Dennis Calvert

Light Painting, Photography, and Other Creative Endeavors

Light Painting Primer

Often times, people have a hard time believing you can create this kind of stuff with out the one stop cure-all miracle known as Photoshop. The approach and methods for creating a light painting are very simple and straightforward.

All right, so here’s the basic idea.

What you need:

  • A camera with a manual shutter speed, preferably bulb mode.
  • Tripod
  • Shutter release, I use the wireless canon rc-1. It has one button and an on/off switch. Simple and perfect for working in the dark.
  • A dark environment, we are going to be dealing with very long exposure times and just a little bit of ambient light will make a huge impact on how the image turns out.
  • Light source(s) (flash lights, electric glow sticks, anything that lights up)
  • A dash of creativity.

How you do it:

With the camera mounted on the tripod and set to bulb mode, open the shutter, move lights, illuminate the environment, close shutter.

There are two basic forms of lp: light drawing and surface painting. Drawing with light is done by pointing a light source such as a flash light, LEDs, etc, directly at the camera and creating lines and shapes. Surface painting is when you hide the actual source of light from the camera and use the light to only illuminate the environment you are in. Personally, I like to incorporate both techniques in my work.

Camera Settings:

This area is totally subjective. Exposure time can range from 10 seconds to 10 minutes. Lower ISO settings will generally give you better quality photos. If you shoot with your aperture wide open it may look as little too soft, hell it might look cool. My point, try some stuff out. Get comfortable with your camera and just experiment. There is no golden rule.

Here are a few making of videos so you can see it in action. Check back soon for more indepth and detailed explanations of light painting techniques.