The Art Of Drawing With Light


Posted on: 29 March 2018 by Tanya Mayer

Every form of photography is considered to be an art of expression. Therefore photography involves the convergence of art and craft.

If you have seen great photos, you will agree with me that they involve perfect technique that blends with vision. The best photographers understand that you always need to be ready to take the best shot. Patience is a virtue you cannot afford to ignore while taking photos. In case your first shot did not capture what you wanted, there will always time to improve and capture your best shot next time. For many years, photography has been referred to as the art of drawing with light. Well this is because the term photography is derived from two Greek words i.e.  phos’ meaning light and graphe’ which refers to draw.

Perhaps you have seen some pictures with light trails and you probably thought they were photoshopped. If you have not seen it before, then welcome to the art of drawing with light.


Light drawing

Light drawing is a technique which involves moving a handheld light device to create a pattern as you capture the picture. You can use different light device such as flashlights, glowsticks, lighter flints, candles or even your smartphone torch. For best results, it is advisable you use light device that are brighter. However, you can still use dim lights for

light drawing. Light drawing also referred to as light painting, has challenged many photographers to capture amazing pictures of moving light though the technique is challenging to perfect. The location you choose to undertake a light drawing project is very important. A dark area is often preferred because the aim is to capture the light drawing with your DSLR camera. You can choose to take the photograph on your own by positioning the camera on an elevated area as you create the light trails. For the light drawing to come out well, make sure the camera is not moving but it is safely positioned into place. In case this is hard to achieve, you can let a friend hold the camera for you as you make the light drawings.

History of light drawing

Light drawing or light painting dates back to 1880s where the first light drawing was publically seen. In the year 1889, Georges Demeny and Etienne Jules Marey used incandescent bulbs to create the first ever known light drawing photographer dubbed as Pathological Walk from in Front. The light painting technique used by Demeny inspired couples Frank Gilbreth and Lillian Moller to capture the light motion of clerical and manufacturing workers in the year 1914. Man Ray became the first painter to use light drawing in 1935. With his penlight, Man Ray created lines and swirls in the air which he captured using a camera.

Gijon Mili is an Albanian native who moved to United States in early 1920s. He was trained to be an engineer but taught himself about photography. With stroboscopic light, Mili was able to capture people in motion like jugglers, musicians and dancers in one exposure. The light painting techniques he used are still very much relevant today. It is Mili who introduced the famous Pablo Picasso to light painting, which inspired the latter to start creating images using a flashlight inside a dark room. In 1953, David Potts used kinetic light painting which entails moving the camera as the light stays stationary to capture an image.


The art of drawing with light

Light drawing is an extremely fun activity that anyone can do. Like you have seen above, some of those who used light painting successfully were not even photographers by profession. So, why not you? The technology today has drastically improved which makes it easier to capture light trails than it was decades ago. Anyone who wants to engage in light drawing should have a DSLR camera, handheld light device, a tripod, be in a dark place and above all patience. To start off, move to a dark location and place the camera on a stable tripod stand. If you don’t have a tripod stand, you can use a safe pair of hands to hold the camera for you.

For you to draw with light, you will need to adjust your camera to manual mode and increase the aperture of your camera to maximum width. From there, adjust the ISO to the lowest setting (i.e. 200) before selecting the shutter speed to be 5 to 30 seconds. Since you will be in a dark area, make sure the flash is raised. Once everything is in position, move in front of the camera and start making patterns of your choice. Check the results on the camera and make any adjustments if necessary.

Image source Darin Collinson


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