How long exposure trick photography is
used to do light paintings
Written by Jim T May (http://trick-photography.org)
Light paintings are one of the more stunning examples of long exposure trick photography.
You're literally painting with light. You use a camera to take a long exposure photograph, and
then move a bright light source around it. Also, just like a magic trick, consider this a spoiler
warning if you want to continue to be baffled by how light paintings are made.
The trick is that the bright light acts as your brush, so you have the freedom to move it around
and create interesting shapes or even form words in front of the camera. Or you could move
the camera instead. If you're feeling particularly brave you could actually toss and spin your
camera in the air. You could get very beautiful light paintings with a bit of patience and creative
uses of light and colors. There are people dedicated to taking light paintings by tossing their
cameras, and the results are often spectacular.
When you use long exposure (also known as time exposure) photography, stationary objects
appear still and in sharp focus while moving objects creates blurring and smearing. Long
exposures are easier to do in low-light conditions otherwise you'll need very bright lights or
specially designed equipment and cameras.
Because of this, light paintings are often done in the dark. The other side effect of low-light
conditions is that fast moving objects can literally disappear from the image. This leads to
interesting situations where you can photograph a still object in long exposure mode, and then
run in front of the camera with a bright light to do your light painting. If you move fast enough
and your clothes doesn't reflect much light, you will not be seen in the photo. You will only see
the still object and a trail of the bright light. This explains why you can only see headlight and
taillight trails but not the individual cars in pictures of highways or roads during night-time.
This is actually very important for light paintings because you don't want to see the "painter" in
the photo. The illusion of light trails appearing or hovering around your subject without any
clues as to what made it just make the picture that bit more magical.
During the daytime long exposure photography are less commonly used. The most familiar
pictures of daytime long exposure pictures are those of waterfalls. Long exposures blur the
moving water so it has mist-like qualities while keeping stationary objects like the trees and
rocks in sharp focus.
Now that you know the secret behind the magical light paintings, you can still admire the
creativity of the people who created them. But the truth is that anyone with a camera and a
flashlight can use long exposure trick photography to create beautiful and fun light paintings.
Jim blogs about trick photography and special effects techniques, that people use to create stunning
photographs. You can sign up at his Trick Photography site to receive a free report on the top 10 trick
photography ideas for travel photos. Please feel free to share this document with your family and
friends if you think it’ll interest them, thanks!