Painting With Light In Photography

What is “Painting With Light” and how is it done? This is a technique that is done by taking a photo using a light force and long exposure. When I was in my photography club, The Snap Shots 4H, we dabbled a bit in working with long exposure but it wasn’t until my digital photo class last semester that I really worked with this technique. My photography professor gave us this as one of our assignments and it ended up becoming one of my favorite projects. While it at times was challenging to work on due to me trying to find settings that worked for the photo I was taking, it ended up being alot of fun. It was also really neat to during critique to see what others did and the types of light art they went for. Overall it really taught me how important it is to know my settings on my camera. Different light sources I used ranged from different types of flash lights including standard flash lights to other types of lighting sources and for a few photos I even used Christmas tree lights. My teacher gave us the idea of using steel wool or fireworks but I kind of didn’t want to risk burning my self so I stayed with the safer options. The most risky light source I had during my photo shoot was a lighter. Just be safe and like don’t burn yourself, also if you do burn yourself don’t tell people you got the idea to do this by reading this article lol.

Where Do I Start With Light Painting?

Featured in this photo is 13 year old me. Massive throwback for me personally lol.

It’s worth pointing out that in order to achieve this style of photography you have to have the proper settings on your camera. Now I’m still new to figuring out how F-Stops work, which is honestly pathetic considering I was in a photography club for literally eight years. However, the standard recommendation for your settings is to have it on manual mode and set your exposure time between 10 to 30 seconds. The standard ISO setting is 100, the shutter speed at about 30 seconds and the recommended F-Stop setting is between F/8 and F/22. You can obviously play around with your manual settings if you want as well. I personally tested different settings and played around with my camera. Some settings I used worked, others didn’t. I highly suggest using a tripod because standing still with the camera for me was super important. There were some times during my photo shoots that the camera would move and the whole photo ended up blurry as a result. Make sure to keep the camera stabilized. Don’t get frustrated if your photos don’t come out right away either, I had to mess with my settings and play around with it before I even began achieving successful shots.

Light Painting #1: Genie From A Bottle

This photo my friend helped me with is one of my most successful shots from the photoshoot. I call it “the genie” because my friend said it reminded them of smoke coming out of a genie lamp I guess. This photo was super hard to shoot, a majority of these photographs in general took awhile to shoot and I’ve learned that’s how it usually works in photography. Using a light, my friend made a swirl type movement as we were photographing the photo and it managed to capture it on the camera. It took us awhile to get to this particular shot but it ended up being very successful. Out of all my photos, this one sticks out to me the most.

Light Painting #2: The Star

Here we have a star, once again “painted” with the same type of light source as the photo above. Getting a successful star shape proved to be a challenge but after various attempts and unsuccessful results, we finally got it. My only complaint about this photo is how much wasted space there is as the star light is mostly at the top of the photo. Regardless I still really like how it came out. I think if I were to do a star light painting again, I would maybe try using different light sources such as maybe sparklers, or some other type of flashlights.

Light Painting #3: The Double Looped Mobius Strip

This photo’s light source was the same as both Photo #1 and Photo #2. I decided to title this “the double looped Mobius strip” because it reminds me of a Mobius strip (Something I learned in my Color Theory class). When using your light source, it’s interesting to mess with creating different shapes and patterns. My only complain with this photo aside from the subject being cut off in the left hand corner, is it looks a bit blurry. Other than that, I believe the shot itself came out successful.

Light Painting Photo #4: Jingle All The Way

This next photo, was taken as apart of my final portfolio project in which we had to reshoot a photo with long exposure. My light source in this is actually colored, Christmas lights that I shook as the photo was taken. In order to successfully obtain this shot, we had to hold the camera super still. For this photo in particular, a tripod was not used, which I believe was a mistake because we could’ve gotten the shot quicker had we of used a tripod. Regardless, we were able to snap a still shot and came out with a successful shot as a result. This is probably one of my favorites.

What I Learned From This Project

We now reach the conclusion to this project which is where I analyze what I learned from this project in particular. I was familiar with this technique prior to my photography class but my class really taught me about all the neat things you can do when painting with light. I learned why it’s important to have a tripod for your camera, that the camera settings are obviously the key to getting successful snap shots, and that there’s endless possibilities to explore with light painting. I think if I were to try this again, I would want to try different light sources that explore more color such as possibly sparklers, glow sticks, or something else that offers a wider scale of color. I’ve learned from this project that there’s always room to improve, no matter how good your photos come out, challenging yourself to try something news helps motivate me with my approach to creativity.

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