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LCU CALENDAR: “Do It Yourself” Light Painting

We had a blast making this calendar, and it took a mighty effort from many people. However, you don't necessarily need a group of people to help you get started with your own light painting project.

Once you have your basic photography equipment (camera, tripod), you’re only limited by your creativity. I encourage you to search light painting on the Internet for ideas. Half the battle is coming up with light sources to make you painting unique. We used many different light sources to create different effects – some we purchased in toy aisles, some were found in the camping gear section of a sporting goods store, others we had to make.

Check out the picture of all the light sources and different equipment we used during calendar shoot. This is a really fascinating and fun technique. Once you have a few photos you’re proud of, upload them on our Facebook page so we can all enjoy them.

~Kris Tryon, LCU Photographer and Designer

Below is a brief instructional from

Painting with light is a fun technique that gives great results. It is called painting with light because this is what you are actually doing while taking the shot - painting with light.

You don't need much to experiment with this kind of shot, just make sure you have the following items:

1. A camera capable of long exposures - film cameras will work OK, but if you really want to get the most out of the shooting session, use a digital camera. You will be able to see the results in "real time" and make corrections as you go.

2. A nice tripod. Since you will be doing some long exposures you want to make sure your camera sits still. If you don't have a tripod you can make one in a few minutes (see this article or this one).

3. A flashlight - and by flashlight I do not mean photography flash/strobe but a regular flashlight.

4. A dark location. This one is tricky. If you are going to shoot at home - a dark room will be OK. If you are going to shoot outside - make sure that you are not doing this under a street light, or where a car can come by and "paint its headlight" all over your shot.

Here is how it's done:

Set your camera on the tripod and take a sample shot with flash / lights on. This will help you verify that your composition is OK.

Set the exposure to a relatively long value. Stop down the aperture as much as you need. If you are outside do nothing. If you are inside - this is the time to turn off the lights.

Make the click. Once the shutter is open use your flashlight to light the stuff that you want to "paint". You can use the flashlight as a brush, and "smear" the light, just like you would have done with brush and paper. Or, you can use the light as a pen, and do precise work. Areas where you go slowly will be more lit than others. Be careful not to linger too much over the same stop - you will burn it.

Once the shutter closes, you are a free person again. Inspect your image and make corrections.

Last Updated: Mar 26, 2014