Light Painting Photography

Have you ever wanted to LEARN the secret to make stunning light painting photographs? Light paint photography is one of the COOLEST digital effects that you can create using just a camera and a light source

By using a long exposure on your camera and moving the light source around during the shot, it’s like you’re literally painting with light. The BEST part is that, for the most part, this effect can be entirely accomplished in-camera, so you don’t need any knowledge of Photoshop or image editing to produce great light painting photography.

Read right to the bottom as I shed light (see what I did there?) on how to make great light paintings on your own or with a friend!

The first thing you need to know is how to control the shutter speed on your camera. The shutter speed refers to how long the shutter on your camera is open when you take a picture.

Light Painting Photography

Most cameras have a shutter speed labelled “B” for “Bulb mode”. In this mode, the shutter will stay open for as long as you are pressing the button on your camera. If you want a 45 second exposure, you simply hold the “take picture” button down (it’s in the top right, where it’s always been) for 45 seconds.

If your camera doesn’t have this then it may say 30” instead, which is a 30 second exposure and also works great for these types of pictures.

A tripod is recommended for longer exposures to make sure that the camera stays in the same place throughout.

Set your aperture so that it lets a lot of light in. A setting like f6 or f8 works great for light painting photography because a wide aperture that lets in plenty of light creates a brighter image.

Now you’re all set to make your own light painting photography.

Wait until nightfall and go somewhere very dark for the best results.

Put your camera on a tripod and use manual mode and manual focus. Set your aperture at about f8 and the shutter speed at five or ten seconds.

Take any object that emits light – a cell phone, glow-stick, sparkler, or LED Lightsaber – and wave it in front of the camera while it is taking an exposure. This is the basic set-up for a light painting photograph, but it can be a little trickier to get something that looks just right.


There are all kinds of tricks and techniques you can apply to get some really unique photographs:

  •  Stand on a highway overpass at night and take a 30 second exposure of cars driving past below
  • Use a high intensity laser that not only colours a target but also provides ambient light of the same colour on your image
  • Create silhouettes by having a friend face the camera and shining lights from behind them
  • Use fibre optic lights; some of them will appear very sharp while others will look like big blurry dots


The possibilities are only limited by your imagination, so go ahead and get creative.

We’d love to see what you create, so feel free to upload a picture and link to it in the comments section below.

For more great information on light painting photography, check out Trick Photography and Special Effects.

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