Making Patterned Light Painting Images

light paintingThe following guest post about creating patterns with Light Painting is written by Mark Montgomery (A.K.A maku on Flickr), you can see more of his work here.

There a lots of really talented light painters out there worldwide doing big small stuff and detailed everything style pieces. If I had to choose I wouldn’t but some folks take their photos to the next level. From the icy blue rocks and motioned ocean done by Burnblue to the triptastic tunnel work of someone like tcb (who did a few great tutorials for DIYP). Their work always has a real power owing to the huge or subtle location they use. Each does it their own way but to full effect.

I always try to focus on the journey of the light. An ideal shot for me is one with no streetlight or reflected windows and a frame of something that I can’t explain but recognize as soon as I see it. I love the use of spaces but I always have enjoyed focusing on the light itself as it flowed momentarily. Trying to add depth with the pathways of various sources or flipping something to create a symmetrical view if I feel it adds to what I was trying to do is usually about it. Here is how you do it.

Setup And Location

Since the images are drawn over black background, try looking for a place with minimal light interference. The darker, the better. One option is to reflection-proof a closed space by putting black cloth all over it, but an easier option is to go outdoors after the sun sets. If you are doing this, note that after 20 seconds, almost any light (as dim as it may be) will be marked on your camera sensor.

Even so, there are usually lots of scrap images as people set off security lights or the dog runs out and jumps with the lights.

For those kinds of shots it is important to remember to fill the frame and draw big. You may need a test shot to see where your lights are stretching before you start to actually “draw”. Once you figure this out, a marker on the ground can be really helpful.

With the removal of the spaces and scenery you may get the sense that then all you’re doing is waving lights in the dark. Well, I agree but I always try to have some order to what is in your picture. Plan ahead what you are trying to accomplish and paint accordingly this will make it more than just “waving lights in the dark”. Of course, there is nothing wrong with going emotional and spread yourself  all over the place too :)

light painting

Lights Used

LEDs and cold neon or some cold cathodes work great for those kinds of shots. Try to minimize the number of tools or brushes you use on each frame.

Wiring helps.. And basic push switches allow me to smoothly blend or sharply swipe the lights as I wish – see this tutorial for creating some basic light sabers.

Different lights do different things on camera but not all look good together, this is a matter of taste, of course and image you light today,

Cold neon LED or pc mod cold cathode lights act great as big blotchy light sources and can be used like a paintroller too which makes great shapes.

light painting

LEDs laid out every inch or so on an offcut piece of wood with a push switch allow me to have the even spacing that I prefer.

light painting

Very short Post

After I get the shapes and shadows that I wanted, pretty much the only work I do on the image is to darken the shadows of the wall or fence in the back yard where these are all taken.

Took a great light painting image? Tell us how you made it and share in DIYP’s Flickr pool.