Light Painting Photography Ideas

How to Make Your First Photography Lightpainting

Photographers and plants have one thing in common: we both need light as a means of subsistence. The plants to do the photosynthesis, and you to be able to capture those incredible scenes with your camera.

And for incredible photos, the ones made with the Lightpainting technique… are an excellent example of them. With a camera, some lights and a little imagination, you get these incredible photographs without any editing. Without Photoshop!

Surely this type of photographs have caught your attention, perhaps you have even wondered how they do it?
Today’s article will teach you everything you need to start painting with light yourself and dazzle everyone.

What Is Lightpainting Photography?

Lightpainting photography (pronounced “layt Péintin”) or “painting with light” is one of the most curious and eye-catching types of photography today, despite being a technique that has been used for quite some time. It consists of drawing lines, shapes or whatever you can think of with light directly on the photograph, using air as a frame and shooting at excessively slow shutter speeds.

The light traces are captured by the camera sensor and are “drawn” directly in the final photograph. To give you an idea of the possibilities offered by this technique, here are some amazing photographs:

Light Painting Photography Ideas

Many photographers already master this technique, not only professionals but even amateurs and amateurs. So if you want to see more photos of this style, just search any network of photographs such as Flickr or 500px, to find thousands of examples.

How Do I Get A Lightpainting Photo?

Painting with light is relatively simple and does not require expensive equipment. You just need a lot of practice. Once you master this technique, the possibilities become infinite.

The general idea of this type of photographs is nothing more and nothing less than, as its name indicates, to paint with light directly on the scene. For this you can use lights, flashlights, flashes or any other element you can think of, in order to draw the lines or illuminate the objects that you want to be exposed in the final photograph.

As you will have seen in the example photographs at the beginning of the article, although it is a simple technique, it requires some practice until it can really be mastered. And as it is a type of photography that integrates several techniques I recommend that, if you haven’t already read them, have a look at the following articles that will help you master it from the first moment:

Long exposures: being a type of photography where long exposures are used, if you are not very familiar with them, I recommend that you read the following article: Long Exposure Photography.

Lighting: if what you want besides getting a few lines, shapes or drawings is to work on the whole scene, probably also need a flash, so I recommend you read these tricks for better use of flash.

Movement: as this technique gives a lot of dynamism to the photographs, I also recommend you take a look at the article on how to capture and transmit the movement, as it will be useful as a complement to this technique. Later in the article I will give you a step by step so that you can begin to experience yourself.

The Team

As I told you before, it doesn’t require a very advanced camera. With any camera that has manual controls and allows you to lower the exposure time to at least 10 seconds you can do it. It is an effect that you can realize perfectly using homemade elements.

In order to carry out this technique you will need at least:

  • A camera with manual controls.
  • A tripod.
  • A relatively dark environment, although this may vary as you master the technique more.
  • Flashlights, lights, flares, fireworks or any other element that serves as a source of light. Creativity is your ally and the Internet is also 🙂 There are thousands of ideas and alternatives going around.

With these elements you will be able to find the technique, but… if you want to take this effect a step further you will also need:

One or more collaborators, a remote trigger or setting the camera in shooting delay mode to have time to “draw” the scene.

One or more flashes.

Bulb mode camera, that is, it can expose the scene for more than 30 seconds.

A good site or landscape that allows you to give a spectacular frame to your photography.

Light Painting Photography Tutorial

Types Of Effects

Here I leave you some of the most common effects that you will find in the vast majority of lightpainting photographs. You can try making them yourself to practice, as you develop your own.

Loops Or Coils

This effect consists of drawing loops in front of the camera by means of a light or cold cathode or tube lamp. It is important that, so that the tapes are not cut or tuned, you always keep the light shining towards the camera.


This effect consists of drawing silhouettes in the air with light while the camera captures the whole sequence. In order to do so, you will need a flashlight or any light source that is rather punctual, that is to say, that does not emit too much light and leaves fine traces. You can draw silhouettes, contour objects, people or whatever you can think of.

Spheres or Orbs

To realize this spectacular effect you will have to get a couple of extra elements such as: a rope or the handle of a paint roller without the roller. This effect consists in tying the flashlight to the rope or to the paint roller, so that it can always be rotated in the same orbit. To do this you can stick your hand to your compulsion and just turn your wrist, so that the circumference is perfect and constant. As you rotate it, you must rotate, but with due care to keep the axis of rotation in the center, that is, you must rotate yourself, but trying to keep your hand always in the same place or at the same height, in order to get a perfect circumference. There are many videos on Youtube on how to do it, in case you thought the explanation was confusing.

Rain Of Lights

The way to do this effect is very similar to the way to do the spheres I just mentioned, with the difference that instead of tying a flashlight to the rope or roller, you must tie steel wool. Yeah, you read that right, those steel wool sponges you got in the kitchen. The magic begins when you set them on fire, since they are very flammable and if you make them spin very fast, they begin to throw a rain of sparks that produce a spectacular effect. (Don’t do it at home, don’t do it if you’re not an adult or if you don’t have adults near you, and don’t do it near flammable elements. Please).

Lightpainting Photography

Photography Lightpainting… Step By Step

Now yes, thousands of characters after having announced it, it’s time to get down to work, or almost. Here’s a guide for you to start having fun with this incredible technique:

The first thing you have to do is define where you are going to take your photos. Remember that the darker the landscape or place, the more impressive the effect will be.

Mount the camera on the tripod.

Set the ISO sensitivity to the lowest value your camera allows. ISO 100 wouldn’t be bad.

Set the aperture of the diaphragm to f/8 and open or close it as the photo becomes too dark or too light and the spectacular effect is lost. I recommend you start from the f/8 value but you really have to go. experimenting and modifying it depending on the result you are obtaining.

Set the focus to manual, because if it is in automatic, the camera can, at the time of shooting, focus on another place other than the one you initially wanted. In low-light conditions, teams have a harder time focusing.

You can set the white balance (white balance… what is that?) according to the tone you want your picture to have, although you can do this from the computer using a photo editing program such as Photoshop, Lightroom or the one provided by the manufacturer that comes on the CD of your camera.

Remember that to be able to change the exposure times, you will have to use the manual mode, or the speed priority mode or “S” or “Tv” (although with speed priority you will no longer be able to control the aperture, so the manual mode “M” is ideal). Be sure to use very slow speeds, between 10 to 30 seconds or more as you think necessary.

Determine The Exposure

To determine the necessary exposure time you can measure the light of the elements that you will use in the scene, or measure it by trial and error. Remember that the smaller the aperture of the aperture and the lower the ISO sensitivity, the longer the exposure time must be to compensate for the light reduction.

Focus on where you’re going to paint with the light. You can place a fixed object, or a subject (a friend collaborator) to use only as a measurement, and once you have the focus already fixed and locked, you put it away. You’ll have to put the light right there. To take the picture avoid touching the camera to make it as stable as possible, use delay modes or a remote shutter if you have one. Prepare to draw in light while the camera exposes the picture. Make sure that the light elements point towards the camera for the best results.

Light Painting Photography How To

This technique requires you to be very clear about what the final product should be since it does not yet exist, because you have not yet drawn it. Take your creativity and knowledge to the limit for incredibly illuminated photos.

To close the article, I am going to allow myself the audacity to ask you to practice what you have read. Don’t be fooled, if you’ve read this far it’s that Lightpainting LOVES YOU, you’re looking forward to producing photos similar to those illustrated in this article.

What are you waiting for?

As always, thank you for your attention. If you have enjoyed this article I would love for you to leave a vote or recommendation below on Facebook, Twitter or Google+ 🙂 Thank you in advance!

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