Introduction: Get Smooth Traffic Streaks in Your Photos

About: I'm good natured, secretly shy, and much more comfortable behind the camera than in front of it.

Streaks of light give your photo a dynamic quality, a sense of motion. Trails of traffic zipping through the city looks great in cityscape shots. A few tips for capturing the frames:

  • Shoot at dawn or dusk
  • Use a tripod
  • Target your exposure between 1s and 10s, depending on traffic speeds and ambient light (some experimentation is usually needed)
  • Take several different photos of the same scene with traffic in different areas of your composition

Sometimes you need more than one shot to get the look you want. Layering software and the Lighten blending mode is excellent for blending in traffic streaks from a set of images into a single photo.

Step 1: Capture Several Photos

Traffic ebbs and flows like the ocean. Notice there are traffic streaks in different areas of these photos. Combined, there are appealing light trails in each area of the roadway.

Step 2: Blend the Individual Frames With the Lighten Blending Mode

Load the individual photos into your favorite layering software and blend them together using the Lighten blending mode. See the video for details.

Step 3: Remove Distracting Elements

I retouched away some distractions in the foreground such as the bus and taxi in the lower right and some of the street lamps.

Step 4: Stylize As You Like!

Finishing touches included some color amplification, contrast, and sharpness.