Everything is Illuminated

The winner will receive a Holga Starter kit, a set of Snapshot Coasters, and their picture will be featured on the blog as our Photo of the Week!

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.

Enter the Contest

[Winner receives a Holga Starter kit and a set of Snapshot Coaters]

  1. Join the ModCloth Photo School flickr group.
  2. Read the instructions above and submit your photos to the group.
  3. Submissions will be accepted until Sunday, March 1st at midnight (Eastern Standard Time).
  4. Winner will be announced Tuesday in the Photo of the Week blog post.

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  1. Avatar
    lindsay 02/24/2009 at 4:10 pm #

    what a great idea! i can’t wait to see the results!

  2. Avatar
    Liz 02/24/2009 at 5:26 pm #

    omg these pictures are AMAZING! I can’t wait to try this!

  3. Avatar
    Rachel 02/24/2009 at 5:29 pm #

    This is super cool…

    I also LOVE, LOVE, LOVE that pic of Vasil and Marne! LOVE IT!

  4. Avatar
    Vasil 02/24/2009 at 5:32 pm #

    Thanks Rachel, aren’t we so gorgeous?!
    I wish I could submit to the contest…

  5. Avatar
    Hannah 02/24/2009 at 5:33 pm #

    Beyond awesome.

  6. Avatar
    Lily 02/24/2009 at 5:40 pm #

    I don’t have a camera right now, but I can use my mobile one and fake it with PS…

  7. Avatar
    Danielle 02/24/2009 at 6:57 pm #

    There are already a bunch of entries – Keep up the good work guys. Can’t wait to see more!

  8. Avatar
    Genevieve 02/24/2009 at 6:58 pm #

    Too bad I don’t have a DSLR…

  9. Avatar
    Rockabilly 02/24/2009 at 7:21 pm #

    WOW love this idea. Will have fun doing this one 🙂

  10. Avatar
    Markie 02/24/2009 at 7:28 pm #

    ah! i’m so excited :]
    i’m going to get started right away

  11. Avatar
    Karen 02/24/2009 at 8:18 pm #

    Wow! I can’t believe I’ve never heard of this before! I’m so excited, I’m gona try it right now! Can’t wait to see the contest results! 🙂 Good luck everyone!

  12. Avatar
    Danielle D 02/24/2009 at 8:56 pm #

    I’m pumped for this definitely, but are there and specs for image type, size, etc… is there a limit to number of entries?

  13. Avatar
    Kayla 02/24/2009 at 9:22 pm #

    Everything is Illuminated is a gorgeous movie.

  14. Avatar
    Carrie 02/25/2009 at 12:21 am #

    LOVE this idea! And I love that you included my favorite photograph EVER! Picasso drawing one of his Centaurs by Gjon Mili! Too bad I have no artistic talent…:-(

    Good luck everyone!

  15. Avatar
    Hannah M. 02/25/2009 at 12:23 am #

    Best Movie Ever.

  16. Avatar
    Stephanie 02/25/2009 at 1:17 am #

    This is fabulous.
    My friend and I once stayed up for hours my freshman year of college doing this, because we lived in a creepy old dorm… we told everyone later that the streaks of lights were shosts 😛

  17. Avatar
    Stephanie 02/25/2009 at 1:17 am #

    **ghosts not shosts

  18. Avatar
    Danielle 02/25/2009 at 10:21 am #

    Danielle D.

    Enter as many images as you like. There are no restrictions on file size, etc – as long as the images are taken by you and uploaded to the ModCloth Photo School Flickr group. Enter as often as you like!

  19. Avatar
    Lisa 02/25/2009 at 10:56 pm #

    I’m so going to try this. I need to read the manual for my camera =0)

  20. Avatar
    Stef 02/26/2009 at 2:06 am #

    just AMAZING =D

  21. Avatar
    brit 02/26/2009 at 7:12 am #

    I agree, best movie ever. i love Eugene Hutz …anyway this contest sounds like a lot of fun good luck everyone.

  22. Avatar
    dominika 02/26/2009 at 4:09 pm #

    yeah, that sounds great. I wish I could take photos like . To be frank I don’t know how to make it. But I wish u all good luck! 🙂


  1. ModLife » Blog Archive » Everything is Illuminated Contest Winner - 03/03/2009

    […] [Image Above:  sammrowe’s winning submission for the Everything is Illuminated contest]  […]

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