How to create pictures using “Light Painting” technique

Pictures with lines of light or “scribbled  light” with black background can be creating by using a variety of light sources (flash lights, light pens, matches, candles, lighter flints and glowstick) shining directly into the camera lens  while the shutter of the camera kept open for few seconds to give long exposure to the film.  

Addition light can be used to selectively illuminate parts of the subject. In order to minimize camera shake, a tripod is necessary due to the long exposure times and a shutter release cable or self timer is generally used. Manual focus is often used since autofocus systems may not perform well in low light. In addition, photographers often use a slow film speed or low ISO setting on a digital sensor to minimize grain (or digital noise) and increase exposure tolerance. Like night photography, light painting has grown in popularity since the advent of digital cameras because it allows the photographers to see the results of their work immediately.

Alternative to moving light source (like flash lights and light pens) light painting can be done by  moving the camera. It called  “Camera Toss.” Take off the camera from the tripod and used it like a paintbrush.  Sometimes use of artificial light, like LEDs and mobile phones, or through the limited sunlight beaming in a curtained room creates a shadowing effect adds up to a more creative result. 










             The first known photographer to use light painting technique was Man Ray in his series “Space Writing” in 1937 (picture on left). Photographer Gjon Milli took picture of Pablo Picasso in 1949 doing a quick sketch in the air using a light pen (picture on right). To know the story behind Picasso’s famous photograph click here 










Creating images in darkness, in a way bring the blind photographer at par with the sighted photographer, both equally challenged to see in the dark. Seeing with Photography Collective is a group of photographers based in New York City who are visually impaired. The group exclusively uses light painting techiniques, in which flashlights are used to illustrate the subjects over long exposure in complete darkness to create richly surreal work of art – luminous distortions, blurred or glowing forms. Work of  the group is complied in a book titled “Shooting Blind” published by the Aperture Foundation, New York.

To know more about Seeing with Photography Collective group click here

Visually impaired and sighted photographers from the Seeing With Photography Collective group discuss their work in video below. 


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