Using Light Painting for Dramatic Lighting

Vintage fishing lures light painted with nothing but a small flashlight.

Light painting is an awesome way to create dramatic lighting with no special equipment at all. All I used to to create these photos is a camera, tripod and small Maglite flashlight. Any flashlight will work.

I realized recently the appeal of light painting for me is much like pinhole photography: using the simplest tools to create dramatic photography through light painting. It couldn’t be simpler. But as I always say about pinhole photography- “simple” and “easy” are two very different things.

Vintage fishing lures light painting using nothing but a small flashlight to give dramatic light.
During a long exposure I “paint” the light on the subjects.

Light painting is all about knowing lighting

The secret to light painting, just like any other photograph is all about the lighting. Without great light these photos are nothing more than a fishing lure on an old board. the light brings them alive and gives them depth.

While painting the light on the lures I make many exposures and take a look at the results adjusting a little each time. The amount of time you light a brightly colored lure is less than a darker one. The highlights on the lures are all about the angle of the light. I takes a lot of time and a lot of exposures to perfect the lighting.

You can give the appearance of complex lighting just by the directions of light painted on the subject. A good understanding of lighting helps a great deal too.

It’s like pinholes in that sense too. Sure, most anyone can take a photo with a pinhole camera. But the challenge is to take a good photo with a pinhole. The same is true with light painting. Can you create nice light with a flashlight?

If you just randomly paint from all directions you wind up with too little contrast and a flat boring photo. If you paint from not enough directions you get way too much contrast and shadows which is also an uninteresting photo.

To see more light painting Check out My Other Posts on Light Painting. 

Vintage fishing lures light painting using nothing but a small flashlight to give dramatic light.
the light colored lure on the bottom took about half the time to paint than the top lure.

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