September 21, 2023


How Art Works

Three explanation why your gentle portray is not any good

5 min read

You have got tried gentle portray. Nonetheless, it by no means seems to be good. Right here’s three explanation why that’s. I’ll supply recommendations to up your gentle portray sport.

Why is my light painting awful? Photo by William Carlson from Unsplash

However first, I’ll briefly describe what gentle portray is. 

What’s gentle portray?

Mild portray is a time period that’s usually used loosely to explain any addition of sunshine to an evening {photograph}. Actually, although, gentle portray is a way that makes use of a handheld gentle supply to light up a scene throughout a protracted publicity. You might be fairly actually portray the scene with gentle. Night time photographers have used this method for a lot of many years.

Now let’s look at what creates terrible gentle portray and what we are able to do to enhance it.

Motive one: You’re shining your gentle from behind your digital camera

Above: the left picture is from instantly in again of the digital camera. The correct picture is from digital camera proper and to the facet of the columns. In each examples, I’m illuminating the columns with the hand held flashlight from the identical distance and for a similar period of time.

When somebody takes a photograph of you utilizing a flash from a digital camera telephone, do you are feeling it’s flattering? After all not. It seems to be unnatural, flat and infrequently, over-exposed. Briefly, it seems to be ugly.

For those who gentle paint from behind your digital camera, you’re utilizing the identical angle. And you’ve got even much less purpose to be doing this than utilizing the flash utilizing your telephone’s digital camera. You have got a handheld flashlight, in any case. You possibly can gentle paint from any angle you select.

This is likely to be the only largest purpose why your gentle portray would possibly look dangerous.

A greater method: utilizing extra flattering angles

Above: Examples of illumination from completely different angles. The primary one is from instantly behind the digital camera. All illumination is for a similar period of time and distance from the flashlight to the statue.

Strive completely different angles. Get away from behind your digital camera and stroll round. Illuminate your topic from 45, 90 or 120-degree angles. You’ll be blissful you probably did. This may decide up extra texture and cut back the possibilities of your gentle portray trying ugly and garish. This text will help you perceive flattering and dramatic angles from gentle portray much more. Test it out!

Motive two: You’re utilizing too brilliant of a light-weight

I’m not positive why, however when buying a flashlight for gentle portray, starting night time photographers get actually hung up on how brilliant it’s. Maybe it’s advertising and marketing. We’ve all seen advertisements that boast, “Make night time appear to be day!” You don’t want one thing with 23 million lumens, nevertheless. This solely creates sizzling spots, blows out highlights, and makes your topic look garish and ugly. This might presumably be tied with gentle portray behind your digital camera for the only largest purpose your consequence seems to be hideous.

Light painting a vintage red bus at night.
Mild portray a classic crimson bus at night time.

A greater method: Dim that gentle

The sunshine that I exploit most frequently, for instance, is roughly 400 lumens. It’s brilliant, but it surely’s not absurdly brilliant. And it has adjustable brightness, so I normally use it at ⅔ of its most brightness anyway. In case you are lighting up the close by panorama, an deserted automobile or constructing, or anything, you actually don’t want that a lot. 

Actually, it’s preferable to make use of a dimmer gentle and slowly “paint” on the sunshine utilizing a number of strokes relatively than blasting the topic as soon as and hoping for the very best. Your gentle portray can be extra nuanced, stunning, {and professional}. Additionally, you will enormously diminish the opportunity of having sizzling spots or blown highlights.

All of that is very true if you’re photographing with a excessive ISO, equivalent to when you’re photographing the Milky Method. Your digital camera is about to {photograph} dim starlight, so utilizing a brilliant flashlight is about the very last thing you would want. Dim that gentle.


Motive three: Your gentle is just not all that nice

Lots of people who’re attempting their hand at this method would possibly seize any gentle supply they’ve helpful. This contains the sunshine from their digital camera telephone, their head lamp, or an affordable flashlight. This may end up in a topic with little element. It would look muddy, uneven, or have an uncommon shade forged.

A greater method: High quality flashlights which might be nonetheless cheap

You don’t want an costly gentle in any respect. There are many flashlights that may look flattering for this method. Strive utilizing an LED flashlight that means that you can management the brightness, has heat white gentle, and has excessive CRI (Colour Rendering Index). A better CRI helps to carry element. You need element. Usually, a CRI of 80 or above is taken into account good, and above 90 is admittedly good.

There are quite a few choices for high quality lights for gentle portray. This text critiques one such choice for round $25.


I hope this text has helped encourage you to strive completely different methods and enhance your gentle portray. This method is extraordinarily addicting, and suggestions like this may actually enable you to understand your imaginative and prescient. Do you have got every other suggestions for bettering gentle portray? In that case, depart it within the feedback.

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