Painting with light is an easy to achieve technique you can use to create photographs that have literally been 'Painted with Light', and looks like an image drawn with light. You may have seen an example of this on the Talk Talk sponsorship adverts for the "X Factor" TV show. All you need isn't love, but a camera, a triopd or something to place your camera on to avoid camera shake, a torch or simillar light source, and an unwitting stooge, er.... I mean a willing asistant wearing some black clothes. It's not hard, so lets all do..... The Funky Gibbon, er I mean.... Funky Light Paintings now.
You can do this either indoors or outdoors, but outdoors is best as you're filming in total darkness, and you're less likely to be able to bump into furniture or other things. Total darkness is essential, and you should use your back garden, as you won't have street lights adding unwanted light pollution. If you're filming indoors you can do this in daytime, but ensure you have heavy curtains to block as much of the light, and make sure your assistant has enough room to swing a cat in. By that I mean move their arms freely without bumping into things (not literally swinging an animal, otherwise I'd be in trouble with the animal welfare people).

Set up your tripod and put your camera on it.If you've not got a tripod, a table or childs high chair with the tray attached are good alternatives, though your assistant may have to bend down for you to get them in the shot. This is to avoid blurred photos. If you're using a basic point 'n' shoot camera without  A, S, M modes, set the camera to Night Mode, or Night Tripod from your scene menu. Then set the self timer to 2 seconds. If you have M mode, select it and set the Aperture to the highest number you can but don't go higher than f22.  

 If your camera has A, S, M modes, set the shutter speed to 2 seconds.With your assistant in position, take a test  shot without the torch. If you're using a point 'n' shoot camera, time how long the shutter is open for. There will either be 2 clicks, or the screen will go off whilst the shutter is open. You might get both. It's time to start painting. Tell your subject to switch the torch on. They will only have the amount of time the shutter is open for to draw the image. Tell your assistant to imagine an easel is in front of them, and they'll be drawing an imaginary picture. Zoom into your assistant, making sure you have a full length body shot. Press the shutter. The timer starts and flashes. It will beep when it finishes. The shutter then opens. As soon as it does this, your assistanr should start drawing. He will have only a small amount of time to draw the image in. Point 'n' shoot users will have to get their assistant to draw quickly.

Review your image. If you use a point 'n' shoot camera and your image is incomplete, your assistant will have to draw quicker. If you can see your assistant in it, you need to either lower your shutter speed or raise the f stop number. Basic point and shoot users can't do this, so if it's a problem, try and reposition yourself in a darker spot and get your assistant to stand further back as you zoom in, because the more you optically zoom in,the darker your image will be. In the photo on the right, we can clearly see my assistant and the garden ornament, although there was no flash or external light source. That was taken with a 10 second exposure which was far too long. By setting a 2 second shutter time, we can see if we need to increase or decrease this. The image above was taken with a 1/8th second shutter speed, and is perfectly exposed. What your assistant is drawing will determine your shutter peed. They will need a speed slow (long) enough for them to complete the painting. That is why your subject needs to be in black clothing, so it doesn't show. If the assistant is still visible, use a high aperture setting. If you are at your cameras maximum f stop, reduce your cameras ISO setting (usually found in the menu, though some high end cameras have an F or Q menu with it in) which both darkens the image and reduces noise. Standing further back and zooming in more , may also be required.

The exposure time was too long with this image, causing my daughter and the garden statue to be visible, which was unintended.
The finished image should ideally be all black except for what you have drawn, unless there's something like an illuminated sign, lights or Christmas tree want in the shot. By selecting a lower aperture you can include the person in a small part, like a face in the middle of a heart or circle. There's lots of ideas from birds, trees, animals, faces, and lorries, to writing tour name or initials. Remember, if it's writing, get your assistant to do it in reverse, otherwise you'll see backwards writing. Don't  forget to tell your assistant not to make the drawing too large, otherewise you'll only get part of your drawing on camera. There's another consideration to make. It's the weather. Don't try this in the rain or you could damage your camera. Below are a couple of images taken by two of my daughters friends, Aaron and Hannah Nolan. Don't forget, I'd love to see your attempts at light painting. Why not upload them to our Facebook page at
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