Spooky Light Painting: Tutorial

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Earlier in the week I received emails from from a number of readers with links pointing to Finnish photographer Janne Parviainen’s Flickr page. Readers suggested his recent light painting images might make a good tutorial – particularly given Halloween happening this week. I shot Janne an email and he quickly came back with the following mini-tutorial. Enjoy!

serotonia.jpg

Light painting and light drawing are ways of photography where Photo is manipulated with different kind of light sources while the camera is exposing on a long exposure time in a dark or lowly lit place. The idea of the light painting is that all photos should be straight from the camera, without any post editing such as Photoshop, etc.

The exposure times used in light painting vary from few seconds to hours, depending on the desired effect. Often used tools for light painting are flashlights, colored flashes, led sticks, el wire (battery operated led wire), battery operated Christmas lights, childrens’ light toys such as light swords etc, or tools specially built for light painting.

Colored flashes and flashlights are easy to make by placing different kind of colored gels on them. Colored flashes and flashlights are great for lighting up the scenery when taking photos in the dark, or just highlighting certain areas in the photo. By moving led sticks, flashlights and other light sources in the photos’ area while the camera is exposing it is possible to create different kind of shapes and effects into the photo.

When light painting it is highly recommended to use a tripod, or to place the camera on a steady ground since in long exposure times undesired trembling of the camera can easily ruin the photo. Even though camera’s light sensitivity raises when using higher ISO-characters, a small ISO-number guarantees a better photo quality when taking photos in the dark.

Camera’s aperture figure is good to set according to the scenery’s overall lighting and to the brightness of the light tools used; In a low lit space and when using dimmer lights a small aperture figure works best, where as in a brighter space and when using powerful lights a bigger aperture figure is needed. When choosing for the correct aperture figure it is good to remember that even a very low lit scenery will turn out to be quite bright in the final picture when using long exposure times.

A Bulb switch is a good purchase when wanting longer exposure times than the usual 30 seconds in the most DSLR cameras. In the dark it’s of great help to use a bright flashlight when focusing, also you can use camera’s autofocus with the flash and then locking the focus or turn the focus on manual witch has the same effect.

Info about the ‘Serotonia’ photo:

The photo was taken in an abandoned building in a moonlight in an exposure of 179 seconds, with an aperture of 6.3 and with the ISO figure of 100. The Color temperature was set on 4700 to minimaze the yellowness from a nearby town lights.

The figure was done by lighting myself with an flashlight, first the other half bending to the right side and then the other side bending to the left. The skeleton was then drawn according to my own bone structure with a childrens color changing finger led toy. The scenery was only lit by the natural light of the moon in order to capture the shadows it cast on the wall. The important part of this shot was to wear bright colored clothes, since dark clothes are almost invisible in the dark when using long exposure times, even if you light yourself with a flashlight.

Check out more of Janne’s work at his Flickr page and JannePaint.com.

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  • thanks for going beyond writing hearts and stars with a flash lights…. great effects

  • wow this is brilliant! just would like to know, if you are the person in the picture, did you have someone else paint you with a flashlight?

  • Janne this is great.!.! Keep sharing the word. ~drtongs

  • That is freaking awesome!

  • awesome tutorial.. i’m going to try this out, today.. waiting for the sun to disappear!!

  • The photo is so original! Great work and very interesting tips!

  • great tutorial and fantastic hints!! i did some light-writing for the very first time weeks ago on a Yosemite full moon-night with Half Dome visible in the background. it was great!!!

  • Light painting / long exposures are lots of fun! Thanks for the post! I experimented with long exposures and light painting while on holiday in New Zealand – the photos turned out pretty well for my first attempt! [eimg url=’http://lh4.ggpht.com/_7tYpcYIB-oQ/TFD3xw88bAI/AAAAAAAAIhk/fCe6zhHgWC8/s720/DSC_0675.JPG’ title=’DSC_0675.JPG’]
    [eimg url=’http://lh6.ggpht.com/_7tYpcYIB-oQ/TFD30rbvesI/AAAAAAAAIhw/kvzumNTRCDI/s720/DSC_0678.JPG’ title=’DSC_0678.JPG’]

  • Great tutorial! That’s what I call creativity!

  • Jasper

    Very good. How do you draw the skeleton so accurately without ‘seeing’ it. I’d struggle to do that on paper let alone guessing it in free space.

  • Are you kidding me? This is amazing! What a fantastic photo!!

  • Very interesting, I have just written some Flash Photography Tips and I thought you might find them useful.

  • Michael Owens

    This is awesome! Ingenous yet simple idea! Done some light painting myself last night, so this kind of thing is right up my street!

    We used led light strips, made orbs, painted silhouttes. Was much fun! Enthralling photography!

Some Older Comments

  • Heather Buckley November 2, 2010 01:36 am

    Very interesting, I have just written some Flash Photography Tips and I thought you might find them useful.

  • Loni October 30, 2010 03:30 am

    Are you kidding me? This is amazing! What a fantastic photo!!

  • Jasper October 29, 2010 06:10 pm

    Very good. How do you draw the skeleton so accurately without 'seeing' it. I'd struggle to do that on paper let alone guessing it in free space.

  • scottyv October 29, 2010 04:15 pm

    Great tutorial! That's what I call creativity!

  • Jerod October 29, 2010 09:00 am

    Light painting / long exposures are lots of fun! Thanks for the post! I experimented with long exposures and light painting while on holiday in New Zealand - the photos turned out pretty well for my first attempt! [eimg url='http://lh4.ggpht.com/_7tYpcYIB-oQ/TFD3xw88bAI/AAAAAAAAIhk/fCe6zhHgWC8/s720/DSC_0675.JPG' title='DSC_0675.JPG']
    [eimg url='http://lh6.ggpht.com/_7tYpcYIB-oQ/TFD30rbvesI/AAAAAAAAIhw/kvzumNTRCDI/s720/DSC_0678.JPG' title='DSC_0678.JPG']

  • Tony October 29, 2010 06:38 am

    great tutorial and fantastic hints!! i did some light-writing for the very first time weeks ago on a Yosemite full moon-night with Half Dome visible in the background. it was great!!!

  • Anna Patrick October 28, 2010 09:47 pm

    The photo is so original! Great work and very interesting tips!

  • GaneshPrasad October 28, 2010 03:59 pm

    awesome tutorial.. i'm going to try this out, today.. waiting for the sun to disappear!!

  • Shannon October 28, 2010 03:13 pm

    That is freaking awesome!

  • drtongs October 28, 2010 02:43 pm

    Janne this is great.!.! Keep sharing the word. ~drtongs

  • IHSAN October 28, 2010 10:35 am

    wow this is brilliant! just would like to know, if you are the person in the picture, did you have someone else paint you with a flashlight?

  • Bryan Grant October 28, 2010 09:31 am

    thanks for going beyond writing hearts and stars with a flash lights.... great effects

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