Light Painting Photography in the City of Light

Light Painting Photography in the City of Light

Paris is often called the “City of Light”. It seems that the origin of this periphrasis comes from the creation of public lighting in Paris by Gabriel Nicolas de La Reynie, in the seventeenth century, at least according to Wikipedia (fr).

While in Paris, I decided to try this marvelous class I found through Airbnb (Light Painting Class) on Light Painting Photography.

Light Painting

The branch of photography called Light Painting consists in fixing in time the light and its movements. Light can be directed either towards the camera lens to paint bright lines on the photo, or towards a subject that is illuminated in order to partially photograph it.

The Class

The venue was the Napoleon courtyard at the Louvre Pyramid. That day, I was the only person registered for the session. We started around 21:30 in order to get sufficient darkness.

Julien is a nice teacher. He took the time to explain to me how light painting works, and showed me his panoply of light tools and how to use them to achieve different lighting effects. We tried them all. We also had a look at my camera and determined the settings I could use to take pictures at home. During all this time, Julien answered my so many questions with patience and kindness. Finally, we finished the session by making the title photo of this article.

Material

The basic equipment is of course a camera. Although other devices can be used, I quickly realized that the function “live composite” offered by Olympus devices is clearly an asset of choice for light painting photography. With this feature, you can add light effects one after the other on the same photo without overexposing the background. It also shows the cumulative result on the display of the camera, as you are working on it. In comparison, when using the long exposure on my camera, I could only shoot for 30 seconds, without the ability to check the result before the capture was complete.

Then, it is essential to have a tripod to stabilize the device.

Finally, various light tools are useful to achieve different effects.

Techniques and Results

Calligraphy and drawings can be done using small led lamps. By pointing the lamp directly to the camera, you get a sort of star.

Light Painting Technique: you can draw letters with a small led keychain flashlight.
Light Painting Technique: you can draw letters with a small led keychain flashlight.
Light Painting Technique: using led lights to draw a flower.
Light Painting Technique: using led lights to draw a flower.

By directing a lamp on a particular subject, you can highlight it in the photo. Then, just use creativity to add light effects around it.

Light Painting Technique: mix drawing shapes with led lights and passing a lamp on a real object to highlight it.
Light Painting Technique: mix drawing shapes with led lights and passing a lamp on a real object to highlight it.

Using a longer light, like a toy lightsaber, you can add lines and, if you pass behind a subject, trace its shape in shadow.

Light Painting Technique: create a shadow by moving the toy light saber behind a person.
Light Painting Technique: create a shadow by moving the toy light saber behind a person.

Settings

I do not know much about photography. You can certainly find more information on the web, but in the meantime here are some basic recommendations to adjust the settings on your device.

First, you have to use the manual mode. You must make sure you are at focus. It is necessary to choose a low ISO mode (ex: 100), a medium aperture (F8 for my Canon camera) and to adjust the time of the photograph to an interval long enough to realize the desired figures with the luminous tools. Then, by trial and error, you can adjust according to the current conditions.

Challenge for YOU

Try light painting photography at home. If you do, I would love it if you to share the results.

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