A place for experimental photographers

Light Painting with Zoom

Inspired by this image I have seen on Deviant Art recently, I have decided to experiment with this new technique which can be described as Light Painting with Zoom. The results can be seen below.

The principle behind this sort of photography is fairly simple. It combines zooming while taking long exposure shots. Since the exposure are around 2-4 seconds long, tripod is absolutely necessary in order to keep your image sharp. In order to understand the principle of Light Painting, please read my previous posts: Painting with Light, Painting with Light (continued) and Long Exposure Photography – Capturing Car Lights. Like I said, the principles behind these shots are pretty much the same as behind Light Painting. This time, however, you will shoot static light sources that will create trails and patterns of lights while you zoom in or out of them.

What you will need is: a DSLR camera, a tripod and a zoom lens (preferably 18-105mm or 18-200mm)

So, put your camera on a tripod, compose the picture and focus. Then, set the right shutter speed and aperture, so that the light meter in your camera indicates the right exposure. First, decide how long it will take you to zoom in or out and set the shutter speed accordingly. Once you have your shutter speed, just adjust the aperture and ISO, so that you light meter indicates the correct exposure. FInally, press the shutter and start zooming in or out, without moving your camera.

The most difficult thing about this kind of pictures is the composition. You have to imagine it first and then execute your shots accordingly. Once you press the shutter, the mirror goes up and you will not see anything through the viewfinder, which doesn’t really help. Try to imagine the picture first and then practice a few times to develop a routine. Once you know the routine, shoot the picture. Try to use the markings on your lens, that way, you will know when to start and stop zooming in or out.

Secondly, not a lot of scenes are appropriate for this kind of photography. Always look for distant and static sources of light, that are arranged in a symmetrical way. That way, you will have a good zoom range and produce interesting patterns. The pictures don’t have to be shoot at night but, because you will have to shoot with exposures ranging from 2-4 seconds, you will have to limit the amount of light.

Finally, remember that fast zooming will produce weaker trails while slow zooming will result in stronger and more exposed patterns. Also, remember to expose the beginning and end of your exposure longer than the zooming process. That way, the image you started and ended with, will be more visible than the light patterns. You can also, pan, tilt or change the orientation from landscape to portrait while zooming in or out, as I did in the final image, but remember not to shake or change the position of your camera and tripod, otherwise your images will come out blurry.

Remember: imagine, practice and experiment with your images and you will get there eventually.

For inspiration please visit the Light Painting with Zoom Flickr group I set up, which is constantly growing in members and interesting examples of this technique. You are also welcome to contribute.

Other related Flickr Groups:


Zoom Explosions and Bursts

Zoom and Twist

Zooming Technique

Also, visit the following blogs describing the technique in great detail:

Digital Photography School: Mastering the Zoom Effect

Digital Photography Tips and Techniques: The Zoom Effect

PictureCorrect: Photography Zoom Effect

ArtFan Design

Thanks for reading and good luck with your photography.

Please see the ‘About’ section for copyright information.


5 responses

  1. Thanks for taking the time to discuss this, I feel strongly about information and love learning more on this. If possible,it is very helpful for me.

    January 22, 2012 at 12:01 am

  2. your the best, keep up the good work!

    February 20, 2012 at 4:48 am

  3. Hello! I could have sworn I’ve been to this website before but after going through a few of the posts I realized it’s new to me. Regardless, I’m certainly happy I stumbled upon it and I’ll be book-marking it and checking back frequently!

    March 5, 2012 at 7:44 pm

  4. I just found Shutter Experiments, what a sleek, crisp design! Makes me want to get snapping immediately, thanks.

    March 6, 2012 at 10:54 am

  5. Hi there, You have done a great job. I’ll definitely digg it and personally recommend to my friends. I am sure they’ll be benefited from this web site.

    March 17, 2012 at 3:56 pm

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