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Light Painting Photography Ideas And Tips

Ben Boswell shows how a few children's toys can make excellent tools for light painting.

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Words and images by Ben Boswell -

There are different approaches to photography, careful composition of your subject, careful framing when your subject is not so easily influenced and sometimes just seeing an opportunity and exploiting it. This third way is what I used here. The lights are all toys; a flashing LED pendant, a fibre optic wand and a light sabre. They are mostly of children playing in the dark, shot as reportage.

These were taken at a firework display (at which I also took pictures of the rockets) but the toys are cheap and widely available and any dark place will do as a location so this is a technique anyone can try.

Light Patterns

All of my pictures were taken using ISO 200, f/2.8 at a second, hand-held. I could work hand-held because the lights were moving so as long as the camera did not move about too much, the results would not show camera shake. Your camera may struggle to focus, but actually it is not that big a problem, this picture is completely out of focus but makes an interesting image anyway.

It is possible to predict to some extent what the pictures will look like, especially if you are able to direct the person waving the lights (which I wasn’t), But much of the fun of this kind of photography is in the unexpected, this picture was only the second one I took of the Light Sabres.

Since you will not be able to see everything that is going on it is useful to shoot with a slightly wider lens than you think is necessary and accept that you will crop to get the best composition. Several of these pictures have been cropped quite severely, otherwise they would have been a small coloured swoosh in a vast expanse of black. However, for me the most exciting images are those where everything just comes together, this final image is completely ‘as shot’, no adjustments or cropping, and fits the frame perfectly.

I’d love to be able to say that this was carefully planned, but I’d be lying. What I was doing was having fun, more fun than I’d had for ages! Go out and get yourselves some light toys and start playing!

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15 Nov 2011 10:22AM
Awesome! This is something I've been wanting to do more of, but have so far not gotten around to.

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