Light Painting

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Emma, In the Studio, My Family, Portfolio

Tonight we did a little light painting in the back yard! It’s been a long time since we just played around with the camera and light. Earlier this week I saw tiny mushrooms that were growing around the base of several trees in my neighborhood. They gave me the idea of a photo shoot I’ve been wanting to do. I wanted to paint them with light after dark then, later paint Emma with light and put the two images together in photoshop. I forgot to go out last night after dark but was happy when I noticed the mushrooms were still there today.

So, we went out tonight and someone had removed all the mushrooms that had been growing around the trees. I was so sad. Anyway, I shot a couple of plant roots and then captured some images of Emma in the backyard. Later, I did a little work in Photoshop. The image isn’t perfect but it was fun just playing around.

How the paint with light:

  • You must be in the dark. Any light source around you will be picked up by the camera at some point. (Notice the neighborhood lights in the first image)
  • Open the shutter on a film or digital camera. You can set the shutter speed to 30 sec, a minute, or just open it on bulb and release it when finished.
  • Walk around your subject and light them with a flashlight, pen light, or any other hand help light.
  • Be careful not to light yourself or point the light source toward the camera lens as it will “read” the light.
  • NOTE: Since the shutter will be open for an extended amount of time any movement of the camera will show up and any movements your model makes will be blurred or even become double images. So use a tripod and tell your model to pretend to be a statue. Ha! Try that at 10 years old.

I actually ended up having my husband hold the bulb open on my camera while I crawled around Emma with a flashlight lighting her up.  After several tries with Emma moving and getting double heads, eyes, and arms, we finally got a shot we liked enough to play with. Personally, I think this is limitless and you could try so many different things with a couple of flashlights and a camera. It’s a blast to use film cameras to do this also.


How cute would this have been if she was standing under a cluster of tiny mushrooms?! Oh well, it was still something fun to do on a Monday night.

How cute would this have been if she was standing under a cluster of tiny mushrooms?! Oh well, it was still something fun to do on a Monday night.

I learned this technique in school at Orange Coast College from Rick Steadry. However, I happen to think the master of painting with light is Dave Black. There are some amazing things being done with this technique and amazing artists doing it but Dave’s work is so elegant and beautiful. Seriously, check it out.

Now go try it out and have some fun!



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Just a girl, on a journey. Thankful for love, thankful for friends and family, and thankful for forgiveness. Full of passion, conviction and hope.

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