How To Use Your Phone To Get Started Painting With Light

How To Use Your Phone To Get Started Painting With Light

Light painting can be loads of fun and it’s actually super easy to get started – no DSLR needed. With just a smartphone, an app or two and a dark room you can start experimenting with the art-form. So, how do you get started?

This Smartphone Guide presented by the Huawei P8. A powerful smartphone with a stunning look that captures amazing images. Ignite your creative side with P8’s advanced low-light camera, and the unique light painting feature.

Light painting is not a new concept and people have been doing it for years. From racing cars and drones to short films and even recreating the ghostbusters effect.

If you also want to play around with light painting and a DSLR, our resident photo guru Cam put together a handy guide.

But what about your smartphone? It turns out with a a bit of knowledge and a range of apps, that gadget in your pocket becomes a powerful light painting tool.

There are two main ways to get started. Firstly, you can use your phone camera to capture your light paint creations – no DSLR needed.

Secondly, you can use your smartphone as the actual light source to paint with. Thanks to a variety of apps, you can create different colours and even images and words.

Steady Hands

It’s worth noting that you will need a tripod for your phone, as it’s virtually impossible to hold it still enough for decent light painting without one.

Tripods range from little desktop style models, to adaptors that simply help mate your phone to your existing tripod. eBay is a good place to start looking at options.

You can also go the DIY route, or simply prop up your phone precariously with whatever household items are on hand.

Remote Trigger

Creating light paintings can be a lot of fun, but it can quickly become tedious running back to your phone over and over to trigger the next shot.

You can also accidentally bump the alignment.

The simplest solution is a remote shutter. Typically connecting by Bluetooth, these little devices let you trigger your camera from afar.

eBay is once again a good port of call to investigate the options available. Shutterball is also a solid Australian remote shutter.

A Camera App Upgrade

While pretty good for happy snaps on the go, most stock camera apps don’t let you delve into the manual controls. Fortunately there are a range of apps that take up the slack.

While there aren’t many totally free options, quite a few of the apps have a lite version that let’s you try before you buy.

The key aspect to light painting is being able to take long exposures — ideally up to about 30 seconds.

While most apps will help you get started, as you practice you can start to play around with things like ISO settings.

Camera FV-5 Lite

A fully featured professional camera app for your Android smartphone, FV-5 Lite is an excellent choice to try out manual controls.

You can take long exposure pictures up to 30 seconds, as well as adjust other more advanced features such as ISO control and manual focus.

You can even save your creations in RAW format for later processing.

The Lite version of the software is fully featured and free to use, but limits the resolution to just 640 x 480. Fortunately the full version is just $3.75

Magic Shutter

A professional level photo app for iOS. It’s not free, but at $2.99 it’s not expensive either.

The app has long exposure mode, with a useful mode that only stops capturing the second time you press the shutter.

It’s also got a self timer functionality, which makes it easy to trigger and then get in front of the camera.


For Windows phone users, ProShot lets you manually control just about every camera setting available.

Long exposures and light paintings are a breeze with shutter speed settings, as well as ISO adjustments.

The app will set you back $3.69 but is one of the better Windows Phone options available.

Light Painting Tools

You can light paint with anything that emits photons – from torches, to sparklers and glow sticks. But it turns out your smartphone is actually a versatile light painting tool in itself.

There are a range of apps available that make the process easier. The simplest option is to simply use your phone as a multicolour torch.

More advanced apps let you actually write words and draw pictures in the air. These work by displaying an animation as you wave the device across in front of the camera.

The apps available range in quality from simple free options to more expensive paid light painting solutions.

Colour Torch HD

A simple free Android app that lets you control your phone’s flash, as well as display different colours on screen.

You can create custom colours as well as simulate other effects, such as a strobe, rainbow or a candle.

While the app doesn’t let you make light painted words or pictures, it’s a good versitile option to get started.

Dr Light Painting

This free Android app lets you light paint like no other and actually write text in the air.

Simply input what you want to display, pick a text and background colour and swipe your phone across in front of your camera.

Bonus points if you use it to write rude words.

Light Paint

An iOS app that turns your iPhone or iPod touch into a colour changing light painting tool.

You can choose different colours or loop them together into an endless rainbow.

The app also lets you choose different brush shapes for painting.

And perhaps most importantly, it includes a tutorial on how to use the app to best creation your own light masterpieces.

What are your favourite light painting apps and tip? Tell us in the comments below.