What is light painting?
Light painting is the art of creating photos by setting long exposure times on a camera and using a moving light source to “paint.” A light painting photographer opens a camera’s shutter, and keeps it open, as they draw in the air with a light source. The finished product is an image of that light source’s path: lines of light through darkness, creating a glowing image in the open lens during the long exposure time. “It’s long exposure photography,” says light painter Kris Foot. “You’re opening the shutter for a longer period of time, and using either lights that are already there or controlling your own lights.”
Sometimes light painting photography takes advantage of preexisting light sources. It’s possible to open a shutter as stars and planets trace paths across the sky or as car headlights streak down a highway. Some of the most memorable types of light painting rely on light sources produced by the artist. Using a flashlight, illuminated tube, or flame, artists can paint nearly anything with light. It’s just a matter of precision, patience, and creativity.
The technical side of light painting.
Light paintings are long exposure photographs. To be a truly effective light painter, you need to understand how the camera works and how to control different parts of what photographers call the exposure triangle: shutter speed, aperture, and ISO.