How to Shoot Light Painting Photography
The iconic artist Rembrandt once said, “A [painting] is complete when it has the shadows of the gods.” The core of photography is light; a balance between darkness and the light. As photographers we learn about how light reacts to differing environments and patterns for light. We use our knowledge of light to illustrate a narrative or story. With light painting, I’ve learned to how to use light, both ambient and auxillary, to create stunning images in complete darkness. Light painting photography is a long exposure technique which utilizes a light source to illuminate a subject and create movement with a moving light source. In Victor, Idaho, I had the opportunity to put my light painting photography techniques to the test.
Throughout the night I had the opportunity to shoot different types of light painting–ranging from indoor light painting, landscape light painting, and orb light photography.
In this first photo I got an awesome vintage camera and set it up on a wooden pillar. The full moon was out that night, and I wanted to use that light source to back light the camera and create a faux flash. With my camera set up, I set my camera on a 15 second exposure, with an ISO of 100, and an aperture of f/9. Once I hit the shutter I began to do my light painting with a stylus light. With how small the stylus light is, I thought it would be perfect to light paint parts of the camera. I started with light painting going from the bottom up. I quickly shone the light on the pillar while keeping the light several inches away from the pillar to keep it less bright than the light painting done on the camera. After light painting the pillar I began with the camera. With the stylus light close to the camera (camera right) I began painting to illuminate and show the form of the camera. In contrast with the pillar, I kept my stylus light really close to the camera to make the light brighter and stand out more. In post processing I decreased the saturation of reds, yellows, and magentas to color correct the weird colors that I had captured and then sharpened the wood and the camera.
For this next photo I had my friend Kiley model for this 30 second exposure. Props to her for staying still for that long! At this part of the night I was working on outdoor/landscape light painting. I typically love to include the night sky and stars, but the clouds weren’t cooperating that night. As an astrophotographer I love capturing long exposure portraits of people who are working on and love astrophotography and long exposure photography. I had this idea to do something similar to an environmental portrait of a night photographer, so I got Kiley to model for me. To light her up I used the light from my phone to illuminate her back and face and part of the foreground. In post processing I cleaned image slightly. I had some light trails that I clone stamped out and added some hue/saturation adjustment layers to color correct from the blue light coming from my phone.
For this next photo I had another of friend of mine, Danielle, model for me and I used the same techniques as above to capture this cool portrait of Danielle.
This next photo was my favorite from this night. I absolutely LOVE astrophotography, but I was really bummed that a huge cloud system had come in that night, hiding the beautiful stars and full moon that would be out that night. Fortunately there was a small break in the clouds where I could shoot some long exposure astrophotography.
This is of the Sky Mountain Lodge in Victor, Idaho, where I had been staying for a few days working on all things photography. Because the lodge lights were on, I didn’t have light paint at because the amount and brightness of the light from lodge would illuminate the grass on the foreground. For this shot I had a 30 second exposure, a f/2.8, and an ISO of 2000. In post, I did minimal editing–raising the highlights and whites in the sky, lowering the exposure of the lodge, and adjusting the hue of blue in the night sky. If you want to check out more of my astrophotographs, check them out in my fine art blog posts!
On this photo I did minimal edits of the boxing gloves. I increased the highlights slightly, darkened the shadows, and clone stamped distracting light trails.