Painting with Light

About a year ago, Joe McNally gave a talk at Google where he referenced the roots of the word photography.  The two roots are photo and graphos, and the meanings are light and write.  We so often hear of people “painting with light”, and after seeing a few people demonstrating how they use flashlights to paint and write with light, I thought it might be fun to give it a whirl.  So, I set up in my den/basement room/office/man cave with the camera on a tripod and went about the goal of writing with light.

To set the scene, I put the camera on it’s lowest aperture for the lens (f3.5), and this way everything around would get thrown out of focus.  I set the shutter to 5 seconds, and the ISO to 100.  That way I would have enough time to draw each letter, and produce little noise as possible.

Next was to set a point of focus – enter my light stand as a model.  I set the focus on that (about 6 feet away), and then switched to manual focus on the lens so the point wouldn’t change.  Next step – mark the floor so I know where to stand (anything works – for me it was a USB flash drive).  Finally, I moved the light stand out of the way and started to eliminate other sources of light, as  I also wanted the surroundings to be completely dark.  So I turned off the computer (monitors give off an amazing amount of light, closed the blinds (even at night, street lights can push stray light into your image), and shut the door to the room.  Working off the handheld flashlight now, I changed the camera to start on a 10 second delay to give me time to get into position.








The rest is in the post processing.  Since I was in the middle of re-installing Windows and freshening things up last night, I’ve not had time to composite these together, but you get the idea of where I am heading!  Give it a try yourself – painting with light can be fun!  Have a great weekend everyone, happy shooting and we’ll see you back here Monday morning!

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5 comments for “Painting with Light

  1. June 27, 2009 at 9:54 am

    Hi Jason,

    You should check this page out :

    Those are photos of Picasso doing light painting/photography.

  2. June 29, 2009 at 6:27 am

    Cool idea. With the 4th of July season here I expect to be trying this out in the outdoors with sparklers. We bought 2 boxes of them last year to play around with but never got around to it.

  3. June 29, 2009 at 6:37 am

    nice — I am going to try Marc’s idea – just got some sparklers last week

  4. June 29, 2009 at 3:11 pm

    Very cool idea indeed.

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