Have you ever looked at a photograph and wondered how the photographer created such a stunning image? One technique that can add a touch of magic to your photos is light painting. This creative and expressive photography genre allows you to use light as your brush and the darkness as your canvas.

In this beginner’s guide to light painting, we’ll explore the basics of this technique, the equipment you’ll need, and some tips and tricks to help you get started.

What is Light Painting?

Light painting is a photography technique where a photographer uses various light sources to ‘paint’ or draw in the air while taking a long exposure photograph. By manipulating light through movement, the photographer can create stunning and surreal images.

Equipment for Light Painting

Before you can start light painting, you’ll need some essential equipment. Here are the key items you’ll need:

  • A Camera: Any camera with manual controls will work for light painting, but a camera with a manual mode is ideal as it will give you more control over your exposure settings.
  • A Tripod: Since light painting requires long exposure times, a tripod is essential to keep your camera steady during the exposure.
  • A Remote Shutter Release: Using a remote shutter release eliminates the need to touch the camera, further minimizing movement during the exposure.
  • A Powerful Light Source: You’ll need a light source to ‘paint’ with. This can be a flashlight, a LED light panel, or even glowsticks. Experimenting with different light sources will yield different effects.
  • A Dark Environment: Light painting is best done in a dark environment, preferably at night or in a dimly lit room.

Getting Started with Light Painting

Now that you have your equipment ready, let’s dive into the steps to get started with light painting:

  1. Find a suitable location: Look for a dark environment with interesting elements that you can use as your canvas. It could be a beautiful landscape, an urban setting, or even your own backyard.
  2. Set up your camera on a tripod: Mount your camera securely on your tripod to keep it stable during the long exposure.
  3. Set your camera to manual mode: Switch your camera to manual mode to have full control over your exposure settings. Set a low ISO (such as 100 or 200) for less noise, a small aperture (such as f/8 or f/11) for a greater depth of field, and a slow shutter speed (such as 30 seconds) for capturing the light trails.
  4. Compose your shot: Take some time to compose your shot. Think about the elements you want to include in your image and how you want to use light to paint them.
  5. Trial and error: Light painting involves experimentation. Start by illuminating your subject and moving the light source around it. See how different movements and techniques create different effects. Don’t be afraid to try different ideas and learn from the results.

Tips and Tricks for Light Painting

Here are a few additional tips and tricks to help you improve your light painting skills:

  • Play with colors: Experiment with different colored light sources or filters to add an extra layer of creativity to your images.
  • Use light modifiers: You can use various light modifiers like diffusers or gels to manipulate the quality and color of the light.
  • Create light orbs: By spinning a light source on a string or by twisting it while moving it in a circle, you can create mesmerizing light orbs in your images.
  • Introduce human subjects: Including a person in your light painting can add a sense of scale and storytelling to your images. Experiment with having the person move or pose during the exposure.
  • Combine your light painting with other techniques: Light painting can be combined with other photography techniques like long exposure, double exposure, or even astrophotography for unique and stunning results.


Light painting is a captivating photography genre that allows you to unleash your creativity and create breathtaking images. With some practice and experimentation, you can master this technique and take your photography to a whole new level. So grab your camera, find a dark location, and start painting with light!