It’s come to my attention that we need to talk about the necessities. The bare necessities for light painting portrait photography. So before you read anything else on this website read this blog post as it will set you on the right track on where to go. This includes other items other than a camera because that is implied for photography.
In order for light painting to work you are going to need a dark area. Keep in mind it doesn’t need to be completely dark but the less light the better in most cases. Since we are doing a long exposure the more ambient light there is the quicker our tools we need to move and the brighter they have to be. If you are dealing with a lot of ambient light (yet still at night like in the city) I recommend an Olympus camera that have Live Composite. This will allow you to expose for your scene first and then you can light paint on top. It’s an incredible useful tool for these instances.
2. Black Clothes
Black clothes are incredibly useful when light painting. The biggest reason to wear them it because it makes you less visible when creating a light painting picture. You become visible generally when light falls on you during your exposure. Nobody is perfect and often times you are dealing with ambient light or the tool sheds light in all directions. When you wear black this lessen the chances of you showing up in the picture because black absorbs light instead of reflecting it.
Tripod are basically a must have because they allow you to set up anywhere with you camera, and of course you can’t move your camera during the exposure when doing the traditional style light painting portraits. Honestly any kind of tripod will do but I recommend that you get a decent one that has some weight to it as it’s not uncommon to bump into tripods in the dark and the last thing you want to do is knock it over and ruin your camera.
4. Wireless triggers
While these aren’t absolutely needed they make the entire process easier. Having a wireless trigger for light painting is so important because it allows you to focus more so on the light painting (and saving time) versus setting up a timer on your camera, starting to the countdown running to your spot and then hoping that the time you set the camera for was long or short enough to make your picture come out how you want. With a wireless trigger you can start your exposure exactly when you want and end it when you want. And the time saving comes in by removing the timer and not having to run back to the camera every time to start your next exposure.
Now of course the most important thing we have when doing light painting is our light source, and flashlight specifically. The reason I say flashlight and now just light is because there are SO many tools that you can use that use flashlights as their main source of light and use. Here is a list of a couple websites that sell tools that use flashlights. As well as some good variations for your to start with.