Light painting fits loosely into the genre of a ‘trick’ photography technique and is definitely growing in popularity at the moment. I say it’s loosely trick photography as there aren’t really any tricks involved, it’s just taking advantage of the process a camera goes through in capturing an image, ie by recording light. In the days of advanced photoshopping and general picture editing techniques, it is more real than many photographs you see and it’s great fun to do yourself or even more so with a group of friends or at an event. This YouTube tutorial explains it much better than I can, in fact there are quite a few excellent ones on there if you’re interested.
Many of the tutorials say that you need a DSLR camera to make this work, in fact you could do it with a compact camera providing it has a manual mode, or more likely, a night picture mode. I have quite an old Panasonic compact which features a night mode (often indicated by a candle or a moon/stars icon) which gives me a maximum 8 second exposure time. OK this is not as long as you can get with a DSLR (where the exposure time is infinite) but you can still try your hand at it, providing you can plan what to do in the 8 second window. A tripod (or somewhere for your camera to sit securely) is essential, and unless you have a willing helper, so is a self timer to allow you to get into position.
You do need a good light source but if you don’t have a torch you can use the flash on your phone. I in fact used the LED flash on my iPhone for these shots coupled with a free app called ‘Flashlight’ which effectively turns the flash into an LED torch. The fact I was using my phone is also the reason I didn’t try the spinning technique shown in the YouTube video – felt that could end badly!! It’s easier than you might think to not appear in the shots yourself, just make sure you point the light source away from you at all times (dark clothes also helps). Remember that your camera only records objects that light falls on. It makes things much easier if you can turn the light source off and on easily as you move around the shot so you don’t get light in unwanted places.
My shots are obviously far, far less impressive than most you’ll see, but reasonable for a first go and I did massively enjoy playing around with the technique. Now that I now how to do it, think is one I can include my young one in and see what we can come up with together.
Once you tried a couple (and I warn you it’s a bit addictive) you can also experiment with other things. I also downloaded another free app called Light+ which turns your screen into a solid light source and you can set it to scroll through a rainbow of colours. Did this next shot that way, just slowly moving the phone around the lilies to paint them with different light colours.
You can also experiment with shining the light onto yourself deliberately for a short time (i did around 2 seconds) then moving and doing it again. In this way it appears you are in 2 places at once which is quite fun also. Excuse the daft look of utter concentration on my face, but I was utterly concentrating.
I saw a great example in a book of doing light painting with sparklers which I think would be amazing. You’d be able to capture all those things we all spell out and draw when we have them on bonfire night. Doing that with a group on people would be an incredible moment marker! Give it a go….really is fun.Google+