How to Create Light Painting Photos (My Setup)

August 13, 2010

Whilst there are many different types of light painting, most of them far superior to the simple stuff I’m doing, the two that I currently am able to do are, 1) Set up the camera as per a normal shot, then stand in front of it and paint. 2) Set up the camera vertically, and spin a suspended light round and let the camera capture what it sees. This blog posting is how to setup for the second type.

Once again, for a lot of the technical details of this setup, I urge you to visit Mike Pouliot’s Photography Blog and to view the comments for this posting. I think all of the camera specific settings are detailed in the comment that Mike left me there. For me, AI Servo mode is the most important one in getting a clear light painting shot.

For my set up,Β I bought a small maglite torch from Argos (Very nice because it’s boxed and fits nicely into my camera bag for when I have light painting moments). πŸ™‚


Despite being a small torch, it has more than enough light to paint with, as the photos show. In fact, less is probably best because you don’t really want to flood the sensor with 10,000 candles worth of power. Additionally, if you’re going to tie something to your light fitting, make it a light light! πŸ˜‰ (By the way, I take no responsibility for you damaging your house… be careful and don’t electrocute yourself!)

I then got some strong string (from my mum’s house… turned out I have none!) and tied it through the tiny holder part of the torch (think keyring attachment loop). This is important as it keeps the torch hanging nicely, if you tie it around the torch, it will tilt to one side unless you balance it. I tied the other end of the string to my light fitting (after removing the bulb, lampshade etc…, i.e. anything that may stop the spinning motion). You’ll notice in the shot below that I have a halogen light fitting. I used this set of lights as well as a normal single bulb one. With the halogen fitting, I had to remove the bulb as the string kept hitting the bulb and skipping thus ruining my smooth pattern.

I set the camera on a tripod, as low as it would go, then had it looking up directly vertically, setting it to focus on the light. Once that was done, I set the mirror lockup (to ensure no movement when I wanted to take a photo), connected the remote trigger and set my camera to a 2 second delay. I then rechecked the focus, clicked the remote trigger and quickly spun the torch. Give it a good swing, or a light swing… experiment. I tried different timings for the exposure up to 30 seconds max. Play with it.

Also, experiment with the focal length… you may find that zooming out completely allows you to capture all the motion, however, being zoomed in can work very nicely as well as it shows just part of the geometric centre (as in the third photo in my previous post). Shame that one came out blurred!

AND here are the photos that I took of my setup. These were taken pretty late at night with my iPhone (only 3GS…. awwww), but I hope they’re clear enough for you. One final thing, try to keep all the lights off, the curtains closed etc… Any little light will factor in otherwise and may start cause the light fittings to become visible.



  1. Definitely something I’m going to play with when the weather gets too bad to go out (er…which, sadly, could be all too soon)!

  2. very informative… thank you so much!

  3. Yowsa! Now THAT is a descriptive setup! Nicely done and every descriptive. You definitely have more patience than I do when it comes to writing πŸ™‚

  4. P.s. I have the same tripod πŸ™‚

    • Thanks for all the initial help with this! Shouldn’t you be honeymooning!

  5. Will have try this sometime (may be in December). Thanks for detailed information.

  6. Thanx for the description, looking forward to trying this myself…as others have posted, when the weather turns!

  7. No problem… hope you guys get some good light painting done.. just link back to this post in yours if this helps you! Thank you! πŸ™‚

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