Dedicated to the education of light-art photography

Q1: What is Light-art photography?

A: Light-art photography is a method of long-exposure photography where the camera is placed on a tripod in a dark location, and the light-artist manually controls the shutter using 'bulb-mode'. During this time, the photographer can walk in front of the camera and illustrate with light directed toward or away from the lens - anywhere light moves will make light-trails. If the light is filtered, it can be used to cast colors, all captured by the open shutter. The image is finished when the light-artist decides to close the shutter.

live LP

Q2: What do I need in order to draw with light?

A: Any camera capable of long-exposures - there are apps for smart-phones (like 'PABLO', 'Slow Shutter', and 'Night Cap'), you could use an expensive DSLR camera, or even an old film camera if you like. You'll also want LEDs, luckily there are tons of great LED products to choose from.

I personally like the feel of an illustration tool for my detailed light work - I couldn't find any on the market that suited my interest so I made my own called the Night-Writer - it has a durable body with a grooved hand-grip, a momentary LED switch for quick light-lines, and plug-in color-tips for textured red, orange, yellow, green, blue, purple and pink light-lines.

Here are the basics in an illustrated comic, 'How to: Draw with Light':

how to LP comic

Q3: Can you show me how to manually set my camera?

A: Sure, here's a video:

Q4: How about something more advanced, like drawing a skeleton with light?

A: I've made a video for that too:

Q5: How do I capture bright stars in the background of my light-paintings?

A: I've wrote a blog-post about this before, I'll copy/paste the basics below:

The simple explanation of the technique I'm using is that I take 2 photos for every composite image you see, one for the light art, and another for the background. I don't move my camera from the tripod - I just take 2 for every one, making sure to re-focus from rather close to near infinity, it's basically a type of HDR for light-painting.. Which I think camera manufacturers are going to implement eventually, but for now it's a bit of camera-hack.

My method is to first find the most picturesque location, bearing in mind where the stars look best. To do this, I use my eyes first, then I confirm where the constellations are with an app I've recently acquired called 'Sky Guide' (iphone app) which uses your GPS to identify constellations.

After I've found my spot, and taken a high-ISO shot (around F2.8, ISO 3200 for 15 sec) - stars and environment should be pretty bright. Then I begin the light-art process - for this, my settings are around F8, ISO 100, for as many seconds as needed (use bulb mode!). If you've done this right, you should see decent light art and everything else should be rather dark. After you've got a decent take, re-focus for the stars, and reset your ISO to around 3200 (like before - during your initial test-shot). Get a bright and sharp star-shot then combine the two images in post.

With photoshop, start with the base light art, then put the star-shot on top and select 'lighten' on the top image to sandwich your two shots into one - presto! From Darius Twin to Starius Twin:


Q6: How do I capture something as HUGE as the Milky Way Galaxy???

A: The short answer to that question is to combine many images together in post-production - it helps to be capturing the scene with a wide-angle lens (14-18mm is good) capable of an aperture around F2.8. I've wrote a blog post that details all the equipment you might need as well as a step by step process for merging the images together using Photoshop CC Photomerge function once you have captured your night sky.

Q7: Can I shoot light-paintings using an iPhone?

A: Yes! It's a little tricky, but once you dial it in using the right apps, you can create legit light-paintings! I've done an in-depth blog post with a gallery of images and a video tutorial that you can check out right here:

Q8: Can I shoot light-paintings using a GoPro?

A: Yeah, I did a blog post about that right here. Here is an image I took on a GoPro Hero 4 Silver: 

gopro light-painting

Q9: What kind of camera gear do you recommend for someone that wants to get into Night-Photography?

A: It depends on what your budget is, but I wrote up a whole 2016 buyer's guide along with direct links to some of the best low budget and high-budget items. These are products that I am already using or they are products that I would love to own/use in the future.

Click the image below to see my top recommendations, current as of May 2016:

Q10: Are there any other great light-artists around the world that I should be familiar with?

A: Yes, you should! Get a crash-course (and follow the links!) on many different light-art styles via my worldwide 'LP Friends' article.

Q11: How do you animate with light?

A: I did a blog post about just this, here are some helpful 'Animation Tips'.