Light painting is a fun photography technique that can put a unique spin on your images. It is the art of using handheld light sources to draw or selectively illuminate parts of a scene while the shutter of your camera is left opened. This technique dates back to 1889 when Étienne-Jules Marey and Georges Demeny attached incandescent bulbs to the joints of an assistant to trace human motion and created the first known light painting photograph, “Pathological Walk from in Front”.
If you are new to photography, experimenting with light painting can be a great way to learn how to shoot in manual mode. By shooting in a dark environment during a long exposure, the light trails or streaks of the light source will be captured in your image. Light painting requires a slow shutter speed, such as one second or more. A variety of light sources can also be used, from simple flashlights to glow sticks, candles, and even fireworks.
When dealing with flammable equipment, please ensure that you stay clear of anything that can easily catch fire. Wear protective clothing, cover your hair, and keep your camera gear away from the flames. Always remember to extinguish the flame once you’re done.
To experiment with light painting, you will need a camera with manual controls capabilities, a tripod, and a light source. First, decide on how you want to illuminate your scene. Find a location or simply start out in a completely dark room. If you are shooting outdoors, ensure that you are not doing this near any other light sources such as street lights.
While you are painting, always remember to place the light source in front of you and never step in front of it. If you are spelling out letters, always spell them backwards, as if you were writing them on a mirror. Whatever you do, remember to get creative and have fun!