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How to Light Paint During the Day

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Lately I’ve been sharing yoga videos on Tuesday and tutorials on Thursday, but I’m doing this week backwards! A mid-day dental appointment kept me from filming Monday, so I had to rearrange. Actually, it wasn’t even a real dental appointment – it was this bizarre checkup I had to complete in order for my husband to submit paperwork to transfer from submarines to a different community within the Navy. Because of that, today I’m sharing a tutorial on how to light paint during the day, and I’ll be sharing yoga on Thursday. =)

How to Paint with Light During the Day!

Like I mentioned in this week’s newsletter, my husband has finally started actually being interested in photography. Yay! He’s been saying he was interested for a over a year, but hasn’t really gotten behind the camera much until the last month or so. I always felt kind of awkward going out to shoot sunrise or sunset with him just standing around looking bored, but now he has his own ideas to try out and has been reading more about photography, camera settings, etc. I even persuaded him to make his first Instagram post on Sunday! At the time of writing, we’re still working on getting him a profile pic, but baby steps, right? If you’re feeling generous, I’m sure he’d appreciate a follow on IG.

In addition to working on more pictures together, we decided to create a tutorial together for the first time ever! It was intermittantly rainy and we were stuck indoors, so we decided to see if we could light paint during the day in our apartment. Our condo community mandates white curtains, so they don’t exactly block much light, and we were shooting at 3 PM in our living room with a West-facing window. In other words, it wasn’t full, bright sun, but it wasn’t exactly dark, either! We experimented a little and, sure enough, we were able to light paint during the day using our Lee Filter System Little Stopper.

How to paint with light during the day!

Yes, that picture was taken at 3 PM in a light room! Super cool, right? Learn how it’s done in our tutorial video!

In summary, the equipment you need to paint with light during the day includes:

  • A DSLR camera (we used a Nikon D7100 in the video with the 35mm DX lens)
  • The eyepiece cover your camera came with or a piece of gaffers/painters tape
  • A tripod
  • An intervalometer, preferably wireless (optional but super helpful!)
  • A neutral density filter or stacked filters equivalent to 5-6 stops of light. We used a Lee Little Stopper, but there are other ND filters out there!
  • A bright flashlight (we experimented with different lights and found that 500+ lumens works best)
  • A sense of humor and willingness to experiment!

Key takeaways:

  • Play around with your settings based on your subject, flashlight, and ambient light, but we found that f18 with ISO 100 and an exposure anywhere from 10-15 seconds worked well for us.
  • To avoid having to time your light painting exactly to a preset shutter speed, try using a wireless release and “bulb” mode so you can open and close the shutter exactly when you want to based on your light painting.
  • Unless you have a super bright flashlight, a Big Stopper (and certainly Super Stopper!) probably won’t work as well as a Little Stopper.
  • Try to avoid shining the flashlight directly into the camera – this tends to create blown out highlights.
  • Experiment with colored lights or photography gels for even more interesting effects!

experiment with gels

Painting with light is so much fun! There are nearly endless possibilities. This shot was also taken when there was still a decent amount of light in the sky:

wings of light

I hope that you enjoyed this tutorial on how to light paint during the day! I had so many great comments on my glimpse into creating a levitation self-portrait that I decided to create a full-blown photography tutorial, and I’m happy to create more if folks like it. =)

Have you ever played with long exposure or light painting photography?


{ 6 comments… add one }
  • Julie August 12, 2016, 00:03

    Wow! This is so neat…! I didn’t even realize something like this was even possible…! How fun that you two are doing this together! 😀

    • Natashalh August 12, 2016, 09:15

      It’s really fun – except when we have a disastrous miscommunication! We just assume the other knows exactly what we mean (because that’s a pretty frequent occurrence), but sometimes we’re really not on the same page and hilarity/disaster results!

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