Light Painters Palette 2.0 - a Complete Guide




Introduction: Light Painters Palette 2.0 - a Complete Guide

Hello Photographers!

I've been planning on doing , and have requests for, a follow up instructable on my Light Painters Palette. For a while I've been working on taking the big box form of that device and making it more compact, simple, and user friendly. To do this I designed a PCB (printed circuit board) that does the same thing as my original device, just in smaller and less susceptible to breakdown form factor.

Step 1: Supplies

You have a few options for how to put together the Light Painters Palette. If you are interested in learning about electronics, soldering, circuit design... then check out my original instructable. It goes into more detail about building a light of your own. If you want to fast track to the light painting, check out the PCB I designed; it's on Tindie. There are two versions available:

The first one has the LED's, switches and potentiometers all mounted on a PCB. It does not have the power, IR receiver, and Arduino. Its more customizable, you can put together your own power source, leave off the IR receiver, daisy chain a bunch together and run them off a computer...

The second has the Arduino, power (9V connector) and IR receiver and everything all together. This one is almost all ready to go, you just need is a 9V battery, some tape or non-conductive material, and a rubber band.

If you want to put together a rechargeable Light Painters Palette, I suggest picking up a 3.7 Volt Lipo battery and a Powercell. Make sure to solder the jumper to 5V, attach a switch between En and GND, and attach wires between VCC to 5V and GND to GND. This is a more efficient option because it bypasses the voltage regulator on the Arduino saving power. Its can also be recharged from a USB port!

An optional accessory is a remote control. I get them here, here, or here. I haven't found just the remote, if you do please let me know! If those links are out of date as well I'll be sure to try to get new ones. In theory most any NEC protocol, 38 kHz remote will work. Most any old VCR,TV, or DVD remote should work. The software will read and display the code sent from the remote when you have it on IR receiver mode and open the com port in the Arduino software. If you get a different code off the remote than in the software, just exchange or add it and reprogram the arduino. The code has a series of lines like this:

else if (results.value==16228447 || results.value==16716015){fastCrossFade(green);}

So if you have a different remote and want it to change to green, then change the 16228447 or 16716015 values or change it to look like:

else if (results.value==16228447 || results.value==16716015 || results.value==yourCode){fastCrossFade(green);}

Step 2: How It Works - the Software...

The slide switch controls different modes for selecting colors, fading, and blinking the LED's. The code is available on my github page. Feel free to use it however you want, but if you create something neat let me know! Basically you just select a color with all the slide switches in the off position and depending on the effect you want you slide the switches around to put it in that mode. There are a couple modes that fade the LED's super slow, so if you put it in that mode on accident you'll want to hit reset on the Arduino to abort the slow fade.

Remote control mode uses a fast fade to go between colors when you hit a button on the remote. It runs a mini-program for the strobe, fade, and smooth buttons. To exit this program hit/hold off. The smooth program does a really slow fade so you can either hit reset on the board or time the off press when the board is fading from blue.

In remote control mode it also flashes when the code for my camera is hit. It acts like an extra flash.

Step 3: Light Painting 101 and Camera Settings

Light painting is all about setting your camera to do a long exposure shot, and then running around in the frame with a light. You can point the light at the camera to get streaks of light. Commonly people spell out words or make patterns. You can also point the light away from the camera, at an object you want to 'paint'. This way the object reflects the light and the camera picks up the features of the object with your non-natural light. This is the technique I use to get most of my shots.

Here's a few tips about setting your camera up to get good shots. I'm not a professional photographer, I haven't got the best camera on the market, so your experiences may vary from what I am suggesting. But its a good place to start. I have a Nikon D5100.

Set your camera to manual mode (typically M on the dial), and set the exposure for as long as you can.

Be extra careful with your focus. Whenever possible use a super bright light to adjust you focus on the subject, swap your camera to manual focus mode so it won't change on you. Stars are pretty tricky to get crispy, so take your time and play with it during the day. My camera gets the best stars not at the extreme end of the focal range, but about 95% there.

I found its better to use a smaller aperture (greater depth of field) to make sure you get crispy shots. Somewhere around the F9.5-F16 range, depending on ambient light. If its a full moon you'll have more light than you'd expect and you can shoot around F16. If there's no moon and your shooting with just one light for ~30 sec exposures at a lower ISO (200 - 800) then the F9.5 would be more appropriate. If you want to have a super shallow depth of field and are confident on you focus, go ahead and shoot the lowest Fstop you've got. It should let more light reach your sensor and you can work with lower ISO's and exposure times.

Be careful about too high of an ISO. Most of my best shots are shot around 600 with longer exposures, in RAW, aperture around F11, and with 30 second exposure times. If you shoot too high of an ISO your photo's will look grainy. They may not look that way on your LCD, but once you load them on the computer its a sad day.

I could probably write a book about different environments and settings, but the best way to figure it all out is just go out and experiment. Bring plenty of batteries and caffeine, you'll definitely get a shot your proud of.

Step 4: Photo Editing

So you've gone and shot some photo's and now you want to make them as bright and colorful as possible. I have a few tricks I use the get what I can from each shot.

Shoot in RAW. Raw, to the best of my knowledge, is like the raw data from the sensor. Its a much larger file size that isn't compressed like a jpeg. It gives you much more freedom to control the exposure and contrast of you photo's after you've taken them. To convert from RAW to JPEG and do preliminary edits I use ViewNX. Its free software from Nikon. The main two effects I adjust are the exposure and the shadow protection. These help bring out the dark area's in the photo.

The series of photos in this step go from the raw file(converted to jpeg in ViewNX with no edits) to the file after adjusting the exposure and shadow protection. Then to the final image which is adjusted in GIMP. The sizes of the files go from 20,765 KB raw, 2,389 KB jpeg no edits, 7,234 KB jpeg ViewNX edits, and finally 12,173 KB after Gimp edits.

Gimp is also free editing software which has many of the tools and capabilities of Photoshop, but without the price tag... I have become so familiar with it that I prefer it over photoshop, although many/most of you out there are probably opposite. With gimp all I typically do is adjust the curves and run an unsharp mask. This is just to once again brighten up the photo and make it a bit crispier.

Thanks for taking a look at my Instructable! Feel free to leave comments; questions or concerns... Happy shooting!

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    8 Discussions


    5 years ago

    This is a sweet variation of the flash light that you have created here. I voted for you. Regular flashlights can be used for this to get a feel for how to do this. One thing to check out for your toolkit would be an external camera flash. They are battery powered and can freeze something in your shot, like a persons portrait, with all the light painting in the shot as well. Look for an old cheap used one as new they can be expensive.

    Another fun toy is a million candle power spotlight. Say you have a creepy barn 2 or 3 hundred yards away you can stand near the camera and still paint it and be close enough to paint close up subject matter.

    Also if gimp can save your files as .tif use that for converting your favorite .RAW files becaise jpeg will reduce quality over time due to its compression formulas. .TIF is suposed to be lossless quality.

    Great ible


    Reply 5 years ago

    Wow! Thatnks for such an insightful comment. I will definitely use .tif in the future, great advice.

    rap god
    rap god

    5 years ago

    Voted for you. Great instructable


    5 years ago on Introduction

    Really cool photos. I don't think I've seen something similar before.


    Reply 5 years ago on Introduction

    That's awesome, I'm glad you like it!