How to: Creating Light Painting

Prepare Yourself and Your Equipment

Firstly, make sure it is already dark outside or your location has a low light setting in order to create a light painting.

Secondly, you need to find the main subject – determine the base exposure. Depending on the style of picture you are aiming for, this subject might need to be a fixed element or if it is a person it might need to stand completely still to achieve the desired effect.

Thirdly, you have to be sure about the effect you want to create and how it should look in the end. Determine what colors should be included, what shape you want to depict or which details you want to highlight. Then, select the light source(s) accordingly.

Now that we have established the design details, we also need to set up our camera. Therefore, it is necessary to select long shutter speeds. When making light paintings and shooting with long shutter speed, even the slightest motion can blur the picture. Subsequently, you really do not want to touch your camera. We suggest you opt for a remote or cable shutter release, or you can also make use of the timer function of your camera. With our FUJIFILM cameras, you can access the shutter speed through the shutter speed dial on top of the camera. This dial has everything up to 1 second marked on it. Some of you might wonder what the B and T modes marked next to these stand for. B stands for “Bulb” and is a mode that allows you to press and hold the shutter button and keep the shutter open for as long as you like. T mode enables access to programmable shutter speeds beyond 1 second, using the rear dial on the camera to set the desired shutter speed. This might be anything up to 30 seconds or 15 minutes and sometimes even 1 hour depending on the camera model.

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We just said that it is important to avoid any motion possible, and you might think that image stabilization is perfect to reach that goal. Well, with long exposures, it is one of those times when this function should be turned off in the lens and camera. Otherwise, there is a high chance that stabilization mechanisms like OIS and IBIS will attempt to correct for motion that is not there. By placing the tripod or camera on a solid underground, any undesirable motions should already be eliminated.

Now that you know how to set up your scenery to create the perfect light painting, it is time for some additional tips and tricks.

Tips and Tricks

  1. When shooting with people, clothing is everything. You want the person holding and moving the light to dress as inconspicuous as possible because we want the light source to be the star of the image.
  2. Explore different surfaces. You will be surprised which awesome effects glass, mirrors, or metal can add to the final result.
  3. Experiment with the light’s move speed to create different effects.
  4. Make sure the camera’s flashlight is turned off.
  5. Last but not least, use different angles to add and bring out textures. No matter if you paint from the side, the top, the bottom, feel free to experiment.

Now it is time to get creative, have fun and make photographs. Be creative and do not be afraid to experiment around!

Sources: FUJIFILOVE Magazine, Master Class & X-Story: Low-Light Photography Tips