If an amazing light painting portrait has caught your eye sometime over the last few years, you’ve probably seen the work of Montréal, based visual artist Eric Paré.
Since then Eric and his long time collaborator Kim Henry have been busy traveling the world combining dance, environmental portraiture, and light painting with gorgeous results (check out Eric’s 500px portfolio here and his work with Adobe Max here).
I recently had the opportunity to catch up with Eric and Kim in Toronto where they were presenting a Creative Photography and Light Painting Workshop…
Eric refers to himself as a visual artist – unlike most of us who refer to ourselves as photographers.
After spending an afternoon with Eric and learning about his approach to light painting portraiture, I now understand the difference.
Eric’s approach to light painting is much more like performance theater than photography – with the creation of amazing photographs as almost a byproduct of the process.
However, what struck me the most is how incredibly easy it is to create photographs like these with only the most basic camera setup and inexpensive tools – once you understand a few basic techniques of course.
Hands on Workshop
The workshop started with an in depth explanation of Eric’s light painting techniques, along with a discussion on the light painting tools he uses, camera settings and location setup.
Then students were invited to set up their own cameras and try their hand using the techniques presented.
Each student took turns photographing and light painting a model a using a variety of the light painting tools of their choice.
Everything was very hands-on, and by the end of the four hour workshop, everyone in the class was able to create light painting portraits like the ones in this article.
If you’re interested in this style of light painting – I highly recommend attending one of Eric’s workshops.
Eric’s Approach To Light Painting
Until I came across Eric’s work, I have to admit that I never really liked light painting photography very much.
I always found most light painting photography to be a confusing jumble of light, color and blurry motion. Its like light painting photographers are always trying too hard.
I think what is different about Eric’s work is that he has simplified the process of light painting.
Instead of working with a subject that is in motion, he works with models who stay still for the duration of the exposure.
Instead of creating a blurry mess of motion, Eric’s models are sharp and clear.
Instead of a confusing jumble of light captured with a long exposure, Eric works with clear simple light movements that can be captured within an exposure time of a second or so.
But, what I found to be the most interesting is that the technique of how and where the light is applied is so much more important than the camera and camera settings.
Basically, Eric just sets up his camera on a tripod with a remote shutter release.
(If you ask him what his camera settings were for a particular photo, he probably doesn’t know – they’re almost irrelevant to the final image.)
He just sets his camera on bulb mode, ISO 400 ish, f/8 ish (with some minor adjustment to get a good exposure, depending on the relative brightness of the light painting tool being used) sets the focus of his lens once (then switches it to manual) and he’s ready to photograph an entire series of images.
Eric’s light painting tools are equally simple. Just a high output LED flashlight and a number of colored gels, acrylic plates, plastic tubes, colored paper and sheets of plastic (and even a psychedelic glitter rainbow flip flop).
Then, it is all about the performance of working with the model to apply the light painting.
Holding the remote shutter release in one hand and a light painting tool in the other, Eric paints the light where he wants it, while starting and stopping the exposure with his other hand – all in a one-second long fluid motion while the model stays motionless.
The result is light painting portraits that have a gorgeous quality of light along with the spontaneity and randomness that we usually associate with light painting.
Now even though the camera setup and basic procedure is pretty simple – there is a certain amount of technique and artistry that goes into applying the actual light paining.
It is pretty obvious that Eric has mastered this technique – but with his instruction and pointers, each student in the workshop was able to produce their own light painting portraits with a similar look and feel – in fact, all of the images in this post were taken by students at the workshop.
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There is just something really interesting about Eric’s light painting style that grabs a viewer’s attention and I am personally really excited to take what I learned with Eric and Kim and apply some of these techniques to my own work.
(In fact, I had a blast applying what I learned to take some light painting photos of my kids wearing their Star Wars Halloween costumes.)