Top ideas and tips for taking great
light painting trick photography
Written by Jim T May (http://trick-photography.org)
Light paintings are beautiful and dramatic, and looks a bit similar to lightning
photography. In lightning photos, something about the awesome power of nature in
comparison to our existence is very humbling. This is probably why the high contrast
between the night darkness and the bright ﬂash of light results in some very powerful
photos. Light paintings are softer and more ethereal, but still have the same high
contrast and dramatic effect if lightning photos. Here are some top tips to help you take
great light painting photos.
Set your camera to manual mode
One of the ﬁrst thing you should do when preparing to take light painting photography is
to set the camera to manual mode. Since all the preparations are done in a dark
environment the camera cannot automatically set the right focus, exposure, aperture,
ISO, white balance, and others.
Use a tripod
Make sure your camera is on a tripod because you are going to take photos in low light
conditions. Increased exposure time and high ISO guarantees blurring and noise if your
camera isn't on a stable platform. It also mean you get to do the painting yourself!
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Set the focus beforehand
Set the focus manually so the light will appear to be sharp and in focus. You can keep
some lights on to set the focus and then turn it off when you're shooting. Set the
exposure to anywhere between a few seconds to a few minutes. The right exposure
depends on how long you'll take to use a light source to paint. Not only that, longer
exposure means a brighter and clearer background, even if it is done in the night.
Don't forget your camera ﬂash
Remember your camera's ﬂash unit. For light paintings you're using an external light
source such as a ﬂashlight or glow sticks to draw, so the camera ﬂash is not really
needed. But some people use the camera ﬂash to create a stroboscope effect. You can
set the ﬂash to ﬁre at speciﬁc intervals, and then you strike a different pose in different
location after each ﬂash. The result is a bunch of clones of you in the ﬁnal photo.
Play around with the background
Light paintings by itself are cool, but choose a nice scene or environment to
complement your paintings. The light you're using to paint will illuminate the background
objects and make it more interesting. You could also play with your camera settings to
apply different ﬁlters and achieve different effects. For example, changing the white
balance will give you different color temperatures for your light paintings.
Last but not least, have fun! By doing thing out of the norm you will discover new
techniques or effects that other people haven't even though of. Be willing to experiment,
because you never know a ﬂuke could turn out to be your best shot.
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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. Jim also has written an in-depth review of
Evan Sharboneau's Trick Photography ebook. Please feel free to share this document with your
family and friends if you think itʼll interest them, thanks!