January 2022


One of my favorite ways to add creative lighting to portraits is to incorporate light painting. This is a technique where you drag your shutter and move light through the frame to get streaks of light. This can be a very fun technique to do, especially since no two images will be the same and you can get some really creative in-camera effects. For this shoot, I used two lights: a constant light and a strobe. This is critical for light painting portraits since the strobe will freeze your subject and the constant light will allow you to get light streaks in your final photo. For this shot, I used a Westcott 53” Deep Silver Umbrella with a FJ400 wireless strobe to freeze my subject and a Flex RGBW LED Panel for the constant light. I decided to turn the constant light to an orange color to help complement the teal monochromatic tones in the rest of the image. How it works: Since most strobes sync with cameras around 1/250th of a second, if you lower your shutter speed, you will just be adding more ambient or constant light. When light painting, light streaks occur when you have a slower shutter speed, while also having motion with your constant light. Motion can be added in many ways. Some of the most common are moving your light, your subject, or even moving your camera. For this shoot, I used a combination of the subject moving and the camera moving. My settings were ISO 100 F5.6 at a 1-second exposure. The longer the exposure, the more time you will have to light paint. The exposure of the constant light will also increase while the strobe exposure will stay the same. Achieving the perfect results when light painting can be tricky, so here are some tips to help you get the shot. First off, you want to make sure the room is as dark as possible. Any ambient light will show up in the images, including the modeling lamp of your strobe, so make sure to turn off any additional constant or ambient lighting. When it comes to light placement, I almost always want to place the constant light so it’s not shining on my subject’s face. This helps ensure their face is as clear as possible. Another tip is to play around with both rear and front curtain sync, since both make very different types of lighting patterns. Finally, remember to have fun! Light painting can result in some unique and interesting results with organic shapes, so try not to be a perfectionist and let your creativity flow.

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