In this article, you’ll learn how to make your own DIY lightstick.
You’ll be able to use this to create fascinating light paintings, and the best thing is, you can do it on a budget!
The simple DIY lightstick is made with easily available household objects and a set of fairy lights. Once it’s made, you’ll be able to create beautiful light patterns during long exposure photos.
What is light painting
Light painting is a long exposure technique.
To achieve this kind of photo, you’ll need a camera on a tripod, and usually, the photo will be taken at night. The exception to this would be a studio that is completely dark – this too can be used for light painting.
Most people will know light painting as simply spelling something in the sky with a torch.
There are two main forms of light painting, kinetic light painting, and regular light painting. In this article, you’ll learn about using a light stick to create regular light paintings.
Lightsticks you can buy
You can buy a ready-made lightstick.
Indeed, some of these are already quite cheap and will give you the chance to practice some of the ideas presented in this article. There are also those sticks that are more expensive.
It’s worth keeping the more expensive sticks in mind, as they will give you more options when compared to a stick like the one you’ll be shown how to make in this article.
- LED light sticks – The creme of the crop are the LED light sticks made by pixelstick and magilight.
- Glow sticks – The glow sticks often seen at parties and festivals. They’re cheap, and can be used for light painting.
- Toy light stick – Head down to your local toy shop and pick up a light saber. Indulge your inner child, and it also makes some great photos!
- Light painting swords – These are similar to kids’ toys, but are made specifically with photographers’ needs in mind. They are available through .
How to make a DIY light stick
There are some very good cheap options when it comes to light sticks, and you might decide to pursue one of those instead of making a DIY lightstick. If you want a little challenge, then read on and see what you can make.
The supplies you’ll need
First of all, let’s gather the supplies you’ll need. You can find most at home, however, you may need to visit your local DIY store or look online for some too.
- Battery operated fairy lights.
- A piece of plumbing pipe. Around one meter long, and 2cm in diameter.
- A plumbing pipe connection piece. A t-shape variety is best, and also 2cm in diameter.
- A set of tie straps.
- A copper piping half-circle bracket.
- Wire cutters.
- A saw.
- Solder and soldering iron.
- Electrical tape.
- Glue gun.
- Bungee cord.
Putting the whole thing together
Now you have everything you need, take the following steps to put it all together.
The task is fairly simple. It’s really just attaching some fairy lights to a stick. Why the plumbing tube? That’s so you can break it down to a stick that’s half of its size in an easy way.
Attaching the fairy lights
- Take your length of plumbing tube and use the saw to cut it in half. The length of the 2 halves is optional. In my case, I went with 50cm.
- Attach the two pieces together using the connection piece.
- Now Attach the end of the fairy light wire to the end of your tube use a tie strap.
- Pull out the fairy lights to the length of the tube. Then give a little slack to allow the tube to be detached at the connection point.
- Use another tie strap to attach the fairy light wire to the other end of the tube.
- Run the wire back down the length of tubing again, and then attach the wire to the tube using another tie strap.
- You’ll now have excess wire and fairy lights left over. You could repeat steps 4,5 and 6 if you wish, or continue to the next part.
Putting the battery pack on, and finishing the stick.
- Use the wire cutters to cut away the excess wire, leaving around 20cm to the battery pack.
- Strip away some of the plastic coatings on the wire on the side with the battery pack, and the side attached to the piping.
- Solder the two pieces of wire back together again. Make sure the correct wire is soldered together or the lights won’t work. When you cut the wire, two wires will be revealed on each side of the wiring. You need to solder this back together to re-complete the circuit.
- Use the electrical tape to cover up the soldered wire, or if you have it, plastic that shrinks when heated to cover the join.
- Test the lights, they should now work, and you should now have a light stick!
- Take the copper bracket and hoop it around the pipe, and touch it to the battery pack to ensure it connects.
- Use the glue gun and add glue to the joining section on the battery pack, the pipe, and the copper bracket.
- Hold everything in place until the glue has dried hard.
- Finally, run the length of the bungee cord through the piping, and knot it at both ends. The cord should be tight enough to hold the pipe together, but loose enough that you can easily detach the two halves of the stick.
Light painting with a lightstick
Now you have a DIY lightstick you can use to create interesting light paintings.
Lightsticks work because of the repetition factor – lots of lights moving altogether in a uniform pattern. It’s best to keep your light paintings relatively simple. Use defined movements, like spinning around, to create light cones. Spin the stick around to create circles, or simply walking along with the stick to create light ribbons.
What you do creatively with the stick is now up to you, but enjoy experimenting!
It’s always fun to make something for your photography. Have you ever tried to make an accessory yourself? Maybe it was for flash photography, something like a snoot?
Here at digital photography school, we love to hear from you, so please share your experiences. If you have any light painting photos taken with a light stick that you would like to share, that would also be great!
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