In the right light, at the right time, everything is extraordinary.Aaron Rose
The other day I was asked by a good friend of mine to explain my painting with light technique, so here goes John Dunkle.
What is light painting? It’s a photographic technique allowing the photographer to create images while using a hand-held light source to expose the subject to the camera. Most importantly, it’s a hell of a lot of fun!
Before we begin, remember this is how I do light painting. There’s ton’s of information on the internet on this topic, and you will need to practice the technique to become good at it. Take what I’m about to explain to you, and use what I have learned and modify the idea’s to help you improve your light painting technique.
Even before I leave the house, we need to ensure we are wearing the proper clothing. Often, I’m walking between the camera and the subject holding the light in my hand. Therefore, I always try to wear black or clothing that is as dark as possible, so no Hawaii shirts. John 🙂
So what’s in my kit? The first thing that goes into the truck is the dog, why? Two reasons. One, she so fast I can’t seem to stop her from jumping into the truck. Second I call her my EWD ( Early Warning Device.) to read the reason why? Head on over to my blog “Kid With a Rifle.” 2nd don’t forget you maybe out there a long time, so I often bring along a BlueTooth speaker and listen to tunes. Ya okay, I may dance a bit, but only to keep warm. For Photographic equipment, you don’t need a lot, a Camera that can shoot in bulb mode, and a cable release, one that you can lock down. Don’t forget the tripod, as you will be doing long exposures.
Flashlights, yup you need them, I bring a couple and a head lamp. But my main torch is a portable trouble light I use for working on the car, and is placed into a cardboard box painted black. This way I have control over the light, unlike a flashlight that spreads light everywhere, kind-of-like a shotgun.
How do I focus, that’s easy I have two different methods, 1) shine the flashlight on any part of the subject or my preferred method is to walk over to the subject and place the light pointing towards the camera and manually focus on the light. “Make sure you set the camera to manual focus, we don’t want the focus to change, as we may need to stack photos after in photoshop.
Duration, exposure, this is why you are here you want my secret, how long of exposure is required, Ah come on, you know I have the mathematical formula in my head, do you have a pen and paper ready? Or better yet here is the trick. I start at my max ISO (6400) in my case, and I want as little noise as possible. That’s me I hate noise, so I want to get between 100-400 ISO. Remember I’m in manual everything, and in bulb mode, so my 1st test shot will be at 1 minute, Maximum ISO and my aperture is usually at F10 or what your preferred setting is. So if my test shot failed to dark or over exposed, I have to adjust, but I remain at max ISO until I get a good exposure. Alway work in 30 Sec increments, it’s just easier math. Let’s work with this, at 6400 ISO. My exposure is 30 seconds. I now need to get the proper exposure at 400 ISO, how do I get there? 6400 30 seconds, 3200 1 minutes, 1600, 2 minutes, 800 4 minutes Etc. See why I work in 30 seconds now? Recap so you understand, as I move down in 1 stop, ISO I move up one stop in exposure, remember my aperture is already set.
Hold it I’m painting with light, why do I need a proper exposure, WOW your quick, we don’t! We need to have an idea of how fast we need to work, therefore, once we know the exposure time, we half it again and that is our working duration. In the above scenario did you come up with 6 minutes? Really? I came up with 4, (at 400 ISO) see I’m testing you.
Now comes the painting, the key is, don’t stop in any one area too long. Keep moving, you and the light need to be moving at all times. If you finish before the camera shutter closes don’t panic, turn the light off and remember your dressed in black or at least dark clothing, and as long as your moving the camera should not pick you up in the image.
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