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Who doesn’t want special super powers? Popular culture is awash these days with characters with added extras. To date, these include wizards with magic wands, Jedi’s with light sabers, and now there are photographers with pixelsticks! That’s right, welcome to the future because the pixelstick is here and it’s going to change the way you do photography if you embrace it. The pixelstick enables you to make amazing light paintings in camera, so let’s take a look at it and see why it’s an essential purchase for those who like creative photography.
Light painting is a technique you can use to create fascinating images. To do it you need to photograph at night, use long exposure, and have a light source. You can divide light painting into two types, those that you do in front of the camera, and those you do with the camera.
In many cases the first time you do any light painting it will be to spell your name using sparklers or a flashlight. The next step if you became more serious would usually be making light orbs, and other light painting shapes with things like fairy lights. Now there is the pixelstick, which makes light painting both easier to do, and more sophisticated.
The pixelstick is the result of the inevitable evolution of light painting, and the advancement of technology. The pixelstick is a product designed and produced by bitbanger labs, following a successful Kickstarter fundraising campaign. The neat thing about the pixelstick is that you can program it to create any light pattern you want, in fact, you can even use it to create light painted pictures.
This is possible through importing BMP files onto an SD card, which can then be slotted into the pixelstick’s operating system. You have control of many useful aspects, brightness of the light, the speed of the pattern transmission, repeat firing of the pattern, white balance, and delayed fire, are some of the useful functions.
The pixelstick at full length is great for light painting, but not so good for traveling. It’s fortunate that the design allows you to break it down to half its length, and store it in the bag. But, the length is still too long for hand luggage on a plane, which presents a problem if you plan on using it in more exotic locales. The essential information about the pixelstick and what comes with it are:
Light painting is a long exposure technique, which you’ll need a tripod to achieve. You can follow the steps set out below, or for a more detailed guide check out: Beginner’s Guide to Light Painting .
There are many different types of light sources, the pixelstick is just one example. However, these effects can also be achieved by using something as simple as a kid’s toy light saber. The focal point of your image is going to be the light painting itself, or perhaps an architectural feature that you’ll emphasize with light.
The main thing is to keep it simple, with the light flowing through the scene. If you over-elaborate and make too many movements then it’s the digital equivalent of scribbling on a piece of paper, and it usually doesn’t turn out well. So when you’re making abstract light paintings, keep these things in mind:
The pixelstick is really good for abstract work. The preset light patterns that come with the stick will help get you going quickly.
The pixelstick can be used to frame a model, and/or create leading lines towards the subject making it a powerful tool for portrait photographers. The difficulty you will encounter when shooting long exposures with a model is freezing them so they’re sharp. The pixelstick itself isn’t any better than other light painting tools you can use, but the following tips can help.
Where the pixelstick really works well is how you make it interact with your model. This may mean that the colors in the light painting contrast with the color of the model’s clothes. Or maybe you can make the model appear to be holding some of the painted light. The creative potential of light painting combined with a model is vast, so you should have fun.
The customization available with the pixelstick makes it a fantastic choice for product photography. One of the main niche genres is car photography, where the ribbon lines or checkered flag designs can be used.
This technique is similar to photographing a model, only your product won’t move, which allows for longer exposures. You can program in the name of the product, or even the company’s logo. The pixelstick really beats other types of light painting hands down, as the light design can be made to specifically match the product or branding.
The ribbon presets, and the downloadable BMP files that come with pixelstick provide a lot of creative variety. But the real fun starts once you begin to add your own designs into the pixelstick. It’s this feature more than any other that gives this tool its power. The creativity is really infinite so here are a few ideas for you:
Converting your files for use with the pixelstick could not be easier. Pixelstick has a drag and drop service on their website where you can do this easily. Alternatively, you could design and edit your image with Photoshop. Your image needs to be sized to 200 pixels high, with the length being as long as you desire. Once this is done the file needs to be flipped counter clockwise and saved as a BMP file. When creating a new file, any black areas will appear as blank (no light) when the light painting occurs.
The pixelstick’s scope of creativity goes beyond still photography, and it can do amazing things for animation. You are going to create a stop motion video with the pixelstick, and use a series of long exposure photos to make this. Think of an animation flipbook, only this is the digital version of that.
Animating a single scene with the pixelstick could not be easier. Follow these steps to make an animated gif (like the one below) or perhaps a short video. You don’t need a pixelstick to create this type of animation of course, but you have a lot more options at your fingertips if you do.
Creating a longer stop-motion video is very similar to making an animation, in essence, you’re just making an extended version. As opposed to repeating a light painting many times, you may well simply move through a scene when making this type of video.
The pixelstick really is a magical tool. You can create spellbinding images that will wow your friends if you decide to purchase one. The size of the stick is something of a double-edged sword, thought. It allows for bigger more dramatic light paintings, but it is also harder to transport, even when broken down into its carry bag. Is the pixelstick worth dropping the extra cash on, versus a cheaper D.I.Y. light stick? If you’re serious about improving your light painting, then yes it’s worth the money in my opinion.
The ability to customize the type of light emitted gives you so much control. Doing this with a DIY light-stick would take many hours, and in many cases would be impossible to replicate what the pixelstick does. At around $350, you could spend more money on other photography gear without getting the same level of creative energy you get from this tool. Whether you’re interested in still photos or animation, this will quickly become a vital part of your setup.