Keep reading for details
[Image Above: Sample of light painting from this Flickr pool]
Light Painting is the result of waving a small light source in front of your camera while it is set to a slow shutter speed in darkness. Follow these steps to get started:
- A camera that allows you to adjust the shutter speed. Any dslr will work. If you have a Point and Shoot, check your manual to see if you can manually adjust your shutter speed or if you have a “night scene” program mode.
- A tripod or flat sturdy surface to set your camera on.
- A small handheld light source: flash light, cell phone, laser pointer, or any moveable small light source.
- With a Point and Shoot Camera: This video gives a great tutorial on how to set up a point-and-shoot camera for light painting. You will get best results with your shutter open as long as possible; 15 seconds is a good starting point. If your camera has a “night scene” mode, set it to that as a test to see how long the exposure is. If your camera allows you to manually set your shutter speed, go ahead and set it as slow as it will go. Play around with the fstop until you get the desired effect you are looking for (I used f13) and keep the ISO low (100).
- With a SLR or dSLR: This video has a great tutorial on how to set up your slr camera for light painting. Make sure your camera is in manual mode and set your shutter speed to 15 seconds or more, ISO to 100 (or as low as it will go) and adjust the fstop as needed (I started with f13). Use this as a starting point, but you may need to make adjustments based on the amount of time you wish to ‘paint.’ You can also put your camera into bulb mode – which will allow you to keep the shutter open as long as you hold the button down.
[Image above: more samples from this flickr group]
Time to Paint Now you are ready to paint! Find a dark area. This can be a room indoors with the lights off and no window light, or you can go outside at night. Set your camera up on a tripod or flat surface and ‘frame’ your photo. Now you can have a friend snap the shutter or set the self timer. When you hear the shutter click, start moving your light source around the frame, but be sure that it is aimed toward the lens. The slower you move, the brighter the lines will show up. Using this method you can create graphics within your photo. If you are writing text, remember to write backwards! When you hear the shutter click again, your photo is done. Check out your image and make any necessary adjustments. Another technique is to selectively light up areas within the photo. You will need to have an object or person in the frame that can stand very still. When you take the photo, turn the light towards the object (not the lens) and light up areas you want to show up in the photo.
[Image above: Pablo Picasso drawing in the air with a flashlight coutesy of LIFE images]
- Watch the videos I posted above, under the technique section. This will give you an overall understanding of how to set up your camera.
- Find colored light sources. We downloaded a simple application on Vasil’s iPhone called flashlight that allowed us to change the color of the LCD screen, but you can also try putting colored cellophane over your light source or use colored laser pointers.
- Read your camera’s manual if you aren’t sure how to set the shutter speed.
- Check out the the discussion over on the ModCloth Photo School flickr page for more tips or to ask any questions you may have.
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