Starter Guideline Of Light Painting Photography

W.K —  November 26, 2011 — Leave a comment

This is only the starter guideline for light painting photography. If you are a professional or experienced light painting photographer, this may not an appropriate guideline for you. However, you are much welcomed to share your light painting experience, and tips and tricks with us at the comment section.

Starter guidance of Light Painting

Before we head to the steps of how to make a light painting, we should equip ourselves with the required gears and tools. Check out the basis equipment list:

1. Tripod

You need a long exposure time or slow shutter speed to achieve good quality of light painting. Human hand is not good enough to stabilize the camera for such a long period and it definitely would give you the blurry result. And so, tripod is used to introduce stability and flexibility when you are painting your creative light.

2. Shutter Release Cable

The function of the shutter release cable is merely to eliminate the minor camera shake, but it has a relatively smaller impact compared to tripod. Hence, it is not a must-equipment as it can easily be replaced by an infrared remote control or self-timer. Even without any aid of shutter release tools, you can still produce a magnificent quality of light painting.

3. Camera (DSLR is the best choice)

A camera, apparently, it is the most important tool. You will need a mid to high range camera that offers you the capability of controlling the shutter speed. In addition, a wide range of aperture and ISO setting of camera is also recommended to produce high quality of light painting.  Some cameras also have a feature called ‘bulb’ mode, which lets you keep the shutter open for as long as you have the capture button pressed. The longer the exposure time, the more complex design you can have with your light painting.

4. Light Source

The light source is the backbone of the light painting as it will directly affect the image produced. It can be in any form and any color as long as you can imagine. The most common light source would be the torch and it comes in an unlimited variety of shapes, size and color. Pick the most appropriate type that suits your design.

The tools listed above are just the common and basis tool. While you are digging inside the world of light painting, you will require more than a basis tool to gratify your growing desire. By the time, you can just google around or try anything you think it will work.

After you have geared up yourself, the only thing left is the technique:


1. Find a shooting venue that you can make almost completely dark.

In most cases, the photographer should avoid significant ambient or available light as it will cause the scene to quickly overexpose.

2. Change your camera setting:

Bulb mode

Set your camera to ‘bulb’ mode, a.k.a. B setting, which will keep the shutter open for an extended period of time.


The lower the ISO number the less sensitive your camera is to light and the finer the grain. In light painting photography, normally you will need the lowest ISO value you can set on your camera, particularly between ISO number 100 and 200.


The aperture ‘f’ value is the size of hole in the lens that light travels through to reach the camera’s sensor or film. The higher the number of ‘f’ value, the smaller size of the lens’ hole, and hence, less light will hit your sensor.

Generally, aperture and shutter speed are inversely related. When you prolonged the exposure time, you will have to compensate by reducing the aperture value. Many people would recommend small value of aperture for light painting, but I think it is better to try with different aperture value, and you will be surprised.

3. Set up your tripod and attach your camera on it.

4. Switch off all the lights if any.

5. Press and hold the camera shutter button, paint your light with any light source, and release the button once the drawing completed.

Useful tips:

1. Try your painting with different colors. You need not to purchase different color of torch, but to wrap your torch with different color of cellophane instead.

2. If you do not want the ‘painter’ appears in the scene, wearing dark clothing would definitely help.

3. Take your time while doing painting. Making every light stroke slow and steady will make the result better.

4. Try to repeat every light stroke to achieve different effect.

After all this is just a starter guideline for light painting, and you need to practice it in a trial-and-error basis to obtain the optimum result. Have fun and let your imagination runs wild!



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Founder and Editor-in-chief of Tezeal | Wei Kai is a technology enthusiast and love to crank his mind for technology knowledge. Experimenting graphic design with Photoshop is one of his favorite thing to do during his spare time.