera is held stationary. Panning is also useful when lighting conditions are too feeble to allow a fast shutter. If the camera is panned, the shutter can be set considerable slower and the pan action reduces blurring subject motion. You need to practice panning, with follow through.

Alan Marcus
Alan Marcus
February 19, 2018 17:50 PM

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