Basic Light Painting

Have you ever heard of Light Painting or Light Drawing Photography? It is actually a term used to describe any kinds of light art performance in photography – a technique which involves long exposure technique capturing exposure made by moving a hand-held light source (or two). That is the basic principle and many folks would actually go beyond the basic explanation by manipulating the technique or combining the named technique with other technique(s).

Today I am going to to do some write-up on the basic light painting, in which no additional manipulation necessarily taken (like bracketing your results and so forth). Only the basic one.


Everything you need:

  1. a camera (with the ability to long exposure). I used a Canon PnS (ELPH 500HS) with the built-in exposure button dial up to 30s.
  2. Tripod. I used a cheap mini tripod I bought from the Internet, costed me less than RM5
  3. Light source. Any forms of light source is possible. The easiest way is by switching on your phone’s flashlight
  4. A space where you could easily move around. I used my confined bedroom with lights off, leaving no ambient lights presented during the process.
  5. Additional accessories (if necessary). You could make use of a wagon or lorry as the non-moving object or so forth, or even use the firecracker.
  6. Plan your shooting

Apparently my room was not confined and dark enough for me to create the result I wanted. I had to use a black net to cover the lens so that only little light could pass through it. Setting up the shutter speed to the longest also means letting more lights to enter camera lens reaching the camera sensor. For my case, I want my final result to have distinguish features between my fore and background so I want everything but the light source to be vividly dark. Not even the ambient around the background should have even little lights.

By wrapping the black net around the lens, the amount of light could pass through was reduced and so could ease my work. My other trick to reduce the amount as possible was by dialling down the exposure button to the lowest and in my case was -2.

Connecting my camera on the tripod stand is an easy peasy – everyone could handle it. Placing the tripod to the right and proper place required some work as I had to match its fixed position with the position of the moving light source. I had to shoot few test shots before actually getting the right position and angle of the tripod and the camera. Also, my room was so confined that I had to place the tripod on my bed (mattress) and a bed is non-solid ground because the material is soft.

Upon setting up the camera and tripod and finished selecting the most suitable settings in my given circumstances, I started to photograph the light painting.

Remember! To avoid shaking when photographing, use shutter release (cable or wireless) or the built-in delayed-shutter (self-timer). Let the gear do their works and you stay focus on your work.

I set the self-timer for 5 seconds and kept rotating the light source. Did I mention that I elevated the camera and held the light source while standing on a chair in front of the lens? Yes, I did. I had to create the opportunities within the small boundary. There is no restriction on what kind of shape or rotation of the light source you want, it is all up to you.


Check your result and repeat steps if necessary until you are satisfied. Due to circumstances I had to cut the whole process short but I did manage to photograph few shots. Final step is to edit your shots in whatever Photo Editor you use. I use both photoshop and lightroom for the two frames above to create the contrast and highlight. I was far from satisfied with the final results because I know I could do better that that but due to circumstances, I haven’t been able to spare my time to repeat my experiment but definitely will with different ambience.

Thanks for reading. Kindly drop your comment!


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