Light Painting Photography
Submitted by: Ewan Cambell MacDougall, Summer Camp Counselor
Grade Level Age: 9 years old + (younger children will be able to make fun patterns, older students can create dramatic images making use of surroundings)
Goals / objectives:
1. Create unique fun pictures
2. Develop an understanding of how light and photography works
3. Develop Team Work Skills
Camera. A DSLR Camera will work best but any camera that allows you to adjust the shutter speed will work such as a compact Digital Camera, a tripod or flat surface, a torch (flash light) or other light source, if students are responsible enough sparklers or laser pens can work well, a darkened room, or where applicable an unlit outdoor area at night.
Set up a darkened room or if possible outdoor location at night. In the room place the camera on a tripod or flat surface and point it at a stage or area where pupils will draw.
How long your exposure time needs to be depends on how complicated your design is and how long it will take. 45 seconds might be a good starting point but it really depends on you.
With some cameras you can set the length of time to Bulb which means the shutter will stay open for as long as you hold the Shutter release this will give you the most flexibility.
Your ISO should be around 400 and your aperture fairly high, obviously you’ll need to experiment with this and adjust it depending on how dark your room is and how much of the background you wish to be visible.
When framing the picture it’s important to make sure there is as little light as possible, all light will be exaggerated in the image, resultantly any lamps or lights in the background will become very bright and large often taking over the whole picture. Choose a location that is dark as possible and position the camera so any lights that you cannot turn off are not in the frame.
Make the frame as large as possible; you cannot always judge where your drawing will go, you can always crop the image later. To get an idea of what will appear in the picture you may wish to try taking a photo with the flash as a test before hand.
With older students start by explaining the basic principles of light in photography. How the longer the camera lens is open the more light will enter the camera and the brighter that light will appear. Yet the more blurred the image will be.
Show students some examples of images created by light painting. (Many can be found by internet searching.)
Describe how different effects are achieved. Attached are three images created by myself and my friend Mohamed Saad Hussain that should be easy to replicate. (I promised my friend he’d be credited for his images if they were used)
Images can also be created by pointing the camera at a wall and writing or drawing on it with a laser pointer.
For best results students should draw the images slowly and large as this will produce clearer effects.
Divide the class into groups of 5 or 6 and tell them that they will have two torches to use. Then set them the task of designing their own light painting image.
Have another piece of work the majority of the class can be finishing, then take each group to the pre-prepared photographing area one at a time.
Take the students into the photographing area one group at a time. A teacher should operate the camera whilst the students create the image. Students should be given at least five attempts to make the image with an opportunity to preview the results in-between attempts. It can take several tries to perfect the image.
Created by shining the torch at the models feet, then having the model take a step forward and shine the torch at the whole of the figure. (Click on the image for full size)
Assess students on:
The quality and effectiveness of their image.
Originality of idea.
Use of surroundings in image.
Ability to work well as a group.