Long exposure and light painting are popular techniques in photography that can be difficult to achieve. Long exposure shots are perfect to capture a landscape in a creative way but they require several elements before you can get the right shot. Light painting is an artistic combination of night photography and long exposures which takes patience and planning to execute properly. To help you get the most out of these techniques, we’ve written up our top ten tips for long exposures and light painting.
1. Look for movement in the shot
Make sure there are elements that add movement to the shot. Cloudy skies, moving vehicles, and windy days are ideal for these shots as they add texture and an element of interest to the shot. Without these things, there is no need for a long exposure.
2. Use a tripod
The camera requires more time to process an image when set on a long exposure, so it is more susceptible to camera shake. A tripod allows for stability and ensures that you don’t have to hold the camera during the particularly long exposures.
3. Try a neutral density filter
This filter limits the light that enters your camera so you can have longer exposures than your camera would normally allow. The Neutral Density filter automatically transforms water into a blur and creates light trails. Make sure to set your camera up before you pop on the filter as it limits your ability to see through the lens.
4. Look for light leaks
Look for light leaks on your camera. Even light from small holes like your view finder can affect the outcome of the shot. The easiest way to solve this is to seal the view finder with black tape or some other blocking material.
5. Do test shots
Do test shots. Once you have the ideal set up, make sure to see how the shot will look and then adjust accordingly for both long exposures and light painting. Check the Histogram to make sure the colour profile is ideal as the view screen is not always accurate.
1. Keep the light moving
During the light painting process, keep the light moving to maintain a nice even shape in the picture and not create unnecessary bright spots. If you stay in place for too long during an exposure, you will show up in the shot.
2. Change your white balance
Auto white balance is good for a lot of things but for light painting, changing it can help increase the colouring in your chosen light source and add a more dramatic effect to the overall image.
3. Use bulb mode
This will allow for you to control the length of the exposure by pressing the shutter button. Make sure to time the exposure so that you can achieve the length and look you are hoping for.
4. Paint light like a real canvas
Paint the light up and down or side to side as if you were painting a real canvas. This allows for an equal distribution of light
5. Experiment with light distribution
If you point the light towards the subject, it acts like a flash and subtly lights the object. If you point the light towards the camera, you can create light drawings and streaks that will add to the background of the photo.