I know you are here for the how to beef, but first let me share the story of how I got into light painting.
For those of you not familiar with light painting, it is a photographic technique using a slow shutter speed (or long exposure) to capture light streaks in whatever form you want- you can read more here) Basically with a DSLR, a tripod and a light source of some kind you have limitless possibilities to create one of a kind images.
I fell in LOVE with this technique when I was doing my very first 365 Photo project. The project where you take a photo every day. It forces you to practice your craft and gets you looking at common everyday items to use in your pictures. I mean, I had no idea forks could be so interesting. But…..when you come home from a long day at work and you’ve lost your energy, oomph and you need to get your photo done before the end of the day they become very interesting.
As I started with my project I would check out other members uploads and get instantly inspired. Then once I found a technique I liked I would research everything about it. And one of those techniques was Light Painting. I was in LOVE! Endless creativity and unique images are my jam.
Below is one of my first every light painting photos.
Now you might be thinking, there is no way that I can learn to do that. Well, listen up, there is. It’s super easy. So go gather your DSLR, a tripod, and some ready-made light tools such as a flashlight, glow stick or sparkler and get your creativity on!
Here is a peak into my kit:
#1: Steel Wool:
According to Wikipedia, Steel Wool is a bundle of very fine and flexible sharp-edged steel filaments and when you light that bundle on fire, it produces sparks of light.
You combine that with long exposure photography and you have explosive photos. In my steel wool kit I have gloves, a variety of wire whisks, dog leash, a lighter and 0000 Grade Steel Wool and water. You will also need dark clothing, hat and eye protection.
Steel Wool Photography should only be done near the water or on cement after it’s rained. Always bring a fire extinguisher or bottles of water with you in case you need to put out any embers. Additionally, I recommend you google several tutorials to fully understand the process and be very careful. I personally like the Photo Extremists tutorial. Cost: gloves $2.50 (Dollar Store), wire whisks $5.00 (Bed, Bath Beyond), dog leash $1.25 (Dollar Store), 0000 grade steel wool $3.98 (Home Depot).
#2: Light Stick
For the light stick you need a piece of wood (any size you want, mine is L57”xW2”), tape and one string of battery operated fairy lights. Lay out your lights next to your piece of wood and tape them on. Voila! A home-made light stick. If you use white lights, you can tint your photo with your basic windows photo gallery editor. I have two, one with white lights and one with multi-colored lights. Cost: Piece of wood $0 (free from Home Depot discarded pile), tape $1.25 (Dollar Store), wireless fairy lights $3 (eBay).
#3: Hoola Hoop
Who doesn’t love a hoola hoop? Now, stop playing with your hoola and get to work creating your light tool..Hahaha. The light hoola hoop is super-duper easy to do. All you need is a hoola hoop, one string of battery operated fairy lights (approx. 8ft long or less depending on how big your hoop is) and some tape or zip ties. Tape or zip tie your lights around your hoola hoop. Bam! Cost: Hoola Hoop $2 (Dollar Store), battery operated fairy lights $3 (ebay) and black tape $2 (Dollar Store).
A Spirograph is a colorful geometric design. You hang a light source to a string from the ceiling and then you place your camera underneath the light sore on a tripod or the floor, set a long exposure, turn off the lights and get your spin on. You can use keychain flashlights or in my case, I used a light wand to get these cool designs. Cost: string $1.25 (Dollar Store), light wand $1.99 (eBay) and a thumb tack $1.25 (Dollar Store).
#5: Lighting Tube Wand
For this technique, I turn to Eric Pare who is a very talented and creative artist. He created a very basic light wand using two D25A2 mini flashlights and a florescent light tube holder. With this light wand and the assistance of his partner in crime, Kim Henry, he set out to create incredible unique pieces of art. Cost: One clear florescent light tube $4 (Home Depot), Two D25A2 mini flashlights $56 ea. Optional: colored cellophane $2 (Dollar Store). Below is my homage to an inspirational artist.
If you are hooked, here are some other inspiring light painting artists and resources you may want to check out:
- Light Painters world alliance
- Light Painting Photography Featured Artist
- Rob Turney
- Long Exposure Effects for the Experimental Photographer
About The Author
Jennifer Dowd is an aspiring photographer based on Vancouver Island out of Victoria BC. As she says, Photography is more than a passion, it’s an obsession. You can check out more of her photos at her web site or LPWA gallery.