5 Fun Weekend Photography Projects [Part 1]

5 Fun Weekend Photography Projects [Part 1]

If you’re stuck for something to do this weekend why not give a new photography technique a try?

1. Light Graffiti


By illum

Light graffiti is everywhere at the moment and is a fantastic to way to get creative with light trails at night. Set up your camera on a tripod, with ISO of between 400-800. During the exposure you’ll want to ‘draw’ an image or word with a beam of light such as glow stick, torch or sparkler for example.

Dial in an exposure long enough for you to complete the word or image, and start the release with the self-timer. Get in front of the lens and start drawing. To finish the image hold the torch steady and turn it off, then move out of the frame. Check the LCD for results and amend the shutter speed as required. It’s advisable to wear black so you do not show up within the photo and remember to move quickly or you’ll be captured within the scene. Coloured gels or coloured plastic sweet wrappers can be taped over the end of the torch to add a variation of colour.

See some Light Graffiti/Painting: here’s a collection of Light Painting Images.

Read how to do it: Light Painting: Part 1

2. Shutter Zoom

Snarling at Me – by Ernst Vikne

This is a fun technique to try or any composition where you want to enthuse dram or action. For this to work you’ll need a DSLR or hybrid camera with a zoom lens. First of all set your ISO as low as possible and dial in a small aperture of around f22 for a longer exposure. Isolate a subject – for example a willing model, a beautiful blooming flower, an insect, etc and focus on and meter from this. Next compose so the subject is positioned in the centre of your frame.

Unwind your lens so it is zoomed out as far as possible. As soon as you hit the shutter use your left hand to scroll the lens back in. Check the LCD to judge your results and experiment with the speed at which you zoom in to create different effects. Also try starting with the zoom as wide as possible and during the exposure zoom in to your subject for a variation of results. Learn more about using the Zoom Effect techniques here.

3. Smoke Signals

Fading Flower – by Dude Crush

Light a couple of joss sticks and let it smoulder until a well-defined stream smoke is generated. Place these in a josh stick holder in front of a dark (or light) piece of card. To capture the enchanting swirls and shapes tape the edge of the holder to the table and let the stick vibrate. For extra flair use a flashgun to light the smoke and play adjust the colours or composition in an editing suite.

Learn more about Smoke Art Photography.

4. Painting with Light

Forrester Rocks At Night – by brentbat

This is a fun technique to try out at night and is an ideal way of adding light to the scene to enhance a particular immobile object, such as a tree, rock face, bench etc.  Position your camera on a tripod and ramp up the ISO to around 400. Dial in a shutter speed of 15-20 seconds and to avoid camera jog, use the self timer to activate the shutter. During the release, light your subject with a beam of light from a torch and ‘paint’ with the light to ensure the entire object has been covered.

For a great resource on Light Painting check out Night Photography and Light Painting.

5. Kite Cameras

Kite Arial Photography – by Ric e Ette

Aerial photography can be quite an art, and creating it often an expense. However there is a cheap solution – kite cameras. If you fancy something a little fun, and own a particularly durable compact or camera you aren’t too worried about beating up, then give kite photography a shot. Unless your compact comes with a remote control shutter release, hitting that trigger is going to be problematic whilst it is up in the air but there are two options to solve this.

Either use the video recording mode (if the compact has one) and hit record before launching the kite, and later cut stills from the footage in a dedicated app like Windows Movie Maker or Apple’s iMovie. The alternative is to set the self timer – preferably for as long as possible. Set the camera to burst or sports mode as this may allow you take several shots in one go and use a fast shutter speed (1/500 or higher) to avoid movement streaks. Finally use strong tape to ensure it’s strapped on well and bring it down as gently as possible. All you need know is a windy day!

Want to see some examples? See some great Kite Photography here.

Read Part 2 of This Post with 5 More Fun Weekend Photography Projects

Share Your Shots

Once you’ve tried some of these techniques we’d love to see what you come up with – feel free to share your best results in comments below!

Read more from our Tips & Tutorials category

Natalie Denton (nee Johnson) Natalie Denton (nee Johnson) is the former editor of Digital Photographer magazine, and is now a freelance journalist and photographer who has written for dozens of photography and technology magazines and websites over the last decade. Recent author and tutor too.

Some Older Comments

  • Mark Seifert January 20, 2013 12:09 pm

    Here are a few attempts at shutter zoom.


    All are great techniques to learn and master, but most important,
    keep your camera pointed and have some fun!

  • Bob B January 20, 2013 05:05 am

    I like the kite photo idea. I wonder if it can be done with a small Weather balloon ?

  • Photographers in Barrie May 19, 2012 12:08 am

    Great ideas just in time for the weekend! I've been interested in trying a light painting project, thanks for the reminder and nudge :) Great post.

  • Valentina Vayntraub October 22, 2011 01:46 am

    This is AMAZING! Thank you so much for sharing these tips. I literally LOST it when I finally was able to reproduce some of the effects shown here. You are wonderful!

  • Valentina Vayntraub October 22, 2011 01:26 am

    I wonder if these tips work with a digital camera. I was particularly interested in the shutter speed modes but It seems to be problematic for me. Ill keep trying though!

  • Pitan Singhasaneh June 15, 2010 04:05 am

    Light painting.

  • Amit April 16, 2010 10:16 am

    Humph... I can't get the "add images to your comment" to work with my flickr image. I click on the that link ... paste the URL in the pop up box,... it adds a [img] line ... when i press submit... the page loads without any indication of what went wrong... and the my post isn't there either.... :(

  • Amit April 16, 2010 10:14 am

    Hmm ... my previous attempts at posting image IN the comment failed... trying again ...

    Here is my attempt at shutter zoom …

    iPhone apps that fly!

    [eimg link='http://www.flickr.com/photos/amitkhanna/4488092529/' title='Apps that fly!' url='http://farm3.static.flickr.com/2695/4488092529_b76cce21a4.jpg']

  • Amit April 16, 2010 10:11 am

    Here is my attempt at shutter zoom ...

    iPhone apps that fly!

  • Jaume Bonet April 13, 2010 02:08 am

    I've just made my first trial with the Shutter Zoom... Obviously I need to keep practicing, but it has been fun :)

  • James Brown April 9, 2010 10:18 am

    @B I can't imagine how the DPS community will survive without your input. Such sad day for humanity.

  • tamanna April 3, 2010 06:39 am


    thank you for taking the time to answer my question. I'll definitely follow your suggestion..and learn more about RAW and I agree, using flash indoors is something I have always wanted to get better at.

    do you have any suggestions on sites that help explain? I am asking because there's way too much information out there.

    thanks again,

  • B April 2, 2010 11:41 pm

    james brown, I actually was going to do just that, and in fact I have an article written up that I almost hit send on.

    But some of the things I've seen recently on DPS -- slap-on-the-wrist treatment of a serial plagarizer and the inexplicable publishing of the atrocious K-x review are two examples -- have convinced me that it's not the place I want benefitting from my efforts. I'd rather take a bumpy ride on a unicorn's head than voluntarily provide content like that here, where the site owners profit from my work. No, I'll either use other channels, even if it means a more restricted audience, or simply keep those opinions to myself.

    Unfortunately for you, I choose not to keep this opinion to myself.

  • James Brown April 2, 2010 10:32 am

    You're right B, those two topics could be articles in their own right. So why didn't you turn them into articles in their own right instead of raining on this parade. I think what you are talking about, and what this article is trying to highlight are completely different things.

    @Daniel, (I know this is pretty late but) Man your zoom shot is really right on the button! You literally make those advertising signs stand out, and artistically over accentuate what they themselves are physically attempting to do. I think your choice of subject works exceptionally well with the method. Nice work man, it's another one of those "Damn, why didn't I take that" shots for me.

  • B April 1, 2010 11:11 pm

    tamanna, those two topics could be articles in their own right. My real point is that while these are fun "projects", they are really just tricks, techniques with limited value. There's nothing wrong with doing them, and they can teach us a bit, but most people have better, more basic skills they could be working on.

    I shot in JPG only for months after I got my first DSLR. I resisted shooting RAW because I thought it would be too complicated to have to go through more than one program to process my pictures and learn an entirely new workflow. Then one day I decided to just do it, and it completely changed my photography. It's a base-level skill that affects every shot you take. My end results are better, my post-processing time has actually decreased, and my processing techniques have improved. And it only took me a day or two to get the basics of RAW workflow down. In the same time you tape a P&S to a kite and get some cute pictures, you could entirely change your photographic paradigm.

    I also decided that I wanted to learn some basic fill flash techniques for indoor event shooting. Ideally I'd get a 480EXII or better and learn how to use that, but for my purposes it's overkill. Instead I found an older Sunpak thyristor unit for $30, hotshoe cords are $20, and with a few days of practice I'll be able to take better shots in questionable indoor lighting. Something that opens up way more possibilities than turning the zoom ring while the shutter's open.

    Even if someone already knows both of these, there are other more basic skills they can work on. They're just two examples.

    We should always have fun with our cameras! Nothing wrong with that. But if we're talking about great weekend projects, there are some things that most of us can do which add much more value to our skill set than the above.

  • tamanna April 1, 2010 07:37 am

    very nice..i'll try something similar

  • tamanna April 1, 2010 07:22 am

    @B..can you elaborate more on: How about learning to process RAW, best weekend project I ever did. Or buying a $30 manual hotshoe flash. I dunno.

  • kashyap March 31, 2010 11:50 am

    My apologies for the earlier falied post. This one is my try with light trails experimentation [eimg link='http://www.flickr.com/photos/kgrz/4461575347/' title='mehendi reloaded!!' url='http://farm3.static.flickr.com/2749/4461575347_975d43556c.jpg'] more experiments in my flickr stream

  • Fox March 30, 2010 06:15 am

    Thanks these really great tutz. It was so much fun! Had a blast with light trails...and not even begun to explore the others. Here is light trails on my guitar
    [eimg link='http://www.flickr.com/photos/frozenfox/4473581831/' title='The Enchanted Guitar' url='http://farm5.static.flickr.com/4059/4473581831_03968dcd3c.jpg']
    Thanks again!

  • gary March 28, 2010 02:21 pm

    [eimg link='http://www.flickr.com/photos/garylawrence/4195636752/' title='Painting with Light' url='http://farm3.static.flickr.com/2657/4195636752_9fbf7766ae.jpg']

    i bet that all 5 of the same pics upload now, never managed to get one pic any other time, hopefully this time, here is my Painting with Light submission

  • gary March 28, 2010 02:18 pm


  • gary March 28, 2010 02:12 pm

    [eimg link='http://www.flickr.com/photos/garylawrence/4195636752/' title='Painting with Light' url='http://farm3.static.flickr.com/2657/4195636752_9fbf7766ae.jpg']

    lets try again, have never managed to get this working to date

  • Oreita March 28, 2010 10:19 am

    These are really great shots and I welcome the inspiration. Thank you all very much.

  • barbara March 28, 2010 10:09 am

    [eimg url='http://photos-b.ak.fbcdn.net/photos-ak-snc1/v2202/161/75/501428486/n501428486_2143694_4252.jpg' title='n501428486_2143694_4252.jpg']

  • Samir March 28, 2010 03:37 am

    [eimg link='http://www.flickr.com/photos/12336677@N00/4467678482/' title='IMG_4651' url='http://farm5.static.flickr.com/4061/4467678482_cbafdfc195.jpg']

  • Whitewolf March 27, 2010 02:33 pm

    The light graffiti idea sounds so cool! Looking forward to trying this one,and some of the others too. Thanks so much for sharing,I feel inspired!

  • Patricia March 27, 2010 01:09 pm

    Thanks for challenging me to get more creative with my photography. Welcome any comments on this photo.[eimg link='http://www.flickr.com/photos/pdorman/4465566605/' title='85/365' url='http://farm5.static.flickr.com/4050/4465566605_7a891240ab.jpg']

  • Delia March 27, 2010 06:40 am

    Love this. I am linked this post and one of the pictures on my blog. Are we not having the photography challenge? Just wondering.

  • Nathan Ciurzynski March 27, 2010 01:59 am

    Love the idea with the smoke!

  • IanRay Cruz March 27, 2010 01:29 am

    hey tried the shutter zoom with out tripod. thanks for sharing this one. Here's my shot, i believe this would be better if i use a tripod.
    [eimg url='http://i42.tinypic.com/20t2r0w.jpg' title='20t2r0w.jpg']

  • diana March 26, 2010 11:22 pm

    Thanks, I had a lot of fun trying out shutter zoom! Tried the smoke technique, didn't turn out well, but I am not giving up! : - )


  • diana March 26, 2010 11:20 pm

    Thanks! I had fun trying out shutter zoom!
    [eimg link='http://www.flickr.com/photos/wooddesk/4464135860/' title='365-Day 60: Flying horse' url='http://farm5.static.flickr.com/4001/4464135860_73440469e4.jpg']

  • Justin N. March 26, 2010 07:44 pm

    Excellent ideas! Thanks for the info.. Definately some good projects for the weekend. I too think I will pass on the kite photography. Will be trying out the new 7D, want to enjoy it for a long time to come..

    Thanks again...

  • Tobie Openshaw March 26, 2010 05:13 pm

    This is a couple of videos I produced with the help of friends who are doing stop-motion and ANIMATED light grafitti... used by Corel to demo their new photo and video software. http://www.corel.com/au/content/html/event/pspx3_vsx3/showcase.htm#01

  • Cash Hieland March 26, 2010 03:02 pm

    I got really excited about the shutter zoom technique. I am into using the camera and not so much into after processing like Photoshop. My wife does the photoshop thing well but I am going to have a lot of fun with the shutter zoom. Thanks. I look forward to more camera only techniques.

  • Poonam March 26, 2010 02:54 pm

    i am very new to photography ,...just tried the light thing ...want to share

  • Mei Teng March 26, 2010 02:53 pm

    David, thanks for the explanation. I have attempted light graffiti before and it's fun. Have not had a successful attempt on shutter zoom though.

  • Miguel Carvajal March 26, 2010 02:07 pm

    I have already tried the smoke signals technique and it was a lot of fun. You may see an example of what I did in my Flickr page: http://www.flickr.com/photos/miguelcarvajal/4430344734/

    Now I want to try and do all the other projects, except for the kite photography... I love my camera too much to put it in harm's way!

    Thank you guys for this most excellent post!

  • IanRay Cruz March 26, 2010 07:28 am

    amazing! these are really nice...looking at these pictures inspire me to be more creative. and hey Nat Johnson, thank you for this. While reading the graffiti, i realize something about shutter thing, i might be wrong so i want to make sure i got it right, so here's my question, hope you could help me with this, regarding the shutter speed. Let' say you have a 10 second shutter speed, will this mean that every light that passes thru the lens during this duration can be captured by the camera? then will this be include in the picture?

    *** I Love this Community! ^_^ ***

  • kashyap March 26, 2010 06:24 am

    This is my try with light grafitti!

  • Daniel March 26, 2010 05:19 am

    [eimg link='http://www.flickr.com/photos/dch_imaging/4319935424/' title='fast food' url='http://farm5.static.flickr.com/4001/4319935424_7dd0a056d5.jpg']
    playing with shutter zoom.i really enjoyed this experiment.

  • romas13 March 26, 2010 04:44 am

    Effect on 2nd picture wasn't made with camera zoom, but with post processing.

  • Jason Collin Photography March 26, 2010 04:22 am

    Wow, the kite photography idea is way out there, I like it though, but my D300 is a bit too heavy to fly well.

    Shutter zoom shots are ones I have always wanted to try. Maybe this weekend I will make the time to try it out. Now I am starting to work on my own project of photography sunny Florida at f/11:


  • B March 26, 2010 03:55 am

    Both techniques are usually called "light painting", I kind of like the distinction here.

    However, it's usually best to set ISO 100 and use the aperture to control the length of your exposure; you get a cleaner image that way, and a narrow aperture will give you plenty of time and a wide DOF, which is usually pleasing in these images (lots of detail).

    The image in question, used ISO 100, if you check the EXIF.

    I've never heard of the second technique being called "shutter zoom" but whatever.

    For the last, find a point & shoot that has an interval timer. My old Nikon P2 does. You can set it to continually take photos at different intervals, 30 seconds, 1 minute, five minutes, etc.

    These are fun, I guess next it'll be intentional camera movement, HDR, and selective color. How about learning to process RAW, best weekend project I ever did. Or buying a $30 manual hotshoe flash. I dunno.

  • Janis March 26, 2010 02:41 am

    I tried the light graffiti last summer and it didn't work as good as your sample. But might try this out again and maybe get much better flashlights. The tip about wearing black is very good, thanks!

  • Jay McIntyre March 26, 2010 01:58 am

    I'd love to do some experimenting with shutter zoom. It seems as though, once you get it right, it can really stand out.

    I'm also really excited to try some light painting.

    Here's a bit of Graffiti that I did a while back http://jmphotographyonline.wordpress.com/2009/11/22/light-painting…long-exposures/
    even though I called it light painting not graffiti.

  • David March 26, 2010 01:27 am

    @hfng - Most newer Canon cameras will let you shoot a burst of 1-3 shots after a timer of 2-30 seconds. That would be a good range of features to test the Kite shot with. You could also try CHDK firmware.

    @MeiTeng - Light graffiti would require you to actually have the source of light in the photo, such as pointing a flashlight directly at the camera lens, and trailing it around into a pattern. Light painting is taking a flashlight or other lightsource and pointing it in the same direction the lens is pointed to illuminate the subject in a different way then it would otherwise be.
    You could use whatever ISO works for your conditions, but it is likely that you will either need a large aperture - eg f/4.0 or larger or use a fast shutter speed. Just give it a try and see how it turns out in your conditions.

  • Shane March 26, 2010 01:23 am

    These are some awesome project ideas. I love it and think I may set aside some time. A star magnolia is in full bloom in the back yard, should make for a nice subject to "paint" on.

  • Boon March 26, 2010 01:23 am

    Maybe I should play some of those you just mentioned! Gotta be great!

  • MeiTeng March 26, 2010 01:09 am

    Light graffiti and painting with light are the same aren't they? For light graffiti and painting with light, can I use ISO100 instead of ISO400-800?

  • hfng March 26, 2010 12:46 am

    Kite photography does sound fun. Any idea what camera can shoot continuous bursts after clicking on the self timer?

  • Jon McGovern March 26, 2010 12:41 am

    Kite photography sounds fun but I wouldn't want to try it with my D-SLR... maybe it's time to buy an Olympus tough?

  • Thomas March 26, 2010 12:39 am

    Cool posts and ideas !

    I Want to share my paintings with light :

    Kite camera can be very cool but i hesitate a little bit with my new 5D Mark ii :x