Long Exposure Photography or Light Painting


So what is light painting? It’s a photographic technique in which you take a very long exposure photo with a moving light source to create a cool laser effect. It’s fun, it’s creative, and it’s actually pretty easy to do!

What you need:

  • camera, your DSLR or even your smartphone
  • mount to keep those shots steady, maybe a tripod
  • light source that you can easily move around – flashlights, string lights, or the light from your smartphone
  • reliable memory for your camera

Next, you’ll want to make some changes to your camera settings:

  • Make sure your camera is on manual mode
  • Set your exposure (Shutter Speed) time between 10 and 30 seconds.
  • Set your ISO to 100
  • Set your F-stop between F10 and F22. The higher the F-stop the less light comes into the lens – between F11 and f16 is good.
  • Make sure to manually focus your camera before you start shooting,
  • Turn off all your lights and you’re ready to go.

When you hear the shutter, take a picture and during your cameras long exposure write a word or draw a picture with your light source. Voila!

Here are some of other light source ideas to try:

The string lights stick

Simply get some string lights and attach them to a rod or a ruler making sure to evenly space them. Make sure they’re facing the same direction, then set up your camera and start taking photos. It’s will create cool streak patterns.

The light Orb

Grab your string lights and tape them together in a bunch. Then find a center point on the floor by putting down a quarter. Then, put your hand over that point and stay in that point as you rotate around swinging your string lights. It should create an Orb effect.

Portrait Light Painting

This will allow you to add a subject to your light painting. Use the same setup as a basic light painting only you’ll need a second light source and a friend to help you.

Pick a subject. It could be an inanimate object or it could be your friend. Then, focus on your subject before you turn out the lights. What you should get is an image with a subject surrounded by really cool light streaks.

Now that you’ve learned all these tricks, try and combine them and make some really cool light painting photos. It’s a fun and easy hack you can do with your family and it’ll make some really awesome photos.

Cloning Photography

This is an oldie but goodie! This one needs a little bit of photo editing knowledge. So, it’s a great opportunity to learn how layers work in Photoshop if you haven’t tried it out yet. You will need:

  • Camera
  • Tripod
  • Photoshop/Gimp or similar

You set your scene. You set up your camera, and if you’re photographing yourself, you set a timer. Then off you go — quick! — get into the scene. Strike a pose in a number of different places, taking a photo each time. Then, either at the beginning or the end, you must make sure you take a photo of the empty scene. Boom! You’ve captured your footage.


  • Make sure you use manual settings and manual focus and once it is set, you don’t change a thing. If the focus changes between images they won’t merge together in post production.
  • Make sure you take a photo of the empty room either at the beginning or the end, with the exact same focus and place the camera exactly as the rest of the images. This will make merging the images much easier.
  • Be mindful of where your subjects might overlap. If at all possible, make sure each clone doesn’t overlap another clone. It is possible to have them overlap, it just takes a bit more fiddling in post production.
  • Keep the lighting in the room the same throughout. If you’re using daylight, shoot quick so the light doesn’t change too much.

Layer your images in your editor of choice. Start with the base layer, and work up. If your clones don’t overlap, then you don’t need to worry about the order too much. If they do overlap, and one is in front of the other, then stack the images starting from the back and working forward.

Now comes the slightly time consuming part. You erase sections of each image until the clones are all in the same scene. This can be relatively fast if your clones are all separate.

You can be as creative as you like with this. Add in as many clones as you can – the only limit is your imagination.


Mirror Photography

This is a brilliantly effective style! It’s great for Instagram, YouTube thumbnails, and fancy product shots! You need:

  • Camera
  • Mirror
  • Black backdrop (or white would work too)
  • An off-camera flashgun, or a strong light

Again, a longer lens with a fast aperture will work best. And you’ll want the black backdrop as far away as you can manage. Set your objects onto the mirror, and once again we’re going to want to side light the subject so that not much light hits the black backdrop. You can side-light with either a strong, diffused light, or an off-camera flash.

Portrait shots look especially effective with this technique, but experiment. The reflection is eye catching and will set your work apart.

Use Photoshop  to get rid of any dust on the mirror, or any patterns in the glass (use a plain mirror). You’re going to want to emphasize the reflection, and try to remove as much of the background as possible by making it pure black (or pure white if you went for a white backdrop).

Bokeh Party

This is a great technique for product shots, but can also be used really effectively for portraits too. The technique will stay the same. You will need:

  • Camera
  • Cool subjects to shoot
  • String lights
  • Somewhere to hang your lights
  • Quite a long space to shoot
  • A longer lens (bonus points if fast)

Bokeh becomes extra bokeh-y (yes I’m sure that’s a word) when the distance between the lights and the subject is decent. This is why you need a long space to shoot. The first time I used this technique, I put my subjects on a kitchen side and shot through into the dining room. The second time I did this, I shot down my hallway, with a table in the middle for my subject.

So you want plenty of space — several feet — between your lights and your subject.

The other way that you enhance the bokeh is by taking advantage of the barrel compression with a longer focal length. Use your longer lenses to get the biggest juiciest bokeh balls. And you want to shoot as close to the subject as you can to really compress the background.

So. Shoot with a long lens, close to your subject. The lights in the background will be as far away as possible. Use those two techniques and you’ll get some epic bokeh. Bonus points if your lens is fast. Shoot at the widest aperture your lens will allow.

I put my subject on a wicker chair in the middle of my hall. I had a bedsheet hooked over two light-stands at the end of my hall, and I draped the lights all over it. Use whatever you have. You can drape them over a wall, or door, or curtains… anything really. The background should be mostly out of focus so it shouldn’t matter too much so long as the background is relatively similar throughout, like a wall, a curtain, or a bedsheet.

These photos will look pretty good straight from the camera so no fancy editing required! Just do your usual editing — contrast, saturation, etc. — and you’ll get lovely images. Bokeh is brilliant for everything. For people, animals, products, abstracts projects… everything. Try whatever you have around the house it’s really cool.





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