Painting with Light – Light Graffiti

Painting with light, aka light graffiti, is a fun way to stay creative.  My friends and I have been playing around with it over the past week or two and I thought I’d share.

We’re still getting the hang of it, but I’m happy with some of the pictures that we’ve done so far.  It’s a lot harder than it might look, as most of the time you have no point of reference to help make the lines meet up.

This is the first one we did and its still my favorite.  Chris Jones made the drawing and I pushed the button.

This is the first one we did and it's still my favorite. Chris Jones made the drawing and I pushed the button.

You can easily try this on your own.  All you need is a DSLR, a tripod and a flashlight.

Find someplace dark and set the camera on the tripod.  You want to adjust your exposure to as long of a time as you can.  30 seconds is a good start, but you’ll probably find that you need longer.  Then take a flashlight, point it towards the camera and start drawing.

This is the first complicated one that I did (mostly) on my own.  Thanks to Chris Jones for drawing the farmer.

This is the first complicated one that I did (mostly) on my own. Thanks to Chris Jones for drawing the farmer.

This is the first complicated on that we tried.  This is before we starting using colored gels on the flashlights.  Also note the fire on the tower from a piece of burning paper.  Contributing artists: myself, Chris Jones, John Houghton, Gavin Hall, and Ed Mayhew.

This is the first complicated on that we tried. This is before we starting using colored gels on the flashlights. Also note the fire on the tower from a piece of burning paper. Contributing artists: myself, Chris Jones, John Houghton, Gavin Hall, and Ed Mayhew.

No fancy photoshop tricks are needed, but it helps if you know your way around photoshop a little.  Most of ours’ are multiple photos laid on top of each other because we’ve had trouble finding dark enough areas in Taipei to shoot longer than 30 second exposures.  Doing it that way also helps with another technique that we’ve been working on that I’ll share with you in the very near future.

Were trying to find locations where we can work the characters into the surrounding scene.  Contributing artists: Chris Jones, and Ed Mayhew.

We're trying to find locations where we can work the characters into the surrounding scene. Contributing artists: Chris Jones, and Ed Mayhew.

Hey, I used to teach kindergarten, ok?

Hey, I used to teach kindergarten, ok?

I love this picture because it reminds me of sitting in 6th grade math class and drawing in my notebook.  What do you expect when you get 5 men with flashlights (and beers)?

I love this picture because it reminds me of sitting in 6th grade math class and drawing in my notebook. What do you expect when you get 5 men with flashlights (and beers)? Artists: Tom Bowen, Chris Jones, Ed Mayhew, and myself.

One aspect I like about light painting is trying to work with the scene around you.  Artist: Chris Jones

One aspect I like about light painting is trying to work with the scene around you. Artist: Chris Jones

The artists that contributed to this project are: myself, Chris Jones, Tom Bowen, Ed Mayhew, Gavin Hall, Dave Loyd, and John Houghton.

Cheers,
-neil

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Categories: PHOTOGRAPHY, Techniques | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 22 Comments

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22 thoughts on “Painting with Light – Light Graffiti

  1. really wicked, Neil. I think we are going to have to meet up in the future because we run in the same crowds….almost.

  2. These are very cool. I’ve tried basic light painting a few times, but never actual figures like this. Great work.

    • Thanks man. We have a lot of ideas for different ways to use this technique. Check back soon to see what I’m talking about!

  3. Pingback: Weekly Links – October 22, 2009 « The Daily Bubble Tea

  4. i love that blue cow!

  5. These are so wiked cool. I think the next time I take clients out on a shoot I’m going to make them try this. Great ideas man.

  6. Wow Neil. I’m really digging everything you’ve been doing over the past four months. You’ve really upped the ante! Love it!

  7. Thanks everyone!

    Carrie, wait a few days. I think I have something that really does take this to the next level!

  8. Michelle

    I did a whole series of the same type of thing for my final year photography course, however I maily focused on tracing the light over graffiti and posters.
    This inspires me to get back out there and have some more fun with it.

  9. I played around with this technique before but never got good results. Thanks for the inspiration to go outside with a flashlight again!

    • Thanks Todd. That’s one thing I didn’t mention: That trying to draw like this can be very difficult! The more complicated ones can take a really long time. If you go out and try, don’t get frustrated… just keep trying!

  10. Hello Neil,
    I was wondering, if you have to point the light at the camera, how did the light up the tiles on the ground in the sixth picture?

    Thank you

    Jens

    • Good question. You don’t have to point the light directly at the camera, just in the general direction of the camera. Usually, if you have a drawing that meets the ground, it will light it up a little bit. The first picture also has this effect but it’s on the wall because the flashlight head touched it or came close to it.

  11. I imagine you held the light close to the ground and pointed it at the camera… Was that so? Also, what kind of light did you use? Regular flashlights usually come in white and… White. LED’s usually aren’t strong enough, but maybe that’s where I’m wrong?

    • We just started using some good LEDs. Try Spotlights they’re small and real bright and you can even get colored pieces to put on the front. You can use a regular flashlight or any LED, just try to find a bright one. To get colors, just put colored cellophane over the front. You should be able to find that in a crafts store or maybe s school supply store.

  12. These pics are fantastic. I really want to go and try this now. Just a quick question for you. (Hope you don’t think I’m an idiot for asking this) How do you manage to do it without any trace of yourself in the photos moving the flashlight? Or am I getting it wrong?

    • Sometimes you do show up in the picture, or at least a ghost of you will. But if you leave the shutter open long enough and move around, you won’t show up at all. We were a little more careful to keep our bodies out of these still photos, but watch the video and you’ll notice our “ghosts” quite a bit.

  13. Wow!! I’m gonna try this out. It’s the first time I’ve been in your blog, and I guess I’ll be coming back. In fact, often.

    I’m very interested about Taiwan; because I’m a Canadian of Min Nan descent.

  14. Dwayne

    wow! magical… very nice!

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