Photo Technique: Light Painting

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Light painting in a photo is easy and super addictive

Have you heard of photography as ‘painting with light’? It was a joke amongst the photographers when I worked at a commercial photo studio- some would refer to their photos as ‘light paintings’. We all got a good chuckle out of that.

With this impromptu project, you can paint (or draw?) with light using your DSLR camera and a flashlight. I’ll show you what we did and how we got some of the extra-cool effects. This is what we do sometimes when the Lifetime movie is one we’ve already seen and we feel the urge to turn off the TV. (Which is rare. TV is the best.)

Light painting- smiley face! Learn how to do this.

All you need is a DSLR and a flashlight. We used the flashlight from an iPhone, since it’s smaller than a regular flashlight. You can do this with any flashlight (or sparklers), and your results will be a little different. Also, for the photos here where you can see Fen’s face, she ‘drew’ her lines with the flashlight, and then either she or I would turn the flashlight on her face for a second or two.

Using a flashlight for light painting - learn how to do this here.

Set your DSLR to these settings:

Aperture: f16 or thereabouts- you want to get as much in focus as you can, and a higher fstop will help you achieve this.

ISO: 200

Shutter speed: Put it on ‘bulb’. I don’t know if this is called something else on different cameras, but essentially it keeps the shutter open until you close it. This will let you capture the movement of the light as it moves through the air.

Have your supermodel stand in the dark with the flashlight on. We pointed the light out facing the camera.

The person taking the photo will want to prop the camera on a tripod or other sturdy surface. When they press the shutter down, they say, ‘go!’ and the other person starts drawing or writing in the air with their flashlight. They say ‘stop’ when they’re finished drawing, and the photographer releases the shutter.

Light painting with a camera - you can do this with your dslr

Inevitably, you’ll try to write words and draw hilarious things. See what else you can do with this. I’m brainstorming now, but it would be fun to try coloring in a big area with the light, drawing a circle for like 3 straight minutes, different color lights, etc.

Have fun light painting, and sign up for my weekly newsletter here if you liked this project. (You can unsubscribe at any time if you hate it:) )

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