Light painting can be a lot of fun, and it’s even more fun when you combine it with regular old flash to create dynamic and interesting images. Portraits, particularly of athletes or dancers can provide the perfect subject for experimenting with this technique as it appears to show movement in a still image, which is what sport and dance are all about really.
3 light Set up
Bee uses a typical 3 light set-up with the key light in front of the subject and two gridded kicker lights behind which light up either side of the subject. The kicker lights should usually be a touch brighter and be harder light than the key light. An important thing to note is to turn off any modelling lights so that the studio is as dark as possible for capturing the LED lights.
It’s important to have your camera set up on a tripod for maximum stability because don’t forget you’re combining strobes with continuous lighting to get that long exposure effect.
Then Bee put the LED wrist bands on her subject set to various different colours for different effects. They are incredibly easy to use, have a variety of colours and effects, and you can also change the brightness.
Rear Curtain Sync
So what camera settings do you need to achieve this effect? Well, it’s actually quite simple. You’re essentially combining two different exposures in one. You need to use rear curtain sync so that the flash pops at the end of the exposure, freezing the action. You can control the brightness either by changing the aperture or by the flash output levels.
The shutter speed controls the ambient lighting, in this case, the LED lights and the light painting. Bee recommends trying anything between 3 and 10 seconds. This gives your subject plenty of time to experiment with movement before the strobe flashes freezing the action.
Ultimately it will take some trial and error between your settings and what your subject is doing, but that’s all part of the beauty of photography, especially light painting.