Lightdrawing Experiments in the darkroom-studio-exterior nightau

Using unusual light for portraits neon ligh photographert Hid Saib

Hid Saib

Darren Pearson     David Lebe’s work is wonderful!   some of her night street combined with light is inventive    more here:    Dean Chamberlain  thumbnails too small to copy for here but check out his work..    look at the portraits here with light–interesting…

The Light of Democracy #2 1990 by Light Painting Artist Jozef Sedlák
Jozef Sedlák
Vicki Dasilva

light graffiti–  clever huh?

Nude Descending Staircase by Light Painting Photographer Gjon Mili 1930-40
Picasso Draws a Centaur, Pablo Picasso by Light Painting Photographer Gjon Mili
Sikorsky 3 by Andreas Feininger
Andreas Feininger: Light Painting Photography, 1949 helicopter taking off and landing
Erci Staller's Ribbon on Hannover Street
Eric Staller: Light Painting Photography, 1976    light drawing performance pieces
Tokihiro Sato: Light Painting Photography, 1988
Eric Cury

Eric Curry explains his technique in above video….    Eric Curry’s website with ton of helpful info on it…

Eric Cury   Eric Curry’s book on the subject   helpful light with simple instructions

How do they do that??

KEVIN ADAMS Light-painted waterfall
Waterfall with and without light painting Kevin Adams

read above links—explains choices of light sources!!!  Coast flashlights    Kevin’s website digital after dark is a fantastic resource for lightpainting photography

————————————————————————————————-   some terms you may be unfamiliar with!    some more helpful links on the subject   and if you really want to get into it–see this link!

Tools   sourced from this link

The Light Painting Brush System!


The Light Painting Brush System works by allowing photographers to universally connect literally millions of light emitting devices to a limitless array of light modifying devices. The system also allows brushes and/or lights to be interchanged quickly and easily during a single exposure making the use of many different colors, shapes and textures of light simple.

The Light Painting Brush System is built on one single piece of hardware, The Universal Connector. The Universal Connector is the key that unlocks the Light Painting Brush System and it makes limitless light painting brushes easy, affordable, and interchangeable!

sing the Light Painting Brush Universal Connector you can attach any light emitting device, flashlight, or torch that is relatively round and has a diameter of .975″ to 1.5″  to a variety of custom made light painting brushes or create your own light painting brushes out of empty plastic bottles. Check out to learn more.

Practically anything can be considered a light painting photography tool and used to create a photograph, the following list are just some of the more common tools. Please search the blog and tutorial pages for other tools that may not be listed here and for creative uses for the ones that are listed below.

Cable Release

Cable releases, also know as a shutter release or intervalometer, come in varying degrees of complexity and are a great addition to a light painting photographers arsenal. Some cable releases are a simple push button trigger and some are computer controlled. The more complex the more expensive they get, prices vary from $20.00 up into the hundreds of dollars. Higher end cable releases such as the Canon TC-80N3 allow for unlimited combinations of delay and exposure times. A cable release is not a necessity for light painting photography but they are a great accessory. Click here to find the cable release you need.


The first thing that you need to create a light painting photograph is a camera with manual controls. It is essential to at least be able to adjust the shutter speed of your camera. Light painters create imagery on both digital and film cameras. The most common type of camera used in light painting is a digital camera for the simple fact that you can check your image instantly on location, instead of waiting to process the film. Some cameras that are commonly used by light painters are the Canon 5d Mark II, the Canon 7d, and the less expensive but still awesome Canon EOS Series of Cameras. Click here to view a bunch of other DSLR’s great for light painting.

Digital Light Wand

The Digital Light Wand was created by Michael Ross it is a RGB light strip, that with the use of a little computer programming can create the most intricate light painting images. It is controlled with a powerful micro controller that can be programmed via a USB connection to your computer. The software that you need to program the Digital Light Wand is readily available on over the internet. With this tool you can create custom text, patterns, picture, and intricate designs that you would not otherwise be able to achieve. You can literally light painting the Mona Lisa. 

The PixelStick

Pixel-StickSimilar to the Digital Light Wand created by Michael Ross a few years earlier the Pixel Stick is an computerized piece of light painting genius that will allow you to create just about anything your creative little brain can dream up. The Pixelstick is a small miracle to the world of stop motion and light painting animation. Check it out HERE.

El Wire

El Wire stands for electroluminescent wire.  It has a similar look to neon but has the flexibility and versatility of wire.  El wire is available in a variety of colors and also comes in a tape and panel form. It can be used for many different applications, it is commonly used in light painting photography to create a smoke or fog look. El Wire comes in different thicknesses and it is flexible. Another great thing about El wire is that is does not produce any heat. Make sure if you purchase online you are purchasing a “Portable El Wire”  system, otherwise you will have to hassle with the wiring of the inverter. Click here for a good place to buy El Wire.


Fireworks are used to produce some of the most dramatic effects that you can create in light painting photography, and they are the most fun to work with. Sparklers, fountains, Roman Candles, Screaming Meemies, Ladyfingers, Buzz Bottles, Snicker Bombs, Church Burners, Finger Blasters, Gut Busters, Zippedy-doodas, Crap Flappers, Whistling Bungholes, Spleen Splitters, Whisker Biscuits, Honkey Lighters, Hüsker Düs, Hüsker Don’ts, Cherry Bombs,Nipsy Dazers, with or without the Scooter Stick,  and Whistling Kitty-chaser can all be used in light painting photography…

Flashlights and Torches

Flashlight and torches and the backbone of any light painter’s arsenal, we consider them our brushes. They come in an unlimited variety of shapes, sizes, and colors. Some important features to look for when selecting you light painting brushes are:
Size and Weight: Light painters often have to travel long distances to arrive on location so the lighter you can make you gear the better.
Lumens: Flashlights and Torches are rated on a scale of “Lumens”, that is the brightness of the light beam. The more lumens the brighter you torch will be and the further you can throw the beam of light.
Focus: Some flashlights beams are spots, some are floods, and some have a focusable beam. Flashlights with a focusable beam are best for light painting photography for the versatility they provide.
Color Temperature: Light’s color is measured in degrees Kelvin. Flashlights and torches come with different bulbs types. Different bulbs will have different color temperatures, generally LED bulbs will give off a whiter (or cooler) light than an incandescent type bulb. I find that LED’s are much more versatile for light painting, the whiter light provides more of a blank canvas that you can apply colored gels to create your desired color.

Flashes and Strobes

Flashes and Strobes have multiple applications in light painting photography. They can be used to freeze motion as Gjon Mili first did in the late 30’s. Flashes can also be used to introduce color into the scene of a light painting photograph. They are available in a variety of  strengths and sizes. The main thing that you want to look for when getting a flash for light painting photography is the recycle time. The  recycle time of a flash refers to the time it takes it to recharge so that it can fire repeatedly. Generally the faster a flash can recycle the better it is. The ease a good flash brings a light painter cannot be overstated. This is another piece of light painting equipment that I would recommend spending a little extra money on. The best flash for light painting is probably the Canon Speedlite 580ex II, but most of the Speedlite flashes are pretty good with fast recycle times.


Gels are thin flexible sheets of polycarbonate or polyester. They are also known as colored gels or lighting gels they are used in light painting photography to produce specific colors when flashes or flashlights are shined through them. Gels come in hundreds of different colors. They can also be used to create lighting effects in front of the camera with reflected light. Gels can be expensive, a good place to start to build your gel collection is searching for Roscolux sample packs, these come in a few different sizes the 1.75 x 2.75 can be a little small for some flashes so the bigger 3 x 5 swatch book  is the one to go with if you can find it. You can also get individual colors if you already know what you want.

Glow Sticks

Glow Sticks come in various sizes and colors. They are either chemical or LED. Chemical glow sticks are disposable and for a single use, the light is generally more even over the length of the glow stick, as opposed to the LED glow sticks that can be brighter on the ends. LED glow sticks tend to give off more light than their chemical counterparts, they are battery operated and can be used over and over again. Like most of the light painting photography tools glow sticks have many uses, they are used for everything  from making orbs to coloring in a scene. Glow sticks can be bought cheap and its nice to have a variety in your light painting tool kit.


Lasers come in several different colors and strengths. They can be very expensive, prices range from a few dollars for a keychain laser pointer, up into the thousands of dollars for lasers that can actually start fires. Lasers can create some very dramatic light painting effects but they can be dangerous to use and should never be pointed directly into someone’s eye. If you are shooting a portrait and you intend on using lasers for a light painting effect, tell your model to close their eyes. Wicked Lasers is a great place to start if your looking for Laser Beams…


If you own a higher end camera you know that your  lenses are interchangeable. There are hundreds of lenses out there for every type of camera. If you have been light painting for awhile getting a different lens can make you feel like a photographic virgin. Generally the more you can open up the lens, or the faster it is, the better. If you are light painting out in the darkness and you want to capture a starry sky in your scene, you will want a lens that will allow you to bring in the most light.  Zoom lenses allow you to also create some incredible light painting images. Click here to check out the hundreds of lenses available.

Light Sabers and Swords

22in Light Painting Sword Brush SetLight sabers and light swords are great tools for light painting photography. You can obtain them in several different colors and for around 10 bucks. They can be used to color in a scene, make shapes, designs, orbs and all kinds of stuff. The light that they produces can give a very similar look to neon or a cold cathode, for a tenth of the price and none of the wiring work. Find them at

LED Key Chain Lights

LED key lights are prefect for freehand drawing in your light painting creations and are also great for creating great starburst effects because they are super bright!!! The momentary Push ON/Release OFF push button gives the light painter precise control over placement of light within your image.

Neutral Density Filter

Neutral Density Filter also known as and ND filter is a dark, color neutral filter that is used as a way to control the amount of light reaching the film or sensor. ND filters can be used to light paint during the daylight hours or when the light source is extremely bright. A good ND filter is one that is adjustable like the Vivitar Variable NDX filter you just need to make sure you get the right diameter to fit your existing lens. You can also get less expensive ND material and make your own filter system.

Poi Balls

Poi Balls are one of the oldest light painting photography tools. They come in several different colors, including the color changing variety, and can also be set on fire. The performance art of Poi was created by Māori people of New Zealand and it is a performance art in which a ball or balls suspended from a length of flexible material are held in the hand and swung in circular patterns. To create a light painting photograph the performer uses an illuminated ball or sets the poi ball on fire. During the long exposure the movement of the performer can create intricate patterns and designs.


Tape is a light painters best friend. More specifically Gaffers Tape, Gorilla Tape, and Duct Tape have countless uses in light painting photography. Gaffers tape is best to use when you need to remove it and don’t want to leave any stick residue behind, it is a strong tape that will pull away clean, however it is expensive. The next best tape is Gorilla tape, it is excellent for making flash boxes light tight, and for securing anything you may need to secure. Duct tape is also a very good tape to have around when you are light painting, I cannot tell you how many bad situations having a good roll of tape can get you out of on location.


A good tripod is a very important part of the light painting photographic process. Tripods come in a variety of sizes and materials, carbon fiber tripods are a great choice they are lightweight and strong, but they can be very expensive. Some things to look for when you are purchasing a new tripod are the weight limitations, how high the tripod will extend, and if the tripod has levels built into it. If you are going to spend a little extra money on a piece of light painting equipment I highly recommend that you spend it on the tripod. Your light painting exposures can range from 5 seconds to over an hour. When you open the shutter of your camera and light a scene for 30 minutes to come back and see your tripod has slipped it sucks. A good brand of tripod is Slik, more specifically the Slik 330 DX and Slik 580 DX depending on the weight of your camera gear.


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