There a many different ways to photograph light trails and painting with light, the following tutorial is what worked for us at the Snapshots meet. You can also find this tutorial in the Red Door Creative Group you can also enter your awesome images in the Painting with Light Challenge.
There are two very different methods you can use when painting with light.
- Painting portions of the subject with diffuse light
Here you paint around your subject, or on your subject to expose desired parts (eg. Face), while ensuring that the torch faces away from the camera and directly towards the subject. You can get quite close to the subject for a more intense light, or move back for a softer light. This technique will give your object a beautiful glow.
- Creating light trails
In this technique you use the light source (LED or laser light works best) to draw outlines or shapes making sure that the light is facing the camera.
Here is what you will need
- A camera capable of long exposures
- A tripod. Since you will be shooting long exposures you want to make sure your camera sits still.
- A torch, LED light, glow stick or laser light.
- A dark location. If you are going to shoot outside – make sure that you are not doing this under a street light, or where a car can come by and spoil your shot
Here is how it’s done
- Using an exposure of about ten-to-thirty seconds and a tripod for best results, it is simply a case of taking a test shot to judge the exposure needed to get enough of a light trail, but not to overexpose the image.
- Use your camera on a manual setting – we had our aperture set to 18 or greater with the shutter speed at 20 seconds.
- Then once the shutter is open use your light source to light what you want to paint. You can use the light as a brush, and smear the light, or, you can use the light as a pen, and do precise work. Areas where you go slowly will be more lit then others. Be careful not to linger too much over the same place – you may end up with blown out areas.
- Once the shutter closes, inspect your image and make any corrections.
Tips n Tricks
Don’t worry too much about being in the shot, if you move around while painting, the exposure will be too dark to actually capture you unless you shine the light right at yourself. So don’t stand in one place but you don’t have to run around frantically.
Remember that different light sources will give you different colours.
• Torch light – yellow light (perfect for painting the subject)
• LED light – white light (perfect for tracing the subject and creating light trails)
• Try glow sticks for interesting colours – the kids waved the stick in front of the lens, this created a great colour glow.
Enjoy and get shooting!!