Light Painting Photography With Glow Sticks

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There’s no better way to acquire light painting than with LED light sticks. If you lot’ve never used these colorful light painting tools in photography earlier, we’re here to show you how to create magic with them.

What Is Calorie-free Painting Photography?

Before we talk about LED sticks, let’south talk about what light painting photography is in the beginning place.
In simple terms, it’s a technique that uses long exposures to capture moving light sources.
Call up when you run across streaks of red from moving cars when yous use long exposure at night? The concept of lite painting works the same.
Since the shutter stays open up for a long fourth dimension, all the move the camera captures turns into streaks–and that includes lights.
What you need to know when creating a light painting is how to control where the light goes. Information technology sounds complicated, but all it takes is for you to depict something in the air using a portable light source.
Your first few light paintings may wait like a child’southward scribbles, merely you lot’ll get better at it eventually. And don’t worry, we’ll also prove you a few unproblematic tricks you can try throughout this lite painting tutorial.

Why Use LED Sticks?

Three LED light sticks on a black background

For years, the light painting tools that most people used were flashlights. And although they worked well in nearly situations, they didn’t e’er come up in a variety of colors.
Merely these days, you can have a variety of colors even if you merely accept one LED light stick. Most options allow you to modify your light settings with a push.
Another reward of using LEDs is that they use less power than regular flashlights.
In that location are many types of LED light sticks. The about common ones are for camping and outdoor lighting. At that place are also glow sticks for concerts and parties.
If you want to take light painting seriously, you tin also purchase special kits for this type of photography. Many of these lights have “brushes,” which are attachments that project beams in different ways.
Yous don’t take to choose a specific type of light source for your photography. There isn’t a single best flashlight for lite painting. Every single 1 produces a different kind of light.
Experiment with all of them to make your images look unique.
A creative portarit of a man with a line of light painting surroundeing him, shot using LED light painting tools

What You Need to Outset Calorie-free Painting

Other than your camera and LED lite stick, you’ll need a few other lite painting tools for your project. But don’t worry, you already have most of them at domicile.

More Portable Light Sources

Look for any other portable light source apart from your LED light. This could be a regular flashlight or even your picayune brother’s lightsaber.
Experiment with these options to create dissimilar effects.


Before you head out, remember to bring this essential slice of equipment, or you lot’ll end up with blurry images. You lessen the chances of motion blur when you keep everything steady.
Using a tripod ensures your photographic camera doesn’t move while the shutter is open.
A bicycle surrrounded by light painting, outdoors at night, shot using LED light painting tools


When doing long exposures, it’s best to refrain from touching the camera to avoid movement blur. And yes, that includes pressing the shutter. Employ a remote to trigger your device wirelessly.
You’ll too detect it useful when y’all’re doing light painting by yourself and demand to activate the shutter from afar.

Off-Camera Wink and Gels

These are optional since nigh hobbyists don’t have flash triggers and gels. If yous take flash and gels, feel gratis to use them to create splashes of colors in the groundwork.
Y’all’ll notice them useful when the surround is as well dark or irksome.

Setting Up Your Equipment

Blue and red light painting shot under a wooden structure at night using LED light painting tools

Once you have the items y’all need, start looking for a location to ready your gear. Find a place that’south complimentary from ambience light coming from buildings or street lights.
You should also choose a spot with an heady groundwork. For instance, walls or trees are practiced at adding dimension to your paradigm.
When you notice a good location, gear up upwards your tripod and photographic camera in forepart of where you want to take the picture.
Set your photographic camera to Manual Style to change the exposure settings the mode you want them.
First, adapt your ISO between 100 to 800 depending on the ambient light available. If the moon is out, it would be all-time to endeavour 100.
If it’s pitch black outside, consider using a higher value up to 800. You’ll need it to make the background visible.
Next, select an aperture size between f/8 to f/16. Adjust your aperture based on how much exposure time you need.
If you lot reckon y’all’ll need a long time to end your lite painting, and so utilise a small discontinuity such as f/16. If you want to finish your work speedily, and so stick to a large aperture such as f/eight.
For your shutter speed, commencement with 8” and accept a test shot. If the consequence is also dark, go one stop lower. If it’southward besides brilliant, go a stop higher.
Keep adjusting your settings until you become the proper exposure.

Light Painting Process

A colorful S shaped streak of light painting shot under on a tennis court at night using LED light painting tools

Now that your camera is all set, it’southward fourth dimension to acquire how to learn how to light paint.
If you’re doing low-cal stick photography by yourself, set your lens to autofocus.
Then stand in front end of the camera and mark your spot by putting a pocket-sized object on the ground. Information technology could be anything from an extra flashlight or even a dry leaf.
At present turn on your LED light while still standing and trigger the shutter with your remote. Using your LED stick helps your camera observe the focus point even in the dark.
Go back to the camera and review the paradigm. If information technology’s out of focus, you’ll need to try information technology over again. If everything looks sharp, switch the lens to manual focus, then it doesn’t readjust the side by side time y’all shoot.
In one case everything is ready, render to your spot with your LED stick turned off this fourth dimension. Press the remote once again and starting time painting as soon equally you hear the shutter open.
If you finish your light painting before the shutter closes, make sure yous plow off the LED stick. If you hear it close and you’re still drawing, then arrange your shutter speed to give yous more time.
It tin can take a few tries to perfect your lite painting photography. It will help a lot if you rehearse your movements before y’all shoot.
Also, remember that the camera captures the mirror image of what you drew with your LED stick. Create your light painting backward to brand it wait normal in your moving picture.
Draw from correct to left specially if you’re writing letters and words.

Light Painting Ideas You lot Can Try Today

A portrait of a female model posing in from of neon green streaks of light

Long exposure photography is experimental by nature. Considering it tends to blur movement, photographers employ information technology a lot to create conceptual images.
Light painting is no different. At that place’due south no right or wrong way to do it. You’re free to play effectually and create your effects.
If yous tin can’t effigy out how to start, here are a few ideas that might help you.


The term tagging comes from the graffiti scene which means writing your name (a.k.a. tag) on a wall.
Y’all can do something similar with low-cal painting by using your LED stick instead of a spray can. Showtime from right to left and write the messages in reverse.
'2017' written in sparkly light painting shot at night using LED light painting tools

Rainbow Colors

Most LED sticks change colors with a push of a button. Some of these light painting tools even feature blinking lights.
Experiment with the settings of your device and run across what sort of cool effects you lot can achieve with these low-cal painting tools.


You don’t always have to describe figures that people recognize. You can besides create abstruse shapes by waving your wand in different directions. Or you tin can make screw light painting past twirling your torso effectually.

Colour Gels

Attach color gels to your flash and add a splash of colors to your images. Y’all can either attach your flash unit to your camera or use a remote trigger.
Yous can employ it to add vibrant hues to walls, floors, or even a human field of study.
Red heart shaped light painting shot at night using LED light painting tools

How to Edit Light Painting Photography

To make the virtually of your light paintings, you’ll demand to enhance them in your editing suite.
First, adjust the basic settings such as Exposure and Contrast. Next, tweak your Blacks to darken the rest of the scene.
Modify your Vibrancy and Saturation to make the colors of your lights pop. Don’t overdo it or y’all might stop upward with an oversaturated epitome.
Long exposure sometimes causes a lot of racket. Adjust your Noise Reduction sliders to make the grain less noticeable. Don’t go also far or you’ll end upwards with a blurry prototype.
If you’re happy with the upshot, save it. And that’s it for your first light painting photo!

Looking for more creative tips? Cheque out our new post nearly neon portraits next!