I’ve always wanted to learn lightpainting ever since I first saw photos in my various Google searches for photographic related techniques. It just seemed so cool, but its an art very different from your ordinary photography. It really is more like painting than photography, except that you are painting in the dark, facing the camera, guessing at how it will turn out. You cant see the result of your work until the picture is finished, and even then its hard to see the result until you put it in a photo program where you can flip the image horizontally so it has the same orientation as you originally drew it. Don’t bump your head or stub your toes fumbling around in the dark, and definitely try not to knock your camera over, tripod and all! Not that I did any of those things, just some deep thoughts I thought I would share for those inclined to clumsiness of which I would normally be categorized, but I did pretty well on that account for this project.
So anyhow, my great plan to make Christmas cards was to rely heavily on photos created by lightpainting. I started brainstorming different ways to get good colored light, particularly cheap ways. I realized I had the perfect cheap solution, small LED flash lights modded to hold colored LED’s. I already had a couple strands of LED Xmas lights I didn’t need so all I really had to buy were a pack of flashlights, and those I found in an 8-pack for just twelve dollars! I did end up buying a few extra Xmas light strands because they were on sale, but I didn’t need them.
I ended up coming up with a few different designs for my light brushes. I made some that were long wands with some very directional LED’s. I realized these were a bit difficult to use because you really need to hold the stick near the light end, like a pencil, but the on/off switch is on the back. I might re-wire them use in the future, with a pushbutton switch near the front. I also realized it wasn’t really necessary to make them so long. I just used pieces of PVC to make the wand extensions. If I had to do it again, I would make them much shorter.
I cam up with another design which used flexible arms which I scavenged from a pair of those clip on LED reading lights. This allows me to spread the lights around to different positions for different kinds of effects. They also have sockets so I can put different kinds of LED’s in them.
This is probably a good time to note differences in the Christmas light LED’s I was using – if you are running them off 3.6V (aka 3 rechargeable batteries) then red and yellow LED’s need 100 ohm resister, but blue and green ones do not. You can use a resistor in series with any of them to lessen the amount of light they create, since when working in the darkness they can be quite bright actually but you may want that effect.
Also if you need another color besides what you can find in LED’s, you can either use white LED’s and cover them with gelatin filters. You could also recolor the painted images in Photoshop, since the colors are pretty consistent should be quite an easy adjustment.
Here are a couple shots of my lightbrushes (the next post will feature the greetings I created with these lightbrushes):