Light Painting: how to set up your shot the DIY photography way
Gear and camera settings
Any DSLR will do, and a standard kit lens is perfect for the job, but a tripod is essential. A remote release and hotshoe bubble level are helpful, too. Shoot in raw format and set ISO100 for best quality, and turn the exposure dial to Manual mode.
An exposure of 30 secs should be sufficient for most light paintings, but for more complex creations, set the camera to Bulb and lock it open using the remote release.
Aperture controls light brightness, so really bright LEDs or wire wool spinning work well at f/11, and normal LEDs at f/8 or f/5.6. Single Shot and Daylight White Balance round off the settings.
Use your torch to compose
Switch your torch or headlight on and place it on the ground where the action will take place – it’s also a good idea to mark this position using chalk or a light-coloured stone.
Zoom to the desired focal length to compose your image and autofocus on the torch using your camera’s central sensor. Then switch the lens to MF (manual focus), being careful not to move the zoom or focus rings. Recompose the image and level your camera.
How to capture the shot
Shoot a trial exposure at, say, f/8 and examine the image. If the light lines are overexposed and burnt out (use the Highlight Alert to check), close down the aperture and try again.
If underexposed, open it up a bit. It’s worth remembering that the brighter you record the light trails, the whiter they become. If you want a strong blue or red LED line, underexpose the image a little. If you’re ‘performing’ yourself or don’t have a remote release, set the self-timer.
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