Lightpainting is great fun and easy if you follow some guidelines, here is a quick how-to.
In principal it’s pretty easy to paint with light. You take a source of light and doodle around while the shutter is open. So much for the theory but there are certain things to consider in praxis.
First of all choose your equipment.
The Diana Instant Back is perfect for first experiments as you get immediate results, you do not have to wait for days to see that you have done it all wrong, or that you need more skills in mirror writing.
Unfortunately there is one little disadvantge: Instant film reacts similar to slide film which means it is lacking big exposure latitude as in color negative films. The result: underexposure will look black, overexposure will burn the image. But let’s not see it as limitation but as challenge.
Before getting crazy with lights and flashes you should examine the surrounding and the tools you use.
You should shoot in a almost completely dark place to have enough time write/paint/flash without exposing too much of the background, some weak ambient light is useful. A candle in the back (behind the camera) gives enough light for the eye to see where you’re stepping but is too weak for influencing the shot you’re taking.
What is essential for light painting is small handy tool which is able to illuminate, let’s call it a torch.
In fact everything emitting photons works, this could be a mobile phone, the small “ready” light on flashes, fire or even, in theory, the sun. The difference is just the power and convenience of usage.
I’m usually using a 5-LED torch for writing and painting, sometimes a powerful torch with 30+ leds, a colorsplash flash (2 are even better) and extra color gel filters.
Models and extra gimmicks are not obligatory, but make the whole process much more entertaining.
For me the fisheye lens is the best choice to start with, the distortion of the lens gives you more canvas to work with and you can get really close which is great when you start with a not-so-powerful torch.
The Diana with Instant Back is set on B mode, “cloudy” aperture, placed on a tripod, the shutter lock ready for action.
The rest is up to your imagination and creativity, just some final tips:
- don’t forget to start the exposure before your lightpainting fun and to stop it afterwards.
sounds obvious but you can easily forget about it while painting like mad, ideas coming faster than the Instant back spits out the little gems.
- use a colorsplash flash to fill the background and to add depth to the composition, do not point the flash directly at the lens.
- point smaller torches directly at the camera when painting. this gives a strong, visible streak. be careful with bigger torches, might be a bit too much. if you see that the light source is too weak you can either get closer to the lens or move it slower.
- when you’re out on the streets in the middle of the night, take care!
- colorflashing black things doesn’t do much
- if you fail the first times, think about your mistakes and try again
And finally, of course, forget about all the rules!
More lightpainting shots at the Diana Microsite