Home Photography Lighting Light Painting Photography Tutorial and Video

Light Painting Photography Tutorial and Video

8 min read

When I started looking for a Light Painting Photography Tutorial to share with you, I found out that there are actually two types of light painting photography.

The two types of Light Painting Photography are:

  1. Light Painting Streaks
  2. Light Painting Objects

In order to teach you how to create both types of light painting photography, I’ve included two tutorials in one. The video below will teach you how to create light painting streaks and the rest of the article will teach you how to paint objects with light.


1) Creating Light Painting Streaks Photography Tutorial Video


2) Light Painting Objects Photography Tutorial

Light Painting Photography Tutorial Finished Photo
Finished Light Painting Objects Photo

A Light Painting is simply a photograph taken with a timed exposure using a mobile, constant light source to illuminate the scene.

The light painting in photography technique creates a bold, dramatic style of lighting far different from conventional strobes. Originally I used light painting primarily for small product shoots and still lifes, but found that the technique could be modified for use outdoors and even with live subjects.

The photograph is taken in almost complete darkness. Total control over exposure is essential. While the shutter is open, a mobile light source is used to illuminate only those objects or subjects chosen to create a complete picture. Sound impossible? Here is an example:

What I will use:

Nikon D100 (Great file size, Noise reduction
mode during timed exposures, Affordable)
Nikkor 17-35mm AF
Bogen (Any sturdy tripod will work, but camera
movement elimination is essential)
Light Source:
Calumet’s “Hose Master” Mobile
Light Source
20 seconds @ f16, ISO 200

Before you begin:

Set up your scene, still life, etc. Place your camera at the desired position, check focus. Expose one frame of your scene without any illumination from your light source, and check the LCD for stray light that may have polluted the scene. I do not want random light from doors or windows. The image on the screen should be dark and well underexposed. As I create a Light Painting, I will use the LCD screen as my light meter to study where the light is recorded onto my image.

Now, lets make an image:

I want this picture of a 1953 fly rod and fishing net to have a soft, golden light feel. Light Painting is a perfect technique for this.

I open the shutter for the 20 second exposure.

Light Painting Photography Tutorial Step 1
Step 1: I project 3 seconds of light onto
the fly. I then take 2 seconds to reposition my light source.
Light Painting Photography Tutorial Step 2
Step 2: I project 3 seconds on the reel.
I then take 2 seconds to reposition my light source.
Light Painting Photography Tutorial Step 3
Step 3: I project 4 seconds on the handle.
I then take 2 seconds to reposition my light source.
Light Painting Photography Tutorial Step 4
Step 4: I project 4 seconds on the net. The
20 seconds is up and the shutter closes.
Light Painting Photography Tutorial Finished
This is the image, one frame lasting 20 seconds
with light illuminating the parts of the scene I want to reveal
out of darkness.

Examine each image using the LCD screen, Nikon’s histogram and “flashing highlights”. It will take several exposures to achieve the correct distance/ intensity of light and the total time/ time of exposure you illuminate each part of the picture. As you project the light you can achieve soft light and edges by moving the light source slightly, or a hard light and edges by holding the light source steady. I tend to like a soft look so I constantly move the light source in a small circular motion.

Light Painting Photography Landscape
Lighting Painting Photography Landscape

Here is an example outdoors of a 30 second exposure at f4 and ISO 400 using two 2 million candle power portable flood lamps and walking though nearly two acres of barn and coral. I set my exposure for the sky so as to reveal both a silhouette of the Tetons and the star field with the Big Dipper. This image was made one hour after sunset.

Light painting is not a technique mastered overnight. It will take many attempts and numerous hours to teach yourself how to achieve correct exposures and a stylistic look.

We hope you enjoyed this Light Painting Photography Tutorial. Please spread the word by sharing this article using the buttons below and also leave a comment.

Source: http://www.daveblackphotography.com/workshop/lightpainting-technique.htm


  1. f1 forum

    March 29, 2012 at 2:11 pm

    f1 forum…

    […]Light Painting Photography Tutorial and Video | FreeDigitalPhotographyTutorials.com[…]…

  2. […] Another cool trick is to create a light painting effect, by having the model twirl around a glowing object, while at the same time using a slow shutter speed. The effect can be quite amazing! For more information on lighting painting check out our Light Painting Photography Tutorial and Video. […]

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *