If you haven’t already read it check out Part 1 of this blog which is linked here.
So you’ve played with light painting a little bit and gotten a feel for it. Now let’s talk about the little nuances that you can do to make your images even better. A lot of this will be focused on your camera and gear more so than light painting so get your technical game on! First let’s talk about some camera settings that can be a benefit or a detriment.
Mode – If you read the first article then you already know that you should be in Manual mode as it makes adjusting your picture easier and not have to fight with the camera.
Image File Type – Not just in light painting but in every kind of photography shooting in RAW is encouraged because it allows you to have more information later when editing a photo. Here is an important example.
These are a couple images I did with my friend Sammy. The image on the left is straight out of camera or SOOC and the image on the right is after editing. Now this image isn’t perfect by a long shot but I was able to recover a lot of information that I thought was lost because I shot in RAW in stead of JPEG.
Brightness of Your Screen – At night we don’t need the back of our cameras to be super bright for our pictures. If they are super bright not only is it hard on your eyes (like light painting isn’t) but it could also make you believe you have blown out parts of your image and you might not.
Histogram – If you don’t know how to read your histogram that’s ok! For the time being read this article to help you determine what the information is saying. I’ll make a blog post about this soon. It will help you determine if your photo is balanced or not. And of course take examples of completely black images and over exposed images to see how the histogram changes to help you understand it better.
Image Stabilization – As awesome as image stabilization is when it comes to light painting it’s not going to be your best friend. I often need to remember to turn it off as it can fool your camera into blurring your image. if even slightly.
White Balance – Depending on your situation you may want to adjust your white balance. Often times if I’m only shooting a single exposure and do not plan to combine it later with other photos then I keep my white balance on auto as I can easily change it in Lightroom later if I need to. However, say I’m shooting a whole bunch of images that I want to combine later in Photoshop such as light painting a vehicle of some kind. Many people will combine many into one. It can be difficult to find the right white balance for all of your photos in post if you are shooting on auto. Instead I recommend setting your white balance to a setting that you like for your exposure and keep that the same for every picture.
Remotes – When light painting I highly recommend having a wireless remote trigger. This is important because often times when you are light painting you won’t know exactly how long your light painting exposure is going to be ( I never do) and it allows you to trigger more light paintings quicker before having to review.
Focusing – When trying to light paint in almost all cases we’re doing it in low light. The way that your camera works is that if it’s set on auto focus it will only try and focus on where the light is. When we are light painting our lights go on and off and the camera will try and focus on that which will results in our picture being out of focus. In order to combat this we have two options. Our first option is to switch our camera to manual and then focus on our subject with lights on or someone illuminated the subject. Our second option is too use our auto focus to find the subject that is illuminated and then switch auto focus off as this accomplishes the same goal. Of course it’s great if you can create a marker for the subject to be so we don’t have to refocus your shot each time.
Exposing – When you are setting up your camera to take a light painting you need to make sure you expose for the environment first and then your subject. This will allow you to get pictures that are evenly lit and not over or under exposed. This can change a low depending on the ambient light in your environment so make sure to adjust accordingly.