Light painting photography is a sub-genre of long exposure techniques where photographers use an off-camera light source such as a flashlight, fiber optic, or even the flash on a cellphone to draw or alter an image. This adds an external element that helps elevate an image to truly make it unique, and dare-I-say, artsy!
My first ever experience with light painting was in 2019 when I went to Abisko, Sweden in the Lapland region to chase after the Northern Lights. I was unfamiliar with the area and I didn’t want to take any chances missing the Northern Lights so I signed up for a photography tour. Since it was a dark sky zone there was no ambient light to illuminate the ground, so in order to match the foreground with the sky, light needed to be shined on it. Otherwise, we would have had to keep the shutter open for like 10 minutes just to get enough light in. Ain’t nobody got time for that! The instructor there showed me how to shine a flashlight briefly on a subject while the shutter of the camera was open. In this case, to get the foreground to be brighter, “paint” it with a bit of light.
A more nuanced definition of light painting photography is using an artificial light source to create streaks of light through dark spaces while the shutter is open. This can be done either indoors or outdoors. The creative possibilities are endless, and it’s super exciting to see what the camera captures once you get the hang of it! Since then, I’ve been able to experiment in different ways, and my two most viral videos to date are on light painting photography! Videos are linked below.
Anytime you’re dealing with long exposure photography you’ll need most of the equipment listed below in order to have full control over what you’re trying to create.
Let’s keep this concise, shooting in manual mode is a must, and do yourself a favor and shoot in RAW. If you’re still shooing in JPEG it’s time to cut that ish out and level up! Having complete control over all aspects of your image is crucial since there’s going to be a lot of trial and error. Editing in post-process plays a key role to bring out the best final result. I don’t like to give exact settings anymore because it’s heavily dependent on your environment. I linked another video below of how I sat in the exact same spot, but at different settings. Variables such as ambient light, distance and focal length all determine how to adjust your exposure.
Technically, yes. However, it sucks. Camera phones don’t have the native ability to keep the shutter open for long periods of time (yet), so getting an additional app is a must. I tested out the slow shutter cam app and absolutely hated it LOL. The light was overexposed even when I tried to adjust the settings, and overall I just didn’t feel like I had any control with a phone. Of course, I also made a video using the phone too, but that final picture is from my camera. Usually, I’m more than happy to share the results, but for fear of getting shafted on social media, I couldn’t bring myself to show the actual picture taken from the phone.
Pin this post!