If you want to try something different this Halloween, how about trying some light painting portraits with your kids?
Its easier than you think, and I’ll show you how its done in this article.
Each photo in this article includes the before and after of each image. Click the slider in the middle and drag it to one side or the other.
DIY Light Painting Halloween Costume Photos
To get started, here’s what you’ll need to create your own light painting Halloween costume photos:
- DSLR (or equivalent camera) on a tripod (I used a Nikon D800 with a Sigma ART 35mm).
- Remote shutter release.
- A flashlight (or other source of continuous light) and light modifiers (be creative).
- A dark room with a relatively dark background.
- Kids (or other models) who can stay perfectly still for 1 – 2 seconds.
- Black clothing including black gloves.
- Lightroom / Photoshop.
Set up your camera on your tripod and frame the scene that you intend to photograph. Remember that the traces from your light painting will be larger than your subject, so go a bit to the wide side.
Next, have your subject stand at a specific spot and pre-focus your camera – then switch your lens to manual. Put a little piece of tape on the floor so that your subject stays in the same place.
Here’s what my location setup looked like with the lights on:
Set your camera exposure to something around ISO 800, f/8 and set the shutter speed to “bulb” mode.
Now turn off the lights and adjust your exposure to suit the intensity of the light source that you will be using. For my photos, the toy light saber was quite a bit dimmer than my LED flashlight.
Remember that as long as you are moving the light around, the length of time that the shutter is open doesn’t affect the overall exposure.
Now its time to have some fun!
Have your model stand on their mark, turn the lights off and while holding your light source in one hand and your remote shutter release in the other – open and close the shutter while you light paint your subjects.
Remember that if you want your subjects to be sharp and crisp – they have to stay perfectly still (including holding their breath) for the duration of the exposure – so give them a countdown and try to keep your exposure time to around one second.
There is quite a bit of trial and error involved here – and luck, so take lots of photos.
You can also experiment with different light sources and light modifiers.
And don’t forget – if you don’t want a silhouette, you have to light the front of your subject too.
For these photos, I used a green toy light saber:
And for these photos, I used an LED flashlight and a sheet of multi-color sparkly star stickers that add a little color and reflect the light back to my model:
As you can see from the before and after examples in this article, a little post production work is needed to finish off your light painting Halloween costume photos.
I did all of the editing on my photos right in Lightroom.
Most of the work is just making the areas that should be black black -which can be achieved using the blacks slider and locally adjusting the exposure, blacks and shadows with the adjustment brush.
But, you can really play around with modifying the colors too and a little vibrance, clarity and maybe dehaze can look good as well.
Try It Yourself!
Leave a comment if you have any questions – and let us know how your DIY light painting Halloween costume photos turn out!