Gizmodo Shooting Challenge: Painting With Light (And How To Do It)

Gizmodo Shooting Challenge: Painting With Light (And How To Do It)

Welcome to The Gizmodo Shooting Challenge, where Giz readers get to pit their photographic skills against each other for the admiration of their editors on a dedicated theme each week. This week’s challenge: Light painting! Glowing graffiti, traces of colour, words written in light and captured with slow exposure. Here’s how to do it!

Lead photo by Mina Mikhael and Matthew Barhoma.

The Method

Light painting is an specific version of long exposure photography. You’ll want to set your camera on a tripod and expose shots for 10-30 seconds or more while (probably another subject) draws with a light source, like a flashlight, LED, candle, sparkler or glowstick.

More: How To Paint With Light

Freddie Wong, maker of this epic light painting battle, offers very practical advice without getting too focused on technique. His best tip? Have those doing the painting (the non-subjects) wear black to blend in.

Abduzeedo suggests using a low ISO to avoid noise and figuring out your aperture by taking a test shot first without any light in it. And if you like that tutorial, here’s another that explores use of elements like flash.

Tool Ideas

Coloured LED Lights and Torches
LED lights are the bread and butter of light painting. Best of all, places like Jaycar sell all sorts of lights and torches starting at around $10 a pop.


Party Sparklers
Time to hit up your local $2 shop. El cheapo sparklers produce some stunning effects (as shown in the lead image), and should definitely provide some creative inspiration.
Image by Little Baby G, Flickr.

($1.99; iPhone and iPad)
Any word or phrase can be turned into a hologram-like image using the app, with adjustables including the colour, font, size, angle and so forth all available for tinkering.
More: Holo-Paint at Gizmodo.

($10.49; iPhone and iPad)
Arguably the most talked about “3D holographic text extrusion app” is scaled perfectly for the iPad. Features a built-in timer to help sync photo shots.

Light Painting, Light Graph
(Free; Android phones and tablets)
A great option for Android fans looking to paint words in multi-colour dynamic light.

8bit Holograph
(Free for Android, $0.99 for iPhone and iPad)
8bitapp’s claim to fame is the 3D exposure of space invader characters, along with text. The author has also created free long exposure webcam software. No need for a DSLR!

3D Light Writer
($1.99; iPhone and iPad)
Just type in your message or select a piece of clipart, wave your arm in the air (night works best) and create “magic” that would have gotten you burned at the stake just a century ago.
More: Light Writer at Gizmodo.

Have your own favourite app for Android or Windows Phone 7?
Let other readers know below.

How To Enter

1. The work must be your own.
2. Photos need to be taken the week of the contest. No portfolio shots please.
3. Explain (briefly) the photography equipment, settings, technique and story behind shot.
4. Email submissions to [email protected]
5. Did I mention that photos need to be taken the week of the contest?
6. Include image in email (at least 800px wide)
7. One submission per person.
8. Use the proper SUBJECT line in your email (more info on that below)

Send your best photo by Tuesday, October 4 at 10am AEST to [email protected] with “LIGHT” in the subject line. Save your files as JPGs, and use a FirstnameLastnameLIGHT.jpg naming convention. Include your shooting summary (camera, lens, ISO, etc) in the body of the email along with a story of the shot in a few sentences.

Don’t Forget: Don’t skip this story part because it’s often the most enjoyable part for us all beyond the great photos!

Need Inspiration? Check out the previous Gizmodo Shooting Challenges