Creative Photography: How to do Light Painting/Drawing/Graffiti

Light painting, also known as light drawing/light graffiti is a photographic technique in which photos with brilliant effects can be created at night time in a dark place in the outdoors or inside in a dark room by moving one or more hand held light sources around to “draw” with light.

During my recent trip to New Zealand our photo expedition team were stuck inside a hut on Stewart Island all evening and night because of the rain and bad weather outside so we decided to do some experimental Light Painting/Drawing/Graffiti with our red LED head torches.

The following photo of me was taken by my NZ photographer friend Clive Copeman using a Canon EOS 7D digital SLR with a flash burst at the end of the 10second exposure to highlight my face.

Halo Effect - Neerav Bhatt - Light Painting

Basic Requirements for Light Painting/Drawing/Graffiti

  • Tripod – to keep your camera steady, or at the very least a flat surface like a fence post or table.
  • Camera – which can be set to take long manual exposure photos eg: 10-30 seconds or more. It helps if the camera has a BULB setting and you can use a remote to trigger the photo exposure start/finish.
  • Light/s – eg: torches, keychain lights, sparklers … as long as you can move the light/s around to create the effect you want. Don’t just use white lights, any colour or multiple colours can be used.
  • Wear Dark Clothes – if you don’t want yourself to be in the photo.
  • Camera Settings – Long Shutter Speed (experiment with different lengths of time), Low ISO (eg: 100 so the photo has less digital noise), Flash (can be used to freeze and highlight part of the image), White Balance (experiment depending on the colours of light you use and the colours of your environment), Focus (best to prefocus manually before the photo), Aperture (reasonably high so too much light isn’t let in which would overexpose the photo)

Examples of Creative Light Painting/Drawing/Graffiti

The following interesting example of Light Painting/Drawing/Graffiti was found on the Flickr photo sharing community. The Flickr group “Light Painting” has many more great examples.

xray outline
xray outline photo credit: Ben Chau

DISCLAIMER: I was not paid for the NZ trip and have sole control over what I write and say about it. All expenses for the trip were covered by Tourism New Zealand and regional subsidiaries. Camera gear was loaned by Canon (except for my own personally owned Canon S90 camera). Some clothing was sponsored by Goretex

4 thoughts on “Creative Photography: How to do Light Painting/Drawing/Graffiti”

  1. How cool is this??? THANK YOU!! I had no idea it would be so easy!! I especially LOVE the one with the glass. I’ve really enjoyed seeing your work.

    Thank you for sharing!!
    Lisa

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