Light Painting: My Favorites

Hi all,

As promised, below are my favorites from the light painting shoot I did the other night. I hope you like them!

P.s. There are a couple different crops and variations on my Flickr page…so make sure you check those out too

Light Painting #8

Light Painting #13

Light Painting #14

Light Painting #15

Light Painting #16

Light Painting #17


10 responses to “Light Painting: My Favorites

  1. Hi Mike. Nice site. I too tried doing an iPhoto a day 🙂 Didn’t work too well for me but, the iPhone is still fairly good for pic taking. I love your long exposure maglite photos. I’m a big fan of light painting. I read your previous post about the set up, but, when I was taking these photos, I often had problems with my image being out of focus. I’d set the camera for a 5 second exposure, with a 2 sec delay (to avoid cam shake). Cam was on a tripod and I was about a metre away swinging a light about. Camera was set to auto. Some pics turned out good (see my site for one) but most were out of focus. I’d have thought that to be especially difficult with your set up, i.e. camera pointed up vertically.

    • Hi there!

      Thanks for posting your comment…it’s nice to know that there are people actually reading my blog 🙂

      Let me see if I can help you with this…

      There are a bunch of things I want to make sure that you’re doing, so I’ll just make a list for you.

      1. You say that the camera was set to Auto. What was actually set to auto? I do pretty much everything manually when shooting at night or in dark areas as I find the camera can get easily confused.
      2. What lens are you using? I find the wider, the better. I got my best results when using my 17-40mm lens.
      3. What aperture setting are you using? In this case, the higher the f number, the better. I think most of my shots were between f/8 and f/11. Using a higher f number will give you a better chance of getting sharper images as it gives you a wider depth of field range. Of course, using a higher f number will require a longer shutter speed, but you have the camera on a tripod so this shouldn’t be an issue for you. In this setup, I really didn’t care about bokeh, I just wanted to make sure the background was blacked out and the edges of the light were as sharp as possible.
      4. Are you pre-focusing? I pre-focused on the tip of the flashlight but again, I had a high f number so I still had a good DOF range which will account for the space the flashlight needs when it is flailing around. Make sure you turn on all available lights, pre-focus, turn off the lights, and shoot away!
      5. Use a low ISO. I shot all of these images at ISO 100. Again, we are using a tripod so shutter speed isn’t a major factor here. Yes, it can affect the shapes created by the light but you don’t want a noisy image due to a high ISO. And with so much black in these images, you will see A LOT of noise if you use a high ISO. Yes, you can touch up noisy images, but this makes them even softer which is what we are trying to prevent.
      6. Another cause of blur when shooting long exposures is the motion of the mirror popping up inside the camera. Sounds crazy, but it can make a difference. I’m not sure what you are using for a camera, but MOST DSLRs have something called a “mirror lockup” mode. I shoot Canon and this feature can be found in the custom functions settings. When this function is active, it forces the mirror to lift and lock well before the shutter opens and closes which can reduce some shake. You can find more detail here:

      So, in summary I would follow these steps.
      1. Use a wide lens (e.g. 17-40mm)
      2. Use a high f number (e.g. f/8-f/11)
      3. Use manual settings and tweak them to get desired results (see my EXIF data below)
      4. Pre-focus on the end of the flashlight
      5. Use a low ISO (e.g. ISO100)
      6. Use mirror lockup

      Below is an example along with some EXIF data…maybe my settings will help you out.

      Light Painting #3

      Exif data
      Camera Canon EOS 5D
      Exposure 20
      Aperture f/10.0
      Focal Length 39 mm
      ISO Speed 100
      Exposure Bias 0 EV
      Flash Off, Did not fire
      File Size 2.6 MB
      File Type JPEG
      MIME Type image/jpeg
      Image Width 4368
      Image Height 2912
      Encoding Process Baseline DCT, Huffman coding
      Bits Per Sample 8
      Color Components 3
      X-Resolution 240 dpi
      Y-Resolution 240 dpi
      Date and Time (Modified) 2010:04:26 20:51:57
      Exposure Program Manual
      Date and Time (Original) 2010:04:25 20:46:17-04:00
      Date and Time (Digitized) 2010:04:25 20:46:17
      Max Aperture Value 4.0
      Metering Mode Multi-segment
      Focal Plane X-Resolution 3086.925795053 dpi
      Focal Plane Y-Resolution 3091.29511677282 dpi
      Custom Rendered Normal
      Exposure Mode Manual
      White Balance Auto
      Scene Capture Type Standard
      Compression JPEG (old-style)
      Viewing Conditions Illuminant Type D50
      Measurement Observer CIE 1931
      Measurement Flare 0.999%
      Measurement Illuminant D65
      XMPToolkit Adobe XMP Core 4.2-c020 1.124078, Tue Sep 11 2007 23:21:40
      Rating 5
      Creator Tool Adobe Photoshop Lightroom
      Lens EF17-40mm f/4L USM
      Image Number 14
      Flash Compensation 0
      Color Transform YCbCr
      Flash Return No return detection
      Flash Mode Off
      Flash Function False
      Flash Red Eye Mode False

      Let me know if you are still having issues and I’ll post a video of my setup…it’s hard to convey all of this over a quick reply 🙂

  2. Hi Mike,

    Thanks for the awesome response and the visit 🙂

    I put the photo onto a 5 second exposure but set focus to auto as opposed to manual. Generally I was holding the light source steady whilst depressing the shutter button so that it could focus. The shutter was set to a 2 second delay after pressing (as I didn’t have a remote trigger at that point).

    The lens I was using was a Canon 18-135. I can’t remember what the aperture was but quite possibly I never considered this when I was trying to take the photo. I only set the exposure to be X seconds long and left the rest to automatically change. I’ll try changing to a higher f number though. 🙂

    I was prefocusing with the light off as I was holding the torch away from the camera, I couldn’t focus then turn off the light and go back to the same spot, but, this time I plan to tie the light to something like you did!

    I’m using an EOS450D which supports mirror lockup. I hadn’t activated it before but will this time.

    Thank you again for the detailed response, I really appreciate it. I’ll give this set up a go over the weekend and will hopefully post the results next week. Thank you again, Mike. 🙂

    • No problem! Glad I could help you out 🙂

      One thing I forgot to mention in the last post was the delay on the timer. It sounds like you may have obtained a remote cable release since you last post, but if not, you may want to try setting the timer to 10 seconds instead of 2 seconds. I find that even after two seconds, there can be some minor shake/movement of the camera or tripod…especially if you aren’t using a heavy or high quality tripod and ball head. I was using a cheap GorillaPod for my shots so the longer the camera had to settle, the better.

      Let me know when/if you post some more light painting shots…I’d love to check them out!

  3. Yep, I got a remote release cable. You use a tripod, I was thinking that you laid your camera on its back on the floor so it was looking directly up at the spinning maglite.

    I’ll let you know when I post more light paining although, you’ll see them anyway because you’re subscribing… right 😉

    • Yes, a tripod is a must! Even if you buy the cheap Gorlliapod with the ball head (it’s like $70) you will most likely see sharper images AND you won’t scratch up your camera 🙂

      You better believe I’m subscribed. You are officially in the blogroll!

  4. I was using a tripod for my previous light painting photo but I thought you did it without, to get a nice directly vertical light source. 🙂

  5. Pingback: Light Painting – Geometric « g r e y s q r l

  6. Pingback: How to Create Light Painting Photos (My Setup) « g r e y s q r l

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