Saturday, November 21, 2009

Fun with Light Painting, Part I

One photography technique I feel is overlooked is light painting. For those of you who don't know what light painting is, allow me to fill you in (photography pun alert). Light painting is accomplished by shooting in (ideally) a pitch black room. You set your camera's focus with the lights on and your subject in place, then turn the lights off. Your subject poses, and you begin a long exposure, starting with a flash. The flash captures the pose of your subject, and then someone (usually the subject) spends the rest of the exposure time with a lighter, LED, flashlight, or some such device, painting in the air. You can write words, draw pictures, etc.

I was with a few friends tonight, and we were starting to get really creative with our ideas. One friend suggested that we try posing him in a "scared" position, fire the flash, and then have another person step into the frame. We then drew lines all over BEHIND the second subject, outlining him like an ominous ghost. Here's the result:

click to enlarge, or see it on Flickr

This image has been rather heavily processed (darkened a bit, lowered the contrast, and removed most of the color). Pretty cool. An interesting lesson I learned from this is that even something you would think was a mistake can make a shot better. In the last two seconds or so of exposure, someone opened the door (to the left and behind), letting in light from the outside. I thought this would wash out the shot, but it only gave a little light to my background and subject, and cast a better shadow of the second subject.

The second subject had a great light-painting idea on our way out of the building. I won't tell you what, but when we take the image, I'll be sure to do a post about it. If we bring it off, it will be awesome in epic proportions.

Go out there and start painting! Link to your good images in the comments.


  1. Great job! It looks like a lot of fun. Did the subjects also have a lot of fun with it? It looks like they did.

  2. Yeah, they were having a blast. Actually, we're all meeting at the same spot on Tuesday with a bunch of other friends to try a massive shot - we need as many people as we can to paint everything I want in one frame, because I have a maximum of 15 seconds for my shutter speed.

  3. Can you set your camera to bulb?

  4. No, although apparently the Fireworks setting can force an exposure longer than 15 seconds... I'll have to look into that.


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