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Tips on How to Light Paint [VIDEO TUTORIAL]

One of the topics that we see a lot of posting about in our forums is Light Painting.

This week – one of our Forum members – Sodaman420 – created a fantastic video tutorial on the topic of light painting.

Great work Sodaman420! If you like the video – head over to it’s Mindbites page and vote for it as a way of thanking him.

Read more from our Tips & Tutorials category.

Darren Rowse is the editor and founder of Digital Photography School and SnapnDeals. He lives in Melbourne Australia and is also the editor of the ProBlogger Blog Tips. Follow him on Instagram, on Twitter at @digitalPS or on Google+.

  • Mickey

    The music was a bit corny in my opinion, but otherwise that was an excellent video! Thanks for sharing!

  • http://click.blogage.de Fred

    Another tip that might be worth mentioning is that if you don’t want to be seen in the picture while painting it helps to dress in black and try to cover as much of your skin as possible. Since black clothing reflects only very little amounts of light back to your camera you can become pretty much invisible if you don’t stay in one place for too long.

  • http://megapixelicio.us Megapixelicious

    I did a light painting post on my blog a while ago. My use of light painting is much more discreet, but going crazy like this is fun too ;-)

    The hardest part really is to figure out the best aperture according to the light source power/ambient darkness level. Once it is well balanced, you can let your imagination run free.

    Link to the post:
    http://www.megapixelicio.us/2008/06/11/painting-with-light/

  • http://xmasb.com XmasB

    I tried some light painting last year with a vodka bottle. Heres the link to my best shot on flickr.

  • Likalu218

    I really think this is very cool!!! There are endless possibilities…just creativity! :o)

  • http://www.cheese.cz Alex

    Love it! Inspiration!!

  • http://www.petelanglois.net/gallery/5390025_Hre5W Pete Langlois

    Thanks for the great tutorial. I’ll be trying this soon.

    http://www.petelanglois.net

  • Mike

    Very informative! I think light-painting could make for a great weekly assignment!

  • http://mattclaghorn.deviantart.com/gallery Claggy

    Great tutorial! Though I’d like to know how you got your speedlight to stay on for so long while do this.. I mean I know it was just used in streaks but it still seems like it was on longer then just a flick.

  • http://www.newmediaphotographer.com Rosh

    Light painting is a lot of fun. Below is a link to a light painting shot I did during my first photography class in 1985. Of course, it’s black and white.

    One of the fun things about light painting is that you can really never know what you are going to get until you are done. It kinda brings back the mystery of photography.

    http://www.newmediaphotographer.com/roshbwtim85.jpg

    Rosh
    http://www.newmediaphotographer.com

  • http://flickr.com/photos/nedyalko/sets/72157606411909605/ nedyalko

    gust few ideas for light paint that I have from a long time may be it will be helpful to some one!Just one thing: I don’t like to use a bright source for my photos because the light will get over expouse and i use color light source and I want to keep the light color.

    http://flickr.com/photos/nedyalko/sets/72157606411909605/

  • http://flickr.com/photos/nedyalko/sets/72157606411909605/ nedyalko

    on those photos I use a flash to keep the person on the photo just use 2hd courten so that the flash can fire before the camera closes!

  • http://www.awesomefarm.com Sodaman420 (tony!)

    @ Claggy: To get your strobe to stay on for so long, use the modeling light. It was near the head of the strobe and was a small button.

  • http://www.caughtonfilmphoto.com San Diego Photographer

    Very helpful video, thank you for sharing!

  • joethesupercow

    I know my Rebel XTi by default requires me to hold down the shutter release during bulb mode. Is there a way to change it so I can shoot to start and shoot again to finish?

  • http://www.flickr.com/photos/brettdickson/ Brett Dickson

    If you are using a flash gun, put it into auto mode so that each flash of the scene is metered consistently.

    My efforts are here: http://www.flickr.com/photos/brettdickson/tags/lightpainting/

  • http://merman13.livejournal.com/ Edric Hsu

    Cool tutorial! I did experiment with light painting a few months ago, and here’s a copy of stuff I did:

    http://merman13.livejournal.com/tag/light+sketches

    :)

  • http://mattclaghorn.deviantart.com/gallery Claggy

    @Sodaman420 I guess my Vivitar 285hv isn’t able to do that, because I am pretty sure the button on mine only makes it flicker at the speed I have it set to. Hm. What flash were you using in the video?

  • Bro

    very helpfull thanks alot, but what is the average shutter speed that you are using

  • http://www.awesomefarm.com Tony

    @claggy- using an sb-800 by nikon. It has a modeling flash (its supposed to give you an “idea” where the shadows will fall for portraits and stuff). I am unsure what others have this ability, I am sorry.
    As for the music, ya, it is corny, but we couldn’t really license good music because it is expensive lol. Oh well xD

    @ Bro- Avg shutter speed varies depending on how complex the painting is. anywhere from 15 seconds (the rings around a person) to 60 seconds or more for the full “mind bites” shot.

    @joethesupercrow-Sorry, i shoot nikon so i do not know. Check your manual or ask in the canon section-also try checking your menus for bulb mode settings or timer settings, it might be there somewhere.

  • http://www.embassyprobooks.com Embassy Pro Books

    This is a great blog post, definitely something worth trying.

  • http://www.flickr.com/photos/karen6977/ Karen

    Wow, that was really cool! I never heard of it before and it looks fun to try.

  • http://markolson.ca Mholsonproject

    As soon as I saw the video … I was like WhOa! I need to try this on the ASAPossible! It was also kewl to learn about the site MindBites … neat concept … but the site is getting a really large percentage of your cut … if you are into this sort of thing for money … anywho …

    Back to the Light Painting! This was such a good time! Tried it tonight with a buddy of mine, but couldn’t stay out too long the mosquitoes were redonkulously bad … that is becoming a too often excuse for me these days.

    It is more difficult than it seems, plus I had a small small flashlight, which probably did not help matters much. Experimented a bit … I can see how this could be a evening picture light painting extravaganza!

    One additional kewl note here … I FINALLY learned what aperture was today … all because of this post … and used MANUAL … for the first time I think.

    @jackthesupercrow … I hear your pain … I have a canon EOS 450D … same as yours. I used the 30 sec instead of bulb mode … not perfect, but enough to get started painting.

    Thanks for the amazing post! It gave an injection of inspiration!

    if you are curious how my first shot came out: http://www.flickr.com/photos/600901/2712876610/

  • http://shiyazuni.deviantart.com ShaZ

    hello. i wanna ask what if the camera does not have a bulb function? can i stil make the light paint?

    i recently bought a fujifilm finepix s8000fd (semi-slr). im not even sure if it has or not coz i tink it does not. XD

    i wanna try doing light paint using this camera but i dun really sure how XD

  • http://www.awesomefarm.com Tony

    @mohlson- ya, I know, but thats how it is. Site has to make money too :-X- good job on using manual xD

    @shaz- if the camera doesn’t have a bulb function, you could try.. what camera is it? maybe turn the flash funtion off, then tripod mount it… and do it quickly?

  • http://www.grunner.sk Roman
  • ShaZ

    erm it’s a Fujifilm Finepix s8000fd. Semi-slr camera!

    :D owh..mayb i will try..but now still daylight here XD
    i’l wait til nite :P

  • http://www.mindbites.com/lesson/539-light-painting-fun-with-photography Tony

    Alrighty, good luck!

  • http://digitalphotographyblogs.com John

    Anyone want to guess how I made this?

    http://flickr.com/photos/letterk/231372073/

  • victorio

    This is a good tutorial for beginners, and has great ideas for usage and post-processing.

    A good tip for getting a subject to show up in the picture is to, after using the flashlight to write or draw, turn the flashlight on them. This technique can also be used to brighten the entire room, just by shining the light around. It’s a lot like painting; just make sure you “paint” every spot of the room to get even brightness. Here’s a good one where we used the light to show the subject.

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/scrufidog/2301780012/in/set-72157603555296661/

    I’ve also tried lightwriting in incomplete darkness. The result makes it seem like you were doing it in a room during the daytime and your subjects, if they stand still, will really show up. The drawback is that your subjects can tend to have more of a blur if they don’t stand still. But it can be done. Just look below. In reality it was really dark, except we left the bathroom light on and the door open. It was behind the camera and to the left, which explains the way the shadows are.

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/scrufidog/2170666461/in/set-72157603555296661/

  • http://www.shutterpad.com James

    @John: I was originally thinking something with gasoline and fire, until I read your how-to.

    Instead of simply using a flashlight and painting, you could tie it to a rope and swing it around like a mad man, although this isn’t really painting anymore. Replace that flashlight with some fireballs and that’s a recipe for success… or disaster.

    some examples: http://flickr.com/search/?q=poi&w=all

  • http://matos.art.free.fr nuno

    i utilise light painting in videos, but it’s a little bit more complicated.
    share your experiences.

    http://matos.art.free.fr/lightgraff_video_lightgraffiti.html

    http://www.matox.fr

  • Ant

    I thought the written result was quite artistic, how do you determine where to make light and maintain the perspective?

  • Deirdre

    too bad one has to pay to see the whole thing

  • kirsty

    I really love this technique and want to give it ago, i have tried as best as i could to follow everyone instructions and tutorials but cannot figure out how to do it or set it up using my fugifilm finepix F50 :(
    Just wondering if anyone knows how to set it up correctly to do this
    Help would be much appricated :)

  • jamie

    Im struggling with light painting!, i have an E410, on maual mode i set the appature and exposure time, turn of the lights, press the shutter and paint, finish painting with a few seconds to spare and then when i look at the result, its just black, what am i doing wrong :(

  • http://www.priyankasgallery.com Priyanka

    hi,
    I wanted to know how to make a video while light painting and not just still photo with a digital camera.
    thanx

  • http://www.mail.yahoo.com Nazim

    hey priyanka me too wantd to kno dat how to make a video while light paintin…..if nebody has an asnwer plz do reply…

  • http://www.LarissaPhotography.com Belleville IL Photographer

    Fun stuff. I’m going to try this tonight.

  • http://jonzphotos.blogspot.com JonZenor

    I just recently tried doing some light painting, I posted the best shots on my blog. Check it out if you want. I found out that it is really hard to write things in the air!

    Very fun project though. :)

  • VIJAY KULKARNI

    Thanks for the video :)

  • Matt

    Another great tip is not make people have to pay for a mediocre tutorial.

  • karloooo

    it was great but why do we have to pay it’s not kind

  • http://kadadust.tumblr.com/ Dusty

    I love this stuff so much. It’s so fun to do. Heres cool shot I got the other night.

  • http://www.herviewphotography.com Darlene

    Umm, it only plays to 1 minute, then wants me to pay $1.98 to see the whole thing!

  • http://photographybyemilie.net Emilie Knight

    I would love to be able to view this complete video…”How to paint with Light” by Sodaman420.
    However, I am not able to even purchase it for the $1.98. More than happy to do so.
    I’m in the process of playing with this techniques. Any How to get video would be great!
    Many thanks, M

  • Micheal Hussey

    This post is really valuable that designed for the new visitors. Pleasing work, keep on writing.http://instagram.com/bubblegumcasting

Some older comments

  • Emilie Knight

    September 1, 2012 08:08 am

    I would love to be able to view this complete video..."How to paint with Light" by Sodaman420.
    However, I am not able to even purchase it for the $1.98. More than happy to do so.
    I'm in the process of playing with this techniques. Any How to get video would be great!
    Many thanks, M

  • Darlene

    September 15, 2011 06:34 am

    Umm, it only plays to 1 minute, then wants me to pay $1.98 to see the whole thing!

  • Dusty

    February 15, 2011 10:13 am

    I love this stuff so much. It's so fun to do. Heres cool shot I got the other night.

  • karloooo

    May 22, 2010 07:07 pm

    it was great but why do we have to pay it's not kind

  • Matt

    May 21, 2010 11:03 pm

    Another great tip is not make people have to pay for a mediocre tutorial.

  • VIJAY KULKARNI

    May 21, 2010 09:59 pm

    Thanks for the video :)

  • JonZenor

    January 10, 2010 10:42 pm

    I just recently tried doing some light painting, I posted the best shots on my blog. Check it out if you want. I found out that it is really hard to write things in the air!

    Very fun project though. :)

  • Belleville IL Photographer

    December 24, 2009 07:18 am

    Fun stuff. I'm going to try this tonight.

  • Nazim

    November 11, 2009 05:30 am

    hey priyanka me too wantd to kno dat how to make a video while light paintin.....if nebody has an asnwer plz do reply...

  • Priyanka

    July 20, 2009 03:48 am

    hi,
    I wanted to know how to make a video while light painting and not just still photo with a digital camera.
    thanx

  • jamie

    April 17, 2009 08:44 am

    Im struggling with light painting!, i have an E410, on maual mode i set the appature and exposure time, turn of the lights, press the shutter and paint, finish painting with a few seconds to spare and then when i look at the result, its just black, what am i doing wrong :(

  • kirsty

    April 5, 2009 07:25 am

    I really love this technique and want to give it ago, i have tried as best as i could to follow everyone instructions and tutorials but cannot figure out how to do it or set it up using my fugifilm finepix F50 :(
    Just wondering if anyone knows how to set it up correctly to do this
    Help would be much appricated :)

  • Deirdre

    January 8, 2009 05:58 am

    too bad one has to pay to see the whole thing

  • Ant

    November 21, 2008 05:34 pm

    I thought the written result was quite artistic, how do you determine where to make light and maintain the perspective?

  • nuno

    September 8, 2008 11:28 pm

    i utilise light painting in videos, but it's a little bit more complicated.
    share your experiences.

    http://matos.art.free.fr/lightgraff_video_lightgraffiti.html

    www.matox.fr

  • James

    August 8, 2008 01:45 am

    @John: I was originally thinking something with gasoline and fire, until I read your how-to.

    Instead of simply using a flashlight and painting, you could tie it to a rope and swing it around like a mad man, although this isn't really painting anymore. Replace that flashlight with some fireballs and that's a recipe for success... or disaster.

    some examples: http://flickr.com/search/?q=poi&w=all

  • victorio

    August 3, 2008 02:23 am

    This is a good tutorial for beginners, and has great ideas for usage and post-processing.

    A good tip for getting a subject to show up in the picture is to, after using the flashlight to write or draw, turn the flashlight on them. This technique can also be used to brighten the entire room, just by shining the light around. It's a lot like painting; just make sure you "paint" every spot of the room to get even brightness. Here's a good one where we used the light to show the subject.

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/scrufidog/2301780012/in/set-72157603555296661/

    I've also tried lightwriting in incomplete darkness. The result makes it seem like you were doing it in a room during the daytime and your subjects, if they stand still, will really show up. The drawback is that your subjects can tend to have more of a blur if they don't stand still. But it can be done. Just look below. In reality it was really dark, except we left the bathroom light on and the door open. It was behind the camera and to the left, which explains the way the shadows are.

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/scrufidog/2170666461/in/set-72157603555296661/

  • John

    August 1, 2008 06:16 am

    Anyone want to guess how I made this?

    http://flickr.com/photos/letterk/231372073/

  • Tony

    July 31, 2008 07:34 am

    Alrighty, good luck!

  • ShaZ

    July 30, 2008 04:05 pm

    erm it's a Fujifilm Finepix s8000fd. Semi-slr camera!

    :D owh..mayb i will try..but now still daylight here XD
    i'l wait til nite :P

  • Roman

    July 30, 2008 07:31 am

    my tries: http://www.grunner.sk/noc/noc.php?lang=en

  • Tony

    July 30, 2008 03:44 am

    @mohlson- ya, I know, but thats how it is. Site has to make money too :-X- good job on using manual xD

    @shaz- if the camera doesn't have a bulb function, you could try.. what camera is it? maybe turn the flash funtion off, then tripod mount it... and do it quickly?

  • ShaZ

    July 29, 2008 06:44 pm

    hello. i wanna ask what if the camera does not have a bulb function? can i stil make the light paint?

    i recently bought a fujifilm finepix s8000fd (semi-slr). im not even sure if it has or not coz i tink it does not. XD

    i wanna try doing light paint using this camera but i dun really sure how XD

  • Mholsonproject

    July 29, 2008 02:14 pm

    As soon as I saw the video ... I was like WhOa! I need to try this on the ASAPossible! It was also kewl to learn about the site MindBites ... neat concept ... but the site is getting a really large percentage of your cut ... if you are into this sort of thing for money ... anywho ...

    Back to the Light Painting! This was such a good time! Tried it tonight with a buddy of mine, but couldn't stay out too long the mosquitoes were redonkulously bad ... that is becoming a too often excuse for me these days.

    It is more difficult than it seems, plus I had a small small flashlight, which probably did not help matters much. Experimented a bit ... I can see how this could be a evening picture light painting extravaganza!

    One additional kewl note here ... I FINALLY learned what aperture was today ... all because of this post ... and used MANUAL ... for the first time I think.

    @jackthesupercrow ... I hear your pain ... I have a canon EOS 450D ... same as yours. I used the 30 sec instead of bulb mode ... not perfect, but enough to get started painting.

    Thanks for the amazing post! It gave an injection of inspiration!

    if you are curious how my first shot came out: http://www.flickr.com/photos/600901/2712876610/

  • Karen

    July 29, 2008 09:22 am

    Wow, that was really cool! I never heard of it before and it looks fun to try.

  • Embassy Pro Books

    July 29, 2008 04:09 am

    This is a great blog post, definitely something worth trying.

  • Tony

    July 29, 2008 02:32 am

    @claggy- using an sb-800 by nikon. It has a modeling flash (its supposed to give you an "idea" where the shadows will fall for portraits and stuff). I am unsure what others have this ability, I am sorry.
    As for the music, ya, it is corny, but we couldn't really license good music because it is expensive lol. Oh well xD

    @ Bro- Avg shutter speed varies depending on how complex the painting is. anywhere from 15 seconds (the rings around a person) to 60 seconds or more for the full "mind bites" shot.

    @joethesupercrow-Sorry, i shoot nikon so i do not know. Check your manual or ask in the canon section-also try checking your menus for bulb mode settings or timer settings, it might be there somewhere.

  • Bro

    July 29, 2008 12:38 am

    very helpfull thanks alot, but what is the average shutter speed that you are using

  • Claggy

    July 28, 2008 11:18 pm

    @Sodaman420 I guess my Vivitar 285hv isn't able to do that, because I am pretty sure the button on mine only makes it flicker at the speed I have it set to. Hm. What flash were you using in the video?

  • Edric Hsu

    July 28, 2008 09:50 pm

    Cool tutorial! I did experiment with light painting a few months ago, and here's a copy of stuff I did:

    http://merman13.livejournal.com/tag/light+sketches

    :)

  • Brett Dickson

    July 28, 2008 07:01 pm

    If you are using a flash gun, put it into auto mode so that each flash of the scene is metered consistently.

    My efforts are here: http://www.flickr.com/photos/brettdickson/tags/lightpainting/

  • joethesupercow

    July 28, 2008 05:04 pm

    I know my Rebel XTi by default requires me to hold down the shutter release during bulb mode. Is there a way to change it so I can shoot to start and shoot again to finish?

  • San Diego Photographer

    July 28, 2008 03:52 pm

    Very helpful video, thank you for sharing!

  • Sodaman420 (tony!)

    July 28, 2008 02:24 pm

    @ Claggy: To get your strobe to stay on for so long, use the modeling light. It was near the head of the strobe and was a small button.

  • nedyalko

    July 28, 2008 01:57 pm

    on those photos I use a flash to keep the person on the photo just use 2hd courten so that the flash can fire before the camera closes!

  • nedyalko

    July 28, 2008 01:55 pm

    gust few ideas for light paint that I have from a long time may be it will be helpful to some one!Just one thing: I don't like to use a bright source for my photos because the light will get over expouse and i use color light source and I want to keep the light color.

    http://flickr.com/photos/nedyalko/sets/72157606411909605/

  • Rosh

    July 28, 2008 01:53 pm

    Light painting is a lot of fun. Below is a link to a light painting shot I did during my first photography class in 1985. Of course, it's black and white.

    One of the fun things about light painting is that you can really never know what you are going to get until you are done. It kinda brings back the mystery of photography.

    http://www.newmediaphotographer.com/roshbwtim85.jpg

    Rosh
    http://www.newmediaphotographer.com

  • Claggy

    July 28, 2008 01:40 pm

    Great tutorial! Though I'd like to know how you got your speedlight to stay on for so long while do this.. I mean I know it was just used in streaks but it still seems like it was on longer then just a flick.

  • Mike

    July 28, 2008 12:52 pm

    Very informative! I think light-painting could make for a great weekly assignment!

  • Pete Langlois

    July 28, 2008 12:04 pm

    Thanks for the great tutorial. I'll be trying this soon.

    http://www.petelanglois.net

  • Alex

    July 28, 2008 08:12 am

    Love it! Inspiration!!

  • Likalu218

    July 28, 2008 06:57 am

    I really think this is very cool!!! There are endless possibilities...just creativity! :o)

  • XmasB

    July 28, 2008 05:33 am

    I tried some light painting last year with a vodka bottle. Heres the link to my best shot on flickr.

  • Megapixelicious

    July 28, 2008 04:10 am

    I did a light painting post on my blog a while ago. My use of light painting is much more discreet, but going crazy like this is fun too ;-)

    The hardest part really is to figure out the best aperture according to the light source power/ambient darkness level. Once it is well balanced, you can let your imagination run free.

    Link to the post:
    http://www.megapixelicio.us/2008/06/11/painting-with-light/

  • Fred

    July 28, 2008 03:58 am

    Another tip that might be worth mentioning is that if you don't want to be seen in the picture while painting it helps to dress in black and try to cover as much of your skin as possible. Since black clothing reflects only very little amounts of light back to your camera you can become pretty much invisible if you don't stay in one place for too long.

  • Mickey

    July 28, 2008 01:25 am

    The music was a bit corny in my opinion, but otherwise that was an excellent video! Thanks for sharing!

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