Light painting is an imaging technique that uses a moving light source to add light to an under-illuminated subject while taking a long-exposure photograph. A scene or object can be brought to life by painting with a beam of light!
Focusing your camera is an important first step and in the dark it can sometimes be difficult to achieve. The simplest way to get your focus is to shine a light source to a spot in your scene that you have determined must be in focus. Also use a manual option and give a long exposure.
- Paint from the sides – Don’t just stand behind your camera and wave your light around over your image. Painting flat surfaces from the side will allow you to bring out the textures of the surface.
- Use lots of different angles – for instance, when painting the ground hold the beam low and pan the light over the ground. This will keep the ground from appearing flat and bring out all the details of the surface. Also, by adding light from many angles your resulting image will have an interesting three dimensional effect.
- Don’t stand between the camera and your light source or you will show up as a silhouetted ghost in your image.
- Don’t shine the light source back at the camera, or else you will create a bright spot in the image.
- Use a flash light with a red filter when you need to check your camera to make adjustments. The red light will keep you from ruining your night vision.
- Different surfaces are going to react to light differently. Wood surfaces may require more light than shiny surfaces such as metal or glass, as rougher surfaces absorb more light than smooth surfaces.
- Keep your light moving. Move the beam in slow strokes to add light and make faster strokes in areas where less light is needed.
- Paint in up-and-down or side-to-side strokes, just like one paint’s with real paint.
- You are more than likely not going to get the shot you want on the first try, and it may take multiple attempts to get an image that you are satisfied with. For this reason, try to keep track of how much light you add to each surface. Develop a plan so that you can make adjustments to each exposure until you get the image you have visualized.
This Picture was shot on a river bank at around 2 AM in the Morning, in complete darkness. This is an abandoned church, and provided a perfect setting for this light painting experiment. A long exposure of 20s was used here with about 5s of light painting. Of course we were in a group with friends , so we painted in rotation for others 😊
You, the photographer can become an artist, and instead of just capturing an image as presented, with light painting you create the image that the camera is capturing. Light painting may take lots of patience and practice to perfect, but the results can be very rewarding. But let’s not make this sound too complicated – light painting is a lot like any low light photography.
Enjoy your Lens views !