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  1. #1
    gandolfi's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jan 2005
    Large Format Pan

    Paint with light - tutorial..

    Painting with light is, on one hand, a very, very simple technique. But on the other hand, it is a technique that requires lots of practice.

    Small lamp (Can be a used lamp)
    25-watt light bulb (Sylvania brand works good)
    Cardboard – black - (To wrap around the bulb)
    Camera with "Bulb" (B) or “Time" setting (T or Z)
    Locking extension cord
    Completely (or almost) darkened room

    Basically, the idea is that you have to light the areas in the picture that you want to show, and avoid areas you don't.

    This is a technique with lots of variables, so here are some helpful tips on how to make these variables constants:

    1. Always use the same films. I have very good results with AGFA
    APX100 ISO for B/W, and FUJI RTP ll T (64 ISO) for slides.
    2. The aperture is F:11 for B/W , and F:8 for slides.
    3. Try (at least in the beginning) to always maintain the same
    distance to your subject.
    4. Always maintain the same "speed" (your movements with your
    lamp). I use calm circular movements, as it tend to give more even
    lit results.

    If you do this, and you have a negative that has had too much/little light - then change your APERTURE - nothing else. This will make your trip to stardom easier!

    About the bulb; not all bulbs are suitable to this technique. You just need a 25 Watt bulb with a reflector. But be aware, in my experience "Philips" bulbs will break very quickly. You can use what works for you. A VERY GOOD bulb is from the French brand SYLVANIA. If you can get one of these, you will be better off.

    Now you are ready to go....

    Place your subject in front of your camera, focus, set the aperture, and if you are photographing people - tell them to stand very still.

    Make them concentrate on relaxing; that seems to work better than if they are concentrating on not moving. Also, if they feel the urge to blink, then by all means tell them to do it…

    As I almost always start with the face, I tell the model, that I will not go back there. Which means that she/he actually can talk and relax a little while I am painting the rest…

    Then you darken the room, and paint….

    Place the cord around your neck. That way you’ll avoid small “black worms” flying around in the image.. (the silluette of the cord )
    As said: start with the face. That is the most sensitive part of the model, photography wise..
    This will take a few seconds and then the model is free to relax.
    NEVER go back to the face, once painted!! The modes WILL move a little (if the model isn’t dead..), and you’ll get three eyes or two noses, which normally isn’t too flattering……

    Be careful that the angle from your light to the model is right; if you go too much to the side of the model, the film will register light from your lamp. This CAN be seen as an effect, but most times it just looks like an error.

    Also, you will notice that as you move around your subject, a lot of nice lightings will appear. Make sure you don't overpaint your picture; in the end you will just erase previous beautiful shadows, and the picture will end up as overexposed and shadow less.

    You can walk in front of the model without problems, as long as you’re actually moving..
    The background is as important as the model. Do it last. If you place the lamp close to it, and move your hand quickly around, you’ll get a wild “fire like” background. Moving the lamp further away, the background will get more even lit.
    Remember to move your self – or you’ll get in the image as a siluette….

    Painting with light on living objects will almost always result in a motive, with a black line, bordering the object and the background (mostly seen when a light part borders to another light part). This is not a shadow, but a result of life! The model will move slightly during the session, and these parts are the parts that didn’t get lit during the session.
    The line can be light too – that depends on what way the model moved. And these light lines are parts where it was lit twice.
    The black lines tend to look great. The light ones not….


    Painting in color is in some ways easier than painting in B/W.
    I have had great results using the FUJI RTP ll 64 ISO film.

    The colors are very deep and saturated, and the tolerance regarding how much light to use is very high.

    I set the aperture at F:8, and sometimes re-shoot at a different aperture.

    The possibilities in creating your own colors are endless.
    Try this: Buy some pieces of cardboard / cartons in yellow, red, blue, and green. Then, if you want to change the background color, just take one of these, and hold it up in front of the light and the result will be interesting.
    But you won't know the results until you see the developed film!

    The whole process requires lots of TRIAL AND ERROR!!

    Good luck!

    PS: It is NOT a bad idea to "rehearse" on nude models. When there are no clothes, the light will reflect evenly from the body. In B/W it is especially more difficult with dressed people. Reds and greens ex give both a deep gray colour….

    The ultimate dare: do a wedding image painting with light! The white silk dress of the bride and the black clothes of the groom, makes a challenge!!
    Attached Thumbnails Attached Thumbnails paint-with-light01.jpg   paint-with-light02.jpg   paint-with-light03.jpg  

  2. #2
    Sean's Avatar
    Join Date
    Aug 2002
    New Zealand
    Multi Format
    Blog Entries
    Comments from the previous article system:

    By Charles Webb - 07:30 PM, 04-27-2005 Rating: None
    Well done! I only wish I had, had this much information way back in the early 50's when myself and others began using the light painting technique to photograph train locomotives at night. Used many flashes with strobe light. I often used the technique in commercial applications, products, building interiors and exteriors with strobe and hot lights. But never thought of using it in an artistic way as you do. Thank you very much for posting this most excellent information. I think I still have an image in my gallery of a cave in in the Alpine Tunnel done in the early 60's.C Webb

    By gandolfi - 11:29 PM, 04-28-2005 Rating: None
    I'll go take a look at your image.
    I know this is an old technique for "dead" objects, but I don't know how old it is for alive things (humans and such)

    By JeffD - 04:38 PM, 08-08-2005 Rating: None
    I used to do a lot of cave photography. We did some things similar to this. I'd walk around and fire giant flashbulbs to paint the interior of large cave rooms. In one exposure, in the foreground, I would intentionally sillouette myself- all the other flashes were usually concealed behind rocks to give a slightly more natural look. Sometimes, we'd just use our headlamps to paint, but the light path is too narrow in a large room, and ends up with too many light lines.
    Here is an example by a friend: http://www.cs.indiana.edu/~willie/willie_adv05jul.html
    I think this was with a digital camera, so apologies to APUG purists!

    By Noah Huber - 06:29 AM, 08-12-2005 Rating: None
    Ahhh. . . Emil . . . I've been looking for you...
    So glad to have finaly "found you here"..
    I've been working with PWL for a very short time now.. but of course, it was from you that I first learned anything about it...



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