Let there be light! Light painting and all you need to know

Everybody knows them, the pictures with beautiful light objects floating in the air. Light painting is a technique in photography that makes use of long-term lighting. There are no limits to creativity and the possibilities to shoot magical photos are unlimited. In this article we’ll explain to you how to use this technique and how it works in general.

What is light painting and how does it work?

Light painting is the technique of photography by which objects are drawn into the photo by means of a light source such as a flashlight. The pictures are taken in the dark and without using flash. Due to underexposure, but with a long exposure time, the traces of the light source are immortalized in the pictures.

Which equipment do you need?

First of all, you need your SLR camera, of course. In any case you should set the camera on a sturdy tripod that can’t be overturned by the wind. Furthermore, a remote trigger that can be triggered via radio or cable may be of good use.

Now let’s get down to business

The most important thing within the technique of light painting is the exposure time. It should be at least 30 seconds, though it can also be longer. For most SLRs, an exposure time of up to 30 seconds is not a problem. For longer exposure times, there are also cameras with a so-called “Bulb” mode. The aperture should be as much closed as possible, so make sure you take a picture with a large f-number. Depending on the intensity of your light source, you should also adjust the ISO value accordingly. The weaker the light source, the higher you can set the ISO and the farther the aperture can be opened.

Learning the technique of light painting is basically try and error. Just try out some things and do what you’re comfortable with.

Timing and scenery

The basis of light painting photos is basically the light. Therefore the background and the environment should be particularly dark. The most beautiful photos can be taken in the dark of the night. If you don’t happen to be a night owl or just want to try light painting for the first time without a big set-up during the night, you can just darken the room completely. Also be sure to wear dark clothing so as not to distract from your masterpiece as you scurry through the picture. Classic first motifs are, for example, flowers, hearts or even lettering. However, when drawing words, note that they will be mirrored on the photo. The more creative you are, the better and fancier the photos will turn out in the end. All in all, light painting is a technique with inexhaustible possibilities and opportunities for further development, which sets no limits to your creativity. So, up you go into the darkness of the night, or even of your room, and good luck!

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