A place for experimental photographers

Painting with Light

Inspired by childhood memories of New Year’s Eve and sparklers, this time we decided to give them a try in a slightly different convention. The results can be seen below.

Light Painting/Graffiti is a long exposure photography technique that is relatively simple and let’s you achieve great results without a great deal of skills. The basics behind this sort of photography are quite simple. In long exposure photography, any source of strong light moving across the image will leave trails of light. This technique may be used with sparklers, torches, car lights, laser pointers and other sources of light moving against a dark background in order to paint with light.

The Gear:

You will need a DSLR, a tripod,  a torch, a piece of string an assistant and plenty of sparklers.

The Setup:

Put your camera on a tripod and compose the picture. Remember, this kind of pictures work best at night or in low light conditions, therefore, your camera may have problems with focusing.  In order to help your camera to focus, use a torch to lit your subject (in this case your assistant holding the sparklers). Once you have focused on the subject, switch the focus to manual and be careful not to move your tripod. Next, attach a small weight with a sparkler to the end of your string. The reason for this is that sparklers are too light and you will not be able to make full circles with them without a weight. Finally, ask your assistant to set fire to the sparkler and start shooting. You may spin them around you, creating various circles and spirals, or simply write something.


The pictures above were shot with a typical setting of 10s exposure, f/8 and ISO800. Obviously, this setting serves only as a guideline and your settings will be determined by the conditions you will be shooting in. The longer the exposure, the more painting you can do and the bigger ISO the more background light you can pick up. The above pictures were shot in the middle of a dark forest, therefore, we had to shoot with increased ISO. In brighter places you may decrease your ISO to 200. Also, remember that you will be moving the sparklers around you so the smaller apertures the greater depth of field. Try combining several sparklers together for stronger sparks.

The web is full of inspirations so make sure you check the following flicker groups dealing with this sort of photography:

The Art of Light Painting

Still Life in Light Painting

Underground Light Graffiti

Light Painting/Graffiti

2010 Light Painting Olympics

Shining Light on Cancer

Light Painting

Light Paint

Light Paint – The Real Deal

Light Painters – UK

Light Painters Create Their Own Reality

Wire Wool

The Art of Light Painting

Light Drawing

Exploratorium Light Traces

Finally, remember that sparklers produce sparks that can set fire to other things around you. Make sure that your wear protective clothing covering your hands, eyes and face. Additionally, your surrounding should be free from any flammable objects such as leaves, wood, flammable materials and liquids etc. When finished shooting, make sure you completely extinguish the sparklers and carefully dispose of them.

If you want to see light painting taken to the extreme, watch this video on PetaPixel:

Thanks for reading and good luck with your photography.

Please see the ‘About’ section for copyright information.


7 responses

  1. Pingback: Painting with Light (continued) « Experimental Digital Photography

  2. Pingback: Long Exposure Photography – Capturing Car Lights « Experimental Digital Photography

  3. Pingback: Light Painting with Zoom «

  4. Great post, I conceive people should learn a lot from this weblog its rattling user friendly. So much fantastic info on here :D.

    January 8, 2012 at 8:47 am

  5. Pingback: Long Exposure Photography (inside a car) « Shutter Experiments

  6. Maintain up the great work mate. This website article shows how well you comprehend and know this subject.

    May 13, 2012 at 10:27 am

  7. I just dropped by to view this site. It seems to be really informative and I liked reading it,
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    February 7, 2013 at 7:07 am

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