Indoor Light Painting With a SLR Camera

Introduction: Indoor Light Painting With a SLR Camera

This Instructable will demonstrate to users how to paint with light using a Single Lens Reflex (SLR) Camera. As long as the audience of this Instructable has a novice idea about how a camera works then you should be just fine. Light painting is a photography art that displays streaks of light in a captured photo. Light painting is very fun and quite simple once you get the hang of it. Light painting can be used in many ways in the field of photography. Indoor light painting requires a dark room with a light source, in the case of this Instructable the light source is christmas lights. Christmas lights offer incredible lighting and color with an end result being a photo with very unique lighting. So, grab your camera and let's get started.

Step 1: Equipment Needed

Their are very few pieces of equipment needed to light paint.

1. Christmas Lights

2. One Single Lens Camera with a Manual Setting

3. Foreground Model

4. (Optional) Exterior Flash. The flash built into your camera will work as well.

Step 2: Hang a Single Strand of Christmas Lights on a Wall.

Choose your favorite color of Christmas lights and hang a single strand horizontally onto an interior wall. The strand should stretch from one side of the wall to the other and should hang approximately 8 feet off of the ground. For the best results, hang the lights with some slack, opposed to hanging them in a tight straight line.

Step 3: Preparing Your Camera's ISO Setting

In order to light paint the correct way your camera must be on certain settings. The first thing to do after turning your camera on is to switch it to mode M or Manual Mode. The first setting we are going to look at is the ISO setting. Depending on the model of your camera this button may be in a couple of places but can only be set while the camera is in the Manual mode. The ISO setting focuses on light sensitivity in the photo and can range from 100-6200 depending on the camera. Lower ISO settings are used for outdoor, well lit environments. For the purpose of light painting you are going to set your camera's ISO at 800, an appropriate setting for an indoor, dark environment.

Step 4: Preparing Your Camera's Shutter Speed

Now that you have your ISO setting figured out it is time to properly set your camera's shutter speed. This may be your camera's most important setting, especially when light painting. Shutter speed is the backbone to all light painting effects in photography. Essentially, what light painting is, is the slowing of the shutter speed in order to capture light streaks in the photo. Once in the Manual setting you will find the control of the shutter speed on the dial usually placed below a camera's power button. The best setting for this type of photography is a shutter speed between 1.5 to 2 seconds long.

Step 5: Preparing the Lighting

The lighting for a shoot like this is very straight forward. You must first plug your strand of Christmas lights into the nearest outlet. Once the Christmas lights are plugged in make sure you now turn off all other light sources so that the only source of light are the Christmas lights.

Step 6: Placing Your Model and Yourself

The photos I took in the Introduction of this Instructable are all candid shots. However, the one thing they all have in common is their placement in relation to the Christmas lights. As long as your model is within ten or so feet of the Christmas lights then the photographer (you) can be almost anywhere and at any angle in the room while taking the photo. The photos in this step show the Christmas lights both lit and off to show where the ideal place for your model to pose is.

Step 7: Point and Shoot

It is finally time to take your photo! Once your model is in place make sure they are as still as possible until the camera is done taking the photo (aka the speed of the shutter). If the photo is not a candid, have you model pose in any position you would like. Once you have found your model's pose and the angle at which you would like to shoot at, it is time to hit the capture button on your camera. Making sure your flash is on, take your photo. Here is where things get cool. The second you hit the capture button on your camera move your camera rapidly in the direction that you want your light streaks to go in. For example, when you take the picture and you move your camera rapidly in circles you will get your model with circular light streaks in the photo. Basically, which ever direction you move your camera, that is the direction in which the light streaks will appear.

Step 8: Conclusion

Hopefully you have now been successful in creating your light painted photos ! This technique is great to add fun and cool effects to any photo as long as you have an artificial light source and have an understanding of your camera settings. I hope that by completing this Instructable you have learned a thing or two about photography and how to properly use an SLR camera.

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    5 years ago on Introduction

    These are some really cool looking pictures! Thanks for sharing your technique.