Our new series of articles deals with interesting trends of photography and is supposed to provide some basic knowledge about the respective technique. We would like to enable you to try them out yourself – and maybe to become a professional photographer in no time ;-)
The second part of our photography special is about lightpainting.
What is lightpainting?
This trend of photography that is also called lightwriting provides brilliant effects for dark images that are taken with a long exposure time. You can draw attention to a special part, object or subject of your photo by illuminating it with a torch, flash or any other source of light. Professional photographers distinguish between “outdoor lightpainting” when a whole scenery is lighted up and “lightpainting of objects” when the camera is focussed on a single or just a few illuminated objects.
What do I need?
If you want to get such great effects for your photos as well, you need a camera that allows you to set the exposure time manually and a tripod to make sure that even the slightest movement during shutter speed (which could destroy your final photo) is avoided. Additionally, you might need to use a delayed-action shutter release that keeps the shutter open for especially long exposure times. But the most important piece of equipment for lightpainting is (of course ;-) ) a torch or any other source of light. Professional photographers use several torches of various sizes or place coloured foils in front of their source of light to create even greater effects.
Painting with light – step by step
- Preparing your camera …
… and yourself by putting on dark clothes and gloves to reduce all possible “objects” that could reflect light which your camera might catch. The settings for your camera should include fixing a low ISO sensitivity and choosing a high aperture because this combination of settings automatically creates a long shutter speed. The more complex your final lightpianting should be, the longer the shutter speed has to be!
- Getting started
Before you start taking your photos you need to deactivate the automatic focus because it might be difficult to use it in dark areas. Even without using the automatic focus, you do not have to worry about your photos getting “unfocussed” because a high aperture value will cause a great depth of field. If you do not use a delayed-action shutter release or a remote-control release, you should work together with another person who can press the release while you “paint or write with your source of light”.
- Finding your style
At the beginning it is quite hard to paint a picture or write a word “in the air” without having a piece of paper for orientation. Once again it is helpful to have another person next to you who can tell you “where” you already painted or wrote. Practice makes perfect – simply try various sources of light as well as words or images and find your own style of lightpainting! As an initial guidance you can use chalk to paint your picture on a wall or write your words on the ground.
- Using the right speed
You need to adopt the speed that you use to paint or write to the power of your source of light. When you use strong lights you might easily cause parts of your picture to be outshone if you move them too slow. For good results you should move strong lights quite fast and weak ones rather slowly! Use paper or foil to weaken sources of light that are too strong.
If you need some inspiration for the images of your lightpaintings, have a look at those 25 spectacular lightpainting images!