Light Painting at Home

A great way to spend hours of time and shed a new colourful light on all your old knick knacks!

You can light paint inside or in the great outdoors (my fave is while camping!)  but because of recent events I’m talking about fun things you can do in your apartment with house hold items!

Whether you’re using a digital camera or trying film photography – light painting is highly addictive AND time consuming.

Just how much time you’re looking to kill? Digital exposures take relatively less time than film exposures because of film having reciprocity failure. This means you need to do far longer exposures than with film, however attempting to get a digital exposure ‘juuuust rrrrright’ can also send one into a spiral of light exploration!

Using film I find the not knowing the outcome between each exposure is unsettling and therefore can lead to alot more trial and error. Since finding out your errors may take sometime, it’s a good idea to take notes. Though since this is the case with all film photos, the result might be way more magical and a bigger surprise! For this light painting blog however, I am going to just speak in reference to shooting with a digital camera.

So to get started set up your camera on a tripod (or something steady).

Then plug in your cable release. (You’ll need to be sure it has a lock on it as you need your hands free for the painting part. Unless you have someone currently at home with you that can lend a hand!)

Set your camera to a smaller aperture, 22, 16 or 11 and your shutter speed will be on bulb. The digital I have and used for most of the below examples (unless otherwise noted) are with my Fujifilm XT-1 and the Fujifilm 35mm f/2. There is a lot of guess work  involved that’s why it gets addictive to try for just the right outcome – whatever that is….

Also to be noted, a wider lens is helpful depending on what you are trying to shoot in a smaller space, but too wide (unless it’s a fisheye) can sometimes give you a lot of dead space unless you are sure to light paint using your whole frame!

I owe the refinement of my technique to Patrick Kaslo, who teaches Van Arts students to think outside the box!

Because I like to shoot primarily with film, something I like doing is incorporating my film photos into my digital light painting – this is one of the tricks I learned from Patrick. Take any printed photograph preferably large, I favour black and white, put it down on the ground and put different objects on it. Set up your tripod, camera (with remote) either facing your still life, or in this case downward at the photo with your objects on it, etc. Get ready with your different lighting arsenal, turn off all household lights, focus your camera, then lock the camera on bulb and flash the subject with all your different light sources. Note that low indirect light will allow more layers of colour and it will not burn out as quickly.

For your light sources using different types of flashlights can be fun. I have a great UV flashlight that I bought locally from Mountain Gems in Burnaby, and my other fancy flashlight I bought from Mike, who loves flashlights and has a great collection that he is constantly upgrading. That flashlight has built in red, blue and green color settings. Mike is a master at outdoor digital light painting and long exposures! Other light sources that work well (if you don’t have an extensive flashlight collection): cell phone lights, pen lights, a lighter, candle (be careful of dripping wax!) Christmas or fairy lights and really any kind of light source you have. You can also use gels to give your lights different colours! Don’t have “real” gels? Get creative with household objects! Coloured glasses, bottles or different food containers.



One thing to also be sure to note about light – light pollution. Be sure to turn off any other light sources in your house when doing this! You think maybe even a far away light won’t matter but since you are doing such long exposures the light will definitely infiltrate your image. Most of my exposures here were a couple of minutes long.

Those are the basics! The rest is just trial and error and alot of playing around! So get your creative juices flowing while you are inside. If you have family members you are at home with right now, you can get them involved and have them shine different colours for you, or sit still and have lights shined on them! You can try light painting around your sleeping cat or dog! (Or awake one if they are very patient…)

Here are some examples of my latest light painting projects.

The first set is the latest and this is how you can create a few different versions using the same image.



These are a few I did around my apartment with my XT-1 and the 23mm f/2. Note that the all over blue tinge to these ones is due to TV light pollution.


And lastly here’s a couple I did with Patrick and his Nikon D300 and Nikon Fisheye lens…


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Beau Photo Supplies Inc.