Step by Step Guide to Light Painting Photography Ideas, Tips and Techniques – illuminate your imagination as we cover the fundamentals of light painting photography, from tips to camera settings to equipment to help your light painting photography ideas.
Have you ever come across those shots of vibrantly lit words and shapes full of light online and wondered how to reproduce them?
Painting light is an easy and enjoyable practice, from aspiring to professional photographers. It is referred to as light painting because that is precisely what you are doing, painting with light when your shot is being taken.
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Introduction of Photography with Light Painting
Light Painting Photography Ideas, Tips, and Techniques – Light Painting is a photography technique that uses a handheld light source for long exposure to “paint” or “draw” light into the image. Painting with light is a common photography practice, mainly because it’s pretty easy to achieve great results, needs little specialised equipment, and you can get some fascinating results.
Light painting photography ideas, also referred to as light drawing or light graffiti, is a photography technique that uses a moving light source—such as a torch, a glow stick, a light brush, or even a smartphone—to change the picture when taking a long exposure shot. Instead of merely capturing an image, light painters add another aspect by highlighting an object or producing streaks, colours or flashes in the picture.
Check Our Articles about Long Exposure Photography in here:
3 Primary Light Sources for Light Painting Photography Ideas
For light painting photography ideas, there are three primary types of light sources:
1. On-camera source for light painting photography ideas
A light source on the camera means that the light element is a visible subject. With this method, you simply walk into the picture frame and use a light source to “paint”. It’s a good idea to wear dark clothing if you choose this technique, so you don’t show up in the image yourself.
2. Off-camera source for light painting photography ideas
You can shine a light from beyond the camera frame with an off-camera light source onto a part of the photograph. Light sources outside of the camera are suitable for highlighting particular objects or changing the picture’s overall tone.
3. Light painting photography ideas with kinetic light
You are merely going to transfer the camera, not the light source, with kinetic light painting. So, you might make a candlelight painting, for instance, with the light emitted from a candle.
What Equipment Do You Need for Light Painting Photography Ideas?
The first thing to create light painting photography is a camera with manual controls. At least changing your camera’s shutter speed is essential. Light painters produce pictures on digital and video cameras. The most common type of camera used in light painting is a DSLR camera, so you can check your image instantly on location.
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Canon 6D Mark II
If you own a higher-end camera, the lenses are interchangeable. There are hundreds of lenses for any camera type. If you’ve been painting light for a while, you may feel like a photographic virgin. Generally, the sooner you can open the lens, the better. If you’re light painting out in the darkness and want to catch a starry sky in your scene, you’ll want a lens that allows you to carry the most light. Zoom lenses allow you to create amazing light-painting images.
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A strong tripod is an integral part of light painting photography ideas. Tripods come in a range of sizes and materials; carbon fiber tripods are a great choice but can be very costly. Some items to check for when you purchase a new tripod are weight limits, how far the tripod can stretch, and whether the tripod has built-in levels.
I strongly recommend that you spend a little extra money on a piece of light painting equipment. Your light painting exposures vary from 5 to over an hour. When you open your camera shutter and light a 30-minute scene to come back and see your tripod slipped, it hurts.
Neewer Carbon Fiber
Remote Shutter Release
Cable releases, also known as a shutter release or intervalometer, vary in difficulty and are a perfect addition to light painting photographers’ arsenal. Some shutter releases are a primary trigger push button, and some are computer-controlled. The more complicated, the more costly they become. Costs range from around $10.00 to hundreds of dollars.
Higher shutter releases such as the PIXEL 2.4G Wireless E3/N3 allow limitless delay and exposure combinations. A shutter release doesn’t necessitate light painting photography, but it’s an excellent accessory.
PIXEL 2.4G Wireless E3/N3
Neutral Density Filter
Neutral Density Filter also known as ND Filter is a dark, color neutral filter used to monitor the amount of light hitting the film or sensor. ND filters can be used during daytime hours or when light source is particularly bright.
A good ND filter is one that can be modified to suit your existing lens, such as the K&F Concept 49mm. You can also get cheaper ND material and make your own filter system.
K&F Concept 49mm
Light Sources for Light Painting Photography Ideas
This is where you can decide the photos you want to make. You may use natural light sources such as the moon or all sorts of artificial light sources such as sparklers and torches. There are several styles of ‘light sticks,’ from relatively cheap to very costly! By adding a string of LED lights to a bamboo stick, you can even generate light! You may use colour gels to change the light colours.
A lot of tools are available to help you make good light-painting pictures. Only a quick look online will show a variant of quality tools.
1050 Lumens Tactical Flashlight
LED Key Chain Lights
Wheels with attached LEDs
The tape is the best friend of light painters. Gaffers Tape, Gorilla Tape, and Duct Tape have numerous applications in light-painting photography. Gaffers tape is best to use when removing it you don’t want to leave any residue behind, it’s a sturdy tape that will pull away clean, but it’s pricey.
Steel Wool Fireworks
In light painting photography, fireworks are used to produce some of the most dramatic effects you can make, and they are the most fun to work with light painting photography ideas.
LED Fiber Optic Whip
Lightshow Orbital Rave Light Toy
Light Painting Brushes
Light Painting Brushes Universal Connector is the LPB device base. This simple rubber connector revolutionized Light Painting Photography Ideas tools, enabling Light Painters to quickly and easily attach unlimited lights and light modifiers.
Using Universal Connector, you can make your own DIY tools or use Light Painting Brushes’ professional light modifiers.
Light Painting Brushes Universal Connector 3 Pack
Light Painting Photography Ideas: Camera Settings
Like any advanced photography, you’ll want to play around with your camera settings to find out the exact ones to use for the effect you want. But some details will help you start with light painting photography ideas.
The most significant thing that’s different from most of the pictures you’ll probably take is that you’ll want a long exposure. We talk long: at least 30 seconds, if not longer, depending on what you make. A long exposure allows your camera to catch motion while stationary objects remain crisp. In light paintings, movement would be a light source.
Here are the most simple settings to set on your camera to get that long exposure successfully and produce a light painting photography ideas:
- Mode: Manual, bulb
- Shutter speed: 30 seconds
- Aperture: f/5.6
- ISO: 100
Note that these are just starting points and that you may need to adjust these settings to make the picture brighter or darker for your particular situation.
Besides manipulating exposure settings, light painting requires adjustments to the image’s white balance.
White balance relates to the image’s colour temperature, precisely, colour casts that appear to have a colouration that creates neutral tones such as white.
You may need to use the tungsten or incandescent white balance setting (but don’t be afraid to try one of the other options too), depending on the light you use to paint the scene.
On your part, this will require some experimentation, but the objective is to generate light that is true to colour.
Your camera might have trouble finding the focus on its own since you’re going to be shooting at night.
You can simply illuminate the subject with your light (turned to maximum brightness) to get around this so that your camera’s autofocus system has the best chance of obtaining focus.
In order to lock the focus in place, switch your lens to manual focus once the focus is set.
As long as you don’t move the camera, all of your photos’ focus will be set. Alternatively, to ensure you get a clear, crisp shot, you can learn how to focus your lens manually.
The last camera setting for Light Painting Photography Ideas is to shoot your light painting images in the RAW format. Unlike JPEGs, this format retains all the details that the sensor captures and provides you with more information to work with post-processing.
Find The Right Background to Light Painting Photography Ideas
In light painting photography, it is critical to find an excellent location. Find a way to interact with the environment and make it seem that your orbs are a part of the environment.
Your background doesn’t need to be a famous landmark. It doesn’t always have to be so gorgeous, either. It might be a park filled with trees or even a backyard for you. What matters is how you use the room for photography with light painting.
For a balanced composition, think about where to position yourself. When possible, you should also try to use elements in the background to make the image of your light painting look more cohesive.
Consider the ambient light around it when searching for a location. If it’s too bright, your light painting may drown you out. The best background should be dark enough to enable you to use up to thirty seconds of shutter speed. It should not overwhelm the light source that you are using, either. Otherwise, it’s going to be hard to see what you have drawn in the air.
4 Basic Light Painting Photography Tutorial: Step by Step
As mentioned previously, an aperture of f/5.6, a shutter speed of 30 seconds, and an ISO of 100 is an excellent place to start with your camera settings.
However, these are all general guidelines, and tweaks will almost undoubtedly need to be made depending on the particular situation you are working in.
Get your camera on your tripod, make sure image stabilisation is OFF, and turn off long noise reduction when your camera is equipped.
Illuminate the subject with light and use the light to allow your camera’s autofocus system to concentrate on the subject (or you can do it manually if you like). Once the focus is reached, switch the lens to manual if it is not already locked.
As you explore light painting photography ideas, try to keep your enthusiasm in check and start with a small subject instead of immediately try a masterpiece of grand light painting.
By selecting a small subject, such as an old rusty truck, you can work the shot in one light and exposure.
With this simple setup, you can focus on ironing out exposure settings and light settings to get the photo right.
When your gear is in place, take a couple of test shots at the highest possible exposure. You would also want to change the white balance to your light source. The white balance can be changed in your camera, and you can also alter it if you have a light like LitraPro that has an adjustable colour temperature. The goal is to have a fine, clean, colour neutral light.
Focus to The Light
The last thing you want is to light up yourself while the scene is being painted so that you might focus on the light.
This means maintaining the source of light targeted at the subject and away from the camera.
This also means you need to keep the light source moving – as it’s a long exposure, your movements won’t appear in the shot, so as long as you keep moving with your light from one spot to the next, you won’t make an accidental shot appearance.
If you wear dark clothes for light painting, it’s useful. A dark long-sleeved shirt and dark pants will absorb the light, making you invisible.
Experiment and Try again
You should take a few shots while playing with the light in each of them.
If you stand far from the subject (say, five or more feet away), the light will be expansive, gentle, and even. However, if you want to increase the light’s brightness falling on the subject, you’ll need to get closer to less than two feet.
Either way, you can make a beautiful picture of light painting. And as you master these basic techniques, you will step into more complex lighting techniques, such as multiple lights, coloured lights, multiple exposures, and stacking them together.
5 Tips and Techniques for Light Painting Photography Ideas
There are a variety of different tips and techniques for light painting that are useful to remember. These include, among others:
1. Painting from various angles
Try painting objects from the side or above to bring out their textures, rather than shining a light from behind your camera (or directly at it). To add dimension and detail to the surface, shine a light source at ground level. This effect is particularly excellent for grassy areas.
2. Wear the appropriate clothes
If you are using an on-camera light source, by making them wear dark, non-reflective clothing, and make sure your light is the subject of your picture.
3. Use a red filter to perform the test
It’s essential to keep your eyes accustom to the low-light environment when setting up your shots. Try attaching a red filter to your test lights rather than using conventional flashlights, which will ruin your night vision.
4. Experimentation with various surfaces
In light painting photography ideas, reflective surfaces such as metal, glass, and mirrors can create surprising effects. More light is absorbed by rougher surfaces such as stucco and wood for other applications, while transparent materials such as cloth can filter your light source in exciting ways.
5. Experimenting with the speed of movement
How bright your light painting will depend on how fast you move your source of light. For example, the longer you hold a light source in a particular location, the more time it will have to be absorbed by your camera sensor, and the brighter it will appear in the finished photo. In order to create shading effects that add complexity to your photos, experiment with fast and slow movements.
11 Best Works of Light Painting Photography Ideas
Many images concentrate on capturing a real-life scene or subject. Without photo manipulation, photography seems to be about actual things, artfully captured.
Light painting is an exception to this generalisation. When photographers paint, they manipulate the subject rather than editing the picture. They create scenes from their imagination using slow shutter speed with simple tools like flashlights and light wands.
So here’s some 11 awesome light painting photography ideas you can try:
Spin some Steelwool
Take a light painting portrait
Write your message to the world
Light paint an object
Do a double exposure
Do an Orb
Recreate an epic fight scene from a movie/comic
Use your zoom
Conclusion: Get creative with light painting photography ideas
Photography of light is a trial and error method. It takes many criteria to come up with a successful result, so be prepared to screw up. By using the wrong settings or forgetting your choreography for light painting, you can ruin your image.
At the end of the day, the most important thing to remember with light painting photography is to experiment, have fun and develop your style. Light painting a medium that gives you so many ways of expressing yourself, so dive in and see what you’re getting.
Photography requires plenty of practice and a healthy dose of creativity, whether you are just starting or have dreams of becoming a professional. Fighting!