Light Painting Photography

Light Painting Photography

Light orbs, fire wheels, light drawings, 3D light extrusions and more – they are all heaps of fun, super creative and surprisingly easy to do! There is no hard and fast rules for how to do them, but here is what works well.

Saul Gonzalez Light Painting 2

All you need is your Camera, a tripod, some kind of light, maybe some string, LED lights, flashlights, Christmas lights or Light Sabers!

  1. Get your camera on a tripod: Yep, you do need one, or at least, a place to rest the camera so that it doesn’t move during the photo, which can be quite a long time – 5, 10, 15, 30 seconds or even longer!
  1. Frame up your shot: Best to do this now, before you start focusing etc., because on some lenses when you start zooming in and out to compose your shot, it throws off your carefully pre-set focus you will be doing next. Don’t forget to use MANUAL FOCUS and ensure that you’re shooting wide enough to fit in your whole intended light drawing.

Focusing: The basic trick here is that you have to pre-focus your camera with Manual Focus to ‘lock in’ the focus before you start taking shots, because as usual in these low-light situations, the camera will often struggle to find anything to focus on if you just leave it to it’s own devices. It’s easier to pre-focus with a friend – get them to go and stand where you’re intending to do your light painting, and then have them shine a torch or something at the camera, or alternatively you shine a torch on them to make them visible – either way, it should be pretty easy to focus on the lit subject.

  1. Camera settings: I’d recommend using TV mode on your camera’s Mode Dial (this is the same as ‘S’ mode on non-Canon cameras). This is the mode where you select whatever length of shutter speed you want, and the camera works out what aperture /f # must go with that to produce a correctly exposed image.
  1. Scroll your shutter speed out to whatever length you think you will require to do your light painting. Better too long than too short! 10 seconds (looks like 10 ” on the camera display) is plenty for a simple light drawing. Bigger more complex light painted scenes can take 30 seconds or more!
  1. As for your ISO take it off the AUTO setting and try setting it to 100 or 200. This will allow the colors of the lights to much more vibrant and visible. If you would like to see more of the subject/person holding the light use a higher ISO like 400.

Saul Gonzalez Light Painting 3

This is super easy – in theory! Pretty much all you’re doing is drawing an image in mid air with some kind of glowing light source (like a flash light, or it could be a glow stick, or whatever) and the path your light follows will trace itself into your photograph as a glowing trail. It’s actually harder than it looks to remember where you’ve already drawn – it’s like trying to draw with your eyes closed, but practice makes perfect.



GOAL: You will complete 6 beautiful light painting photograph’s for this assignment. Start small and easy, for example your initials or a smiley face, then work up to more creative imagery.

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