Introduction to Light Photography



Introduction: Introduction to Light Photography

Welcome and thank you for taking a closer look at my Instructable. Throughout the next 5 or 6 steps I will try my best to guide you through the concepts and ideas of light photography and the so called act of “Light Art Painting Photography”. To begin with here is a description of what light photography actually is and how it works.

While painting with light the shutter of a camera or the lens is opened for an unusually long time. This can range from 15 seconds to a full week. Throughout this process the sensor of the camera is influenced with several light tools including torches, lamps, light bulbs or any other tools you may choose.

So basically what happens is that you have to press the picture button on your camera for a long time while a friend of yours moves in front of the lens with a torch in his hand while doing crazy stuff. This process involves some precise setup, camera settings, timing and a couple of materials before you can start. Here is a short list of all the materials that you need. Alongside with it you see what the costs for these materials are:

      • Camera (Preferably DSLR for example a Canon 1000D, anywhere from 100 to 5000 €)
      • Tripod (Any tripod will do, price range from 10 € upwards)
      • External camera shutter button (About 10 to 20 € at any electronics store)
      • Light source (up to you. Goes from an LED with a button cell battery for about one Euro up to thousands of Euros for various           complicated apparatuses)
      • A dark location (Street at night or a room with darkened windows, comes free)
      • A friend to help you out (free as well)

Before we begin, at the beginning of this document you will find an example of what the final product could look like. This was done with one two people one moving in front of the camera and one taking the picture.

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Step 1: The Camera...

To begin with I will explain why a DSLR camera is ideal for this job. DSLR’s have unlike other cameras the ability to manually control the shutter speed meaning the speed at which the mirror inside the camera rises and let’s light on to the sensor. With the camera in the example this special mode can be found under the manual adjustment settings.

This mode can be found as a big M on the mode knob on top of the camera. As soon as this mode has been selected you have full manual control over al of the cameras settings.

As well as that I have included instructions for the aperture and the ISO settings.

Step 2: ...and Other Materials

Throughout the project you will be needing not only a camera but also several other materials. The first and main one is a Tripod. This is used since you are keeping the shutter open for such a long time. If you were to move the camera even slightly while the shutter is open this would have a huge effect on the image.

The second thing I recommend is a remote shutter. This allows you to take a picture without having to touch the camera making it a lot more stable. As well as that you can lock the shutter button. This means that you can activate the shutter and walk away from the camera to create some light shapes yourself.

Other materials that you need are light “tools” meaning any source of light you can find and that you decide to use. In the example pictures that were given in the introduction I used some LED which I taped onto button cell batteries and then attached to some drumsticks so I could move them easier.

This is really up to you, if you decide to use some flashlights, LEDs like I used or more expensive light apparatuses. Whatever you  think will look good should be used in this step.

Step 3: The Setup

The next step is the setup of the shoot. First of all your camera should be stable on your tripod with the remote shutter attached to it. The second this is that you should prepare all of the light sources beforehand. Are they all working, do the batteries work and the main question is do you have everything you need for your design? If you get a yes to all of those questions you are good to go.

The location you choose should either be outside during the night so it is dark or a room which you can make completely dark. These are the two requirements of the shoot. If you have setup everything so it works perfectly then you are good to go and can take your awesome pictures.

Step 4: The Shoot

This is the actual shoot of your image. Based upon the instruction given above you should be aware of what to do. As seen on the image below even moving about weirdly often creates very interesting and attractive figures. Here are a couple of things to remember:

1. Do what you think look’s good. If you have the feeling that the shape you are forming looks interesting then do it. Do not think about it, just move about (personal experience). You can try things other people believe look good but the image will never have the same meaning to you.
2. Play around with the settings. If the image is too bright, try reducing the ISO values or aperture. The settings have to fit perfectly in order to crate a good image meaning that you will have a lot of images that are not usable (at least that is what I always get). Play around with them until you get that perfect image.
3. Don’t take it too seriously. If you focus too much on making the perfect image rather than doing it you have not achieved the point. The point if to have fun while creating an interesting product. Take the images with your friends and goof of or do something crazy. Be yourself!

That is basically all to remember. Be careful with what you do but do not take everything to serious. And most importantly: Have fun!

Step 5: Finalizing the Images

After the actual photo shooting there is an optional last step. This is to edit your images afterwards using a program such as Photoshop or, a recommendation of mine, Paint.Net which is a free image editing program. If you want to do this you can do whatever you like to do.

I personally like to keep my images natural meaning that I do not like adding effects into the images afterwards but if you like to do this go ahead. I hope that you have had fun while creating and reading this Instructable and that you learned something. If you want to use any of the images that I have created myself feel free to ask for my permission. I wish every reader of this a nice day!

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