Light Painting : then and now + a how to


I first read about light painting in 2007. I was fairly new to photography and intrigued, so I took my camera, tripod and off-camera flash into the backyard, set everything up, lit one of Sean's antique oil lamps and got the pictures you see above.

Ha! They make me laugh so much. Looking back, I clearly didn't grasp the concept of 'light painting'.

My favourite Facebook comments on these shots were 'By the power of Greyskull!' and 'What the hell are you up to? Is this some freaky pagan ritual you two nut-bars have started?'. I can only imagine what our neighbours were thinking.

Fast forward seven years.

I made this picture last night, in the dark, with a flashlight:


The pie plate, glass plates, fork and spoon were downstairs from a shoot last week waiting to be brought back upstairs. The pink ribbon was tied around the box my wedding anniversary flowers came in last weekend. I had the ribbon on top of the pile because I loved the colour and I didn't want to throw it away. On a whim I tied it around the fork and the spoon and thought it would make a pretty still life. 

Here's how I made this picture and how you can make your own:

You will need:

- an SLR camera

- a tripod

- a piece of black velvet for your background (you can use whatever you want but black velvet gives a true rich black)

- props 

- a small flashlight

1. Lay your black velvet out and arrange your props.

2. Set up your camera on your tripod and compose your shot in the camera.

3. Set your camera to ISO 100.

4. Switch your camera to 'M' (manual) if it's not there already. Set your shutter speed to 15 -20 seconds and your aperture to f16 - f22. Once you get started, you're going to want to play around a bit with the amount of time you leave the shutter open.

5. Turn off all the lights - close curtains to block out streetlights. 

6. Carefully make your way over to your camera (use your flashlight!) - press the shutter on your camera and then use your flashlight as a 'brush' to 'paint' light over the areas of your props you want to highlight.

I did about 10 shots altogether - some of them I left the shutter open for 15 seconds, some I left open for 20 seconds. I used my 85mm 1.2 lens which only goes as high as f16 so the final shot (above) that I liked the best ended up being:

Canon 85mm 1.2L lens - ISO 100 - 20 seconds - f16

It literally took me 15 minutes to set up, take my shots and upload to my computer. SO FUN!!!!