A few weeks ago I was reading a great article over at “I Heart Faces“, about light painting in photographs. I’ve already heard of this technique and had the privilege to speak and hang out with Matt Normann this summer (because we were fortunate enough to have him at our branding). He’s an awesome lifestyle and commercial photographer and was full of words of advice for me! Briefly we spoke about long exposures, and it’s been something I’ve wanted to try for a while, but hadn’t made time to do it. That changed this weekend, when my eyes began to hurt from looking through, and editing, wedding photos. Below, I’ll tell you what I did, and how I achieved these “looks”.
What You Will Need
1. A Tripod
2. A remote, or at least your camera should be set to its delay/timed function, so you can push the button, and move away from the camera on the tripod so it will be still when it opens and closes the shutter to capture the image.
3. A light source. I used matches, but any light source could work. A lighter would have been easier to use probably. You could use a flashlight, sparklers, a laser pointer- use your imagination. I just used what I had for the look I wanted.
4. The ability to shoot in manual mode. If you don’t already know how to do that, the instructions below should help you gain an understanding, and should help you tackle a project like this.
If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again
Saturday evening I tried to follow the instructions from the aforementioned “I Heart Faces” Blog. Using my off camera flash and yadda, yadda, yadda- big fail. I wasn’t outside, so I was getting too much light from the flash, plus the cowboy wanted to watch football in my makeshift studio- hehe! Further, I clearly need to do some more research/practice using the “bulb” function on my camera. I also didn’t have an assistant, which should have made it easier for me.
Sunday I decided I would just use a long exposure, which is something I understand in theory, but hadn’t ever utilized. I mean, I’ve utilized a longer exposure at dusk (keeping in mind, if you’re holding the camera you shouldn’t leave your shutter open longer than your focal length- for example- if you’re shooting with a 28mm lens, you wouldn’t want to hold your camera and try to leave the shutter open for longer, than say 1/30s.
I started with a 15s exposure time. Now, because I’m not a formally trained photographer, I started with a wide open aperture (f/1.8) on my 28mm lens. Someone who better understood their camera might have realized from the beginning that with a 15 second exposure time my aperture need not be open as wide as it would go. However, I needed to see how much light would be captured off the match, and I wasn’t sure how long it would take me to light the match and wave it in front of/around the guitar. I’m quite certain there is probably a formula somewhere for doing such things that would take the guess-work out of this project but the inner artist in me doesn’t much care for formulas, or math.
Here’s the result of my 15s, f/1.8, ISO 200 settings:
You can see that it’s sort of blurry and smudged because obviously there was a lot of light. I actually had to darken the image with Photoshop.
The next photo I took I closed the aperture up to an f/4.5, turned the ISO to 250 and still used a 15s exposure.
This one, you can see is much darker. I just upped the contrast a tad in PS.
However, it still wasn’t what quite I was looking for.
I sped the shutter up to a 5s exposure time, turned my aperture to f/4 and left my ISO at 250.
I Heart Guitars
This one required no editing, save for the fact that I turned it into a Black and white. I was liking what I got, so I tried something different- writing a word.
Now, had I used a 6 second exposure I may have gotten the “e” to show up better, but this is still a fun shot, I think!
I changed up what I did in the next shot by one f-stop (f/5), and by how I waved the match. Believe me, sometimes the matches don’t always co-operate, just sayin’. This shot I ran through a vintage pre-set I created in PS:
Zach’s guitar is an Ovation and it’s very shiny. I love how the flame from the match reflects off of it.
I wanted to try something different, yet again, and write the word Rock. I couldn’t get it done with only 5 seconds, so I upped the exposure to 6 seconds and the f-stop to 6.3
I took almost all the color out of this one and I like it this way!
Last, I was going to try to make the guitar look like it was burning.
I ran this one through a vintage pre-set and it wasn’t quite what I wanted, but I like it nonetheless.
I shot all of these with my 28mm, wide angle lens. I think the wide angle is often not as wide as it would be if I were shooting on a full-frame camera, but it’s still one of my favorite lenses.
I hope this helped you sort out what to do if you’re wanting to experiment the same way I did! The only way we learn and get better is to constantly challenge ourselves! You can see all these images in their respective gallery, here.
Happy Trails and Happy Tuesday!