If you would prefer a video version then then be sure to watch the video above!
A majority of the time I would say that most people who do light painting portraits want to see the person being light painted. We are going to cover a multitude of different options that you can do for this and the pros and cons for all of them. These include: Ambient/Light from a Tool, Flashlight, Flash, Constant, and Portrait Light. Each section will have a picture that shows my results with each light.
When using ambient light to light your subject you are allowing the light from the tool as well as any other light sources such as street lights or the moon to light your subject with their soft and natural luminescence. The biggest thing to account is that your subject doesn’t move at all during this time otherwise some blue may occur. This is a little different in a studio setting because there won’t be any ambient light and only light from the tool which could create interesting shadows.
Before I got into lighting my models with flash and others options I used a flashlight a majority of the time because I already had them on hand, (pun intended). They work pretty well and give you a good judge on intensity for the flashlight and your f stop naturally overtime and this only becomes stronger. The downside is that it can leave bits of shadow where you forgot to light your model for long enough as well as because it takes a few seconds the model could move during that time. Also it’s blinding for the model, which may cause them to flinch especially if you don’t tell them what you’re doing. We all love being blinded. I know. I checked.
Flash or Strobe –
When in a studio or out in the field you could use flash to light your subject after or before your light painting. Of course as the light painter you don’t want to start out behind your subject as you will be caught in the flash. Flash is nice because it’s quick and if setup correctly will illuminate all of your subject and won’t leave any spots untouched if that’s what you want. The downside is that for a majority of these need to be close up and you won’t be able to get as much of your environment as you want if you want that included.
With constant lights like video lights they react in a similar way that ambient light would be have more room for error if they are too bright. Not only could your model move but they could become over exposed, or the light painter could be caught in the exposure thus ruining the photo.
The image you see below has a video light on a low setting while I did the tube in the back.
Portrait Light –
My favorite light tool from light painting brushes is the portrait light. Many light painters would call it a scanner and that’s basically what it does. It allows the beautiful lighting of a flash in hand. It’s not as quick as a flash but allows you to sculpt the light in ways that wouldn’t be possible otherwise. That is what I find in the beauty of it, and will always be one of my favorite light painting tools. This works well in the studio as well as outside but as always be aware of ambient light and how it will affect your photo.
What light you want to use is up to you and there are lots of options! Don’t be afraid to try them all out and determine how you will use them the best.