There are many different styles of light painting. You can create Light Graffiti or light trails when you use a flashlight to paint your name in the air or on a wall. But for a Fine Art Light Painting, you become a painter. Think of light as your paint and a flashlight as your paintbrush. Create a work of art by revealing your subject from the dark. Paint light into a dark scene and artistically illuminate your scene. Try for a “Chiaroscuro Effect” by sculpting your subject with shadows. Just remember…

Shadows are the Secret of Fine Art Light Painting

Normally you want at least 50% of your composition in shadow. With a portable, handheld “Continuous” light (AKA: Flashlight) you control the precise amount and location of the light and the shadows.  Reveal and Conceal!  With a flashlight, you can fine tune your your light source so much better than with a strobe or speedlight.

Fine Art Light Painting - Chiaroscuro - Farmers Market - Shadows

ARTSY BACKGROUND: Move the background to blur it while light painting.


Fine Art Light Painting - Chiaroscuro - Farmers Market - Shadows

BLACK BACKGROUND: Hang a black cloth and pull away from the wall.


Fine Art Light Painting - Chiaroscuro - Farmers Market - Shadows

FAUX BOKEH: Light the subject first, then throw the lens out of focus and light the background.


Fine Art Light Painting - Chiaroscuro - Farmers Market - Shadows

BALANCE THE LIGHT: White subjects hardly need any light, but dark areas need a lot!


How to create a Fine Art Light Painting

1. Compose
2. Focus
3. Illuminate

1. Compose – Prepare, plan and set up something interesting. Use the rule of thirds or Golden Mean to create a nice composition. If you are unsure, just do not center the main subject. Try to position focal points along the one third gridlines.

2. Focus – Use a light to lock focus on your main subject, then turn your Autofocus to Manual. This will prevent your camera from trying to focus in the dark. Turn off the lights and start your exposure. For starters, try ISO 100 – 30 seconds – F/8 – Auto White Balance.

3. Illuminate – But Keep it tight & Keep it right  because..
Shadows are the Secrete to Fine Art Light Painting
This means you need to stay close to your subject and paint from almost a right angle, about 70 – 80%. Avoid lighting the subject from the front or it will look like the headlights or on-camera flash hit your scene. And that would not be fine art! Use a painting motion to stroke the light in selective areas. Keep at least 50% of the scene in shadow!

These are my favorite Handheld Continuous Lights
1.  Macro and Table Top Light Painting

2.  Table Top Light Painting

3. Outdoor Light Painting – Get a Lithium Halogen or at least a Halogen so you have a warm white light. If you use LED your light will be blue and it is hard to compensate with White Balance settings.

4. Milky Way and Stars:  When shooting stars are a high ISO, you will need diffusers and reflected light. Try bouncing the light into the scene to avoid light streaks and blown out areas.



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