Light Painting

By | December 10th, 2010|Tutorials, Photography, Fun|9 Comments

Light is essential for photography, it reveals the form and color of our subjects. What if we forget about the subject and make €œlight€ our subject? Enter light painting. Grab a couple of glow sticks, set your camera for long exposure and get your rave on!

Light Painting #14 (Vortex)

With light painting you are not limited to capturing reality. You can create a new reality from scratch, or just highlight the parts you want under the light that you prefer. Get your creative cap on and think what you can do with smoke, glowing liquids, a nice black light and a skateboard…

Here are some tips to get you going:

  • Dress in black, so you don’t show in the picture; perfect time to use that ninja mask!
  • Select the lowest ISO to minimize noise, the long exposure time will compensate your exposure.
  • Use small aperture, it will make it easier for your photo to be in focus.
  • Use manual focus; it is hard for most cameras to focus in darker situations.
  • If you have to use autofocus, then use the old trick of the laser pointer with a shape, shine the laser onto the area of interest and your camera should not have problems focusing on that.
  • A steady camera is a must, you do want to use your tripod for this.
  • Angle your light source so some of it is pointing to the camera.

Here are some great examples of what can be done.

Just Add Light

This article gives some useful advice on not seeming suspicious.

Although not technically photos, the images in this article are awesome!

I guess the image below is not light painting, but it is related. Light steel wool on fire and swing it around to get an amazing show! A coffee can on a string with holes in it can help.

A Light Painting Experiment

About the Author:

Asdiel converts morning coffee into lines and lines of source code for your enjoyment.


  1. Michael Dwight Forbus December 15, 2010 at 1:04 pm

    Excellent tutorial. You guys get more brilliant by the minute. Happy Holidays to you and all those you love and that love you. Blessings. Miguel

  2. Franklin December 15, 2010 at 1:43 pm

    Thank you for sharing the light! I now have some more tools to use in low light shooting. It is very generous of you to bring these ideas to the table.

  3. Carl December 15, 2010 at 3:09 pm

    How was the one of the guy in the tunnel created? Really neat!

    • Jeff December 15, 2010 at 5:08 pm

      I assume you are referring to the light painting article. You can click the picture to go to a web site that shows similar pictures and talks about how to do it. All the light painting pictures are links to other sites.

  4. นคร December 16, 2010 at 9:03 am

    English translation: “The painting with light technique is great and very useful.”

  5. R. J. Kern December 16, 2010 at 11:26 am

    I lightpaint on almost off of my engagement and portrait shoots. My clients appreciate my enthusiasm and they get some new creative images which none of their friends have. When shooting people, I use a very large light source (like a 5 foot octa) at full power, which still gives me 30 seconds to do my thing. Here is a recent wedding at Rocky Mountain National Park where I spun steel wool after dark.

  6. Rosemarie Beall December 17, 2010 at 12:56 am

    how do I upload a pic of light painting I did even before I read your blog.

    • Jeff December 17, 2010 at 10:16 am

      You can’t upload pictures here, but you can in our Flickr group.

  7. Light & Painting | Sıla Güven November 11, 2013 at 1:54 am

    […] With light painting I am not limited to capturing reality. More examples about the subject. I can create a new reality from scratch, or just highlight the parts you want under the light that I prefer. Alien Skin […]

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