Light Painting Photography

Photography is often thought of as a daytime activity. But what happens when it's dark out? Then you can take photos by drawing lines and shapes with flashlights, using a long exposure! This is called light painting, and it is a lot of fun.

So the first step is to set up the camera on a tripod. You want the camera to be stationary while you draw out the shape or letters in front of it.

Next, set your camera on a long exposure. You want at least 15 seconds of exposure, if not longer. So the shutter will open when you press the button, stay open for those 15 or more seconds, and then close again.

Now, when you press the button, the fun starts. Either you can do it yourself and then run in front of the camera, or you can have a friend press that starting button for you. Once that shutter is open, you want to be in front of the camera, aiming your flashlight at the camera, and "drawing" on an invisible canvas in front of you.

Start with a simple box. Move your flashlight up, left, down, and right. Then go to the camera and display the image it just took, to see how big the box is. That will give you a sense of how this works and how much "space" you have to work with.

Then have fun! Remember that the camera will see the reverse of what you are doing, so if you write letters, you have to write them backwards. It takes a little practice, but it's fun! Try drawing shapes. Try using different colored glowsticks.

The images below were all done with a standard flashlight. These were all on my first day of light painting.

So this first one is a spiral. I started by pointing the flashlight straight at the camera. Then I moved the flashlight in a spiral shape, slowly moving outward from the center point.

light painting photography

This next one is a heart. I started with the flashlight right in front of my nose. I moved the flashlight up to the right, then down towards my stomach. That was the bottom of the heart. Then I raised the flashlight up and left, and around to my nose again. Having a "anchor point" in your mind for parts of the drawing can help a lot.

light painting photography

My boyfriend did this third one. He is excellent at spatial awareness. This was his first five minutes of trying out light painting. He started with the "dot" in the I. He turned the flashlight on and off in that spot. Then, with the flashlight off, he moved it over to the starting position of the L. Then he turned the flashlight on there and moved it along the rest of the word.

light painting photography

Here are light paintings done on specific topics:
People and Light Paintings

Black and Decker Multi-Color Flashlight

Light painting is a lot of fun. Be sure to give it a try sometime!

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