The 8 Steps Recipe For Mixing Flash And Light Painting

There are so much possibilities when mixing flash and light painting together, and so many great photographers out there that have done amazing things with this technique, so here is a basic photography tutorial on how to mix flash and light painting in one exposure.

feature image

What you Need:

  • A Camera
  • A Flash
  • A (Wireless) trigger for your flash
  • A Flashlight (Or other tool of the trade)
  • A Shutter release cable (optional)
  • A tripod

what you need

8 steps for getting the job done: Step 1

Mount your camera on a tripod


Step 2

Set your camera to the longest shutter setting, or the time you need to light paint, you can also use a shutter release cable to shoot in bulb mode. (Normally I just set my camera to 30 seconds, it is plenty of time)

shutter release cable

Step 3

When doing self portraits, I normally set my camera to timer mode so that I have time to get to my position.

timer mode

Step 4

Set your aperture to expose for your flash. Normally my setting would be ISO 200, at f8. The power of my sb-600 would be at 1/4 power. Those setting may vary for different strobes and different subject to strobe placements, but they are a good starting point. Make sure you expose right for the strobe before starting the light painting session.

camera settings
Step 5

Pre-Focus on your subject. While the light is still on, focus on your subject then switch your AF to manual mode so you can click the shutter even in the dark. It is better to have no ambient light hitting your subject so that you have no ghosting when the subject moves.

set to manual af

Step 6

Set your camera to front curtain sync so that the flash will trigger once the shutter opens.

front curtain sync
Step 7

activate the time and get into position

Step 8

After the flash pops you will be exposed, then you can move out of the frame to do the lighting painting bit. Make sure to point your flashlight (or whatever light source you are using) directly at your camera.

Here are three samples on getting a simple light painting done.

stick people sample


Beer sample

And more complex examples of this technique

sameple mitch

sample self portrait

  • mimstyle

    it’s a second curtain for the flashlight will be behind the model, not first curtain ?