Forums > Critique > Painting with light. Gimmick .. or not

Photographer

MKPhoto

Posts: 5665

Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada

I like the technique of painting with light, makes for fun shoots and (definitely) cool results. But I am wondering sometimes whether it is a "valid" technique for low-key images, or just a gimmick. There is unavoidable motion blur in many poses.

http://photos.modelmayhem.com/photos/121108/15/509c3f7a869ad_m.jpg
http://photos.modelmayhem.com/photos/121108/15/509c3f762fa01_m.jpg
http://photos.modelmayhem.com/photos/121107/20/509b35fd4dbe2_m.jpg
http://photos.modelmayhem.com/photos/121107/20/509b35f040dbd_m.jpg
http://photos.modelmayhem.com/photos/121107/20/509b3663952bd_m.jpg
http://photos.modelmayhem.com/photos/121108/15/509c42fc99ef4_m.jpg
http://photos.modelmayhem.com/photos/121108/15/509c42f168f14_m.jpg

Nov 08 12 03:43 pm Link

Photographer

Jeffrey M Fletcher

Posts: 4344

Asheville, North Carolina, US

I think it's more than a gimmick and is potentially a technique that might work very well for you.

My problem with it is that it's so terribly slow and that it takes a long time to develop a facility with it and use that to build a vocabulary.

Nov 08 12 04:18 pm Link

Photographer

MKPhoto

Posts: 5665

Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada

Jeffrey M Fletcher wrote:
I think it's more than a gimmick and is potentially a technique that might work very well for you.

My problem with it is that it's so terribly slow and that it takes a long time to develop a facility with it and use that to build a vocabulary.

I don't think it is that slow,  we shot 120 frames in  1.5 hours including 3 outfit changes, I agree that it takes time to translate the idea of light in mind to waving of the hand. But building a vocabulary..is there potentially one?

Nov 08 12 04:23 pm Link

Photographer

D0127H

Posts: 1135

Ottawa, Ontario, Canada

Nothing's valid or not valid...it's just another way of seeing the world.  The motion blur and other unpredictable things are what make the technique cool.  Embrace and enjoy! : )

Emil Schildt does this kind of work a lot, I recommend checking him out

Nov 08 12 05:27 pm Link

Photographer

Jeffrey M Fletcher

Posts: 4344

Asheville, North Carolina, US

MKPhoto wrote:

I don't think it is that slow,  we shot 120 frames in  1.5 hours including 3 outfit changes, I agree that it takes time to translate the idea of light in mind to waving of the hand. But building a vocabulary..is there potentially one?

There's the heavy shadows and dramatic lights and darks with this technique that seems ideal for some of the looks you get. I'm not as knocked out by these as I am by some of your other work - there's not as much of a tonal range. That's where the time comes in. If you slow the whole process down and spend more time painting with the light you get more control over the range of color and tonality while still maintaining the heavy shadows.

I think potentially it offers a great deal of control and expressiveness. You've added a constantly moving and variable light source with this technique and there are advantages to that. Pushed far enough the technique could be a sort of in-camera dodge and burn.

I don't know if any of the above makes sense or relates to your original question.

Nov 08 12 06:17 pm Link

Photographer

MKPhoto

Posts: 5665

Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada

Jeffrey M Fletcher wrote:
There's the heavy shadows and dramatic lights and darks with this technique that seems ideal for some of the looks you get. I'm not as knocked out by these as I am by some of your other work - there's not as much of a tonal range. That's where the time comes in. If you slow the whole process down and spend more time painting with the light you get more control over the range of color and tonality while still maintaining the heavy shadows.

I think potentially it offers a great deal of control and expressiveness. You've added a constantly moving and variable light source with this technique and there are advantages to that. Pushed far enough the technique could be a sort of in-camera dodge and burn.

I don't know if any of the above makes sense or relates to your original question.

Yes, thanks, it  does relate.

Nov 08 12 06:57 pm Link

Photographer

Dowdell Photography

Posts: 6

Toronto, Ontario, Canada

Any lighting technique that gives you an image you like is valid.

Nov 08 12 07:05 pm Link

Photographer

Charles Parks

Posts: 178

Newport Beach, California, US

D0127H wrote:
Nothing's valid or not valid...it's just another way of seeing the world.  The motion blur and other unpredictable things are what make the technique cool.  Embrace and enjoy! : )

Emil Schildt does this kind of work a lot, I recommend checking him out

+1
Besides, it's fun and another way to express your creativity and your vision.
Yours are fantastic btw.

Nov 08 12 09:28 pm Link

Photographer

Yen Studios

Posts: 789

Memphis, Tennessee, US

can u explain to me what you mean painting with light, are shooting on film? are you leaving the shutter open and waving a light around?

Nov 08 12 09:37 pm Link

Photographer

MKPhoto

Posts: 5665

Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada

Yen Studios wrote:
can u explain to me what you mean painting with light, are shooting on film? are you leaving the shutter open and waving a light around?

Digital, and yes, waving a light around.

Nov 08 12 10:18 pm Link

Photographer

Jean Renard Photography

Posts: 2080

Los Angeles, California, US

I guess it all depends on how you define light painting. 

You need to know Dean Chamberlain, who really paints with light. This is a video he did, his stills are amazing.   

http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=pl … KIqv3kaIB4

light painting can be elevated to high art, the key is to create a world that does not otherwise exist...

Nov 08 12 10:28 pm Link

Photographer

Images by MR

Posts: 7772

Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada

MKPhoto wrote:
I like the technique of painting with light,

When I think of painting with light I get something like this.

http://www.flickr.com/photos/terranik/3 … otostream/

Your samples look like a single flash ?/

~ MR

Nov 08 12 10:37 pm Link

Photographer

MKPhoto

Posts: 5665

Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada

Images by MR wrote:
When I think of painting with light I get something like this.

http://www.flickr.com/photos/terranik/3 … otostream/

Your samples look like a single flash ?/

~ MR

These are 5-10 second exposures with all the lighting provided with a  handheld flashlight e.g. on image 4 you have  "bursts" of light  on face, lingerie, inner right leg, from the right;  and on shoulders from the left. You can see her two shadows and a bit of ghosting on the right side (that's me...).

Nov 08 12 11:40 pm Link

Photographer

MKPhoto

Posts: 5665

Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada

Jean Renard Photography wrote:
I guess it all depends on how you define light painting. 

You need to know Dean Chamberlain, who really paints with light. This is a video he did, his stills are amazing.   

http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=pl … KIqv3kaIB4

light painting can be elevated to high art, the key is to create a world that does not otherwise exist...

Yes, I've seen Dean Chamberlain's photography and the video. Beautiful!

I am "inspired"? by by lighting schemes in classic hollywood portrait and film noir moods..,and am a bit color impaired, it is easier to live in a monochromatic world.

Nov 08 12 11:54 pm Link

Photographer

Servando Morales

Posts: 7

Dallas, Texas, US

I have two examples of light painting in my port. I just got into it by learning what Dave Black does. He gives specific flashlights, and camera settings on his photos. Typically a 30 sec shutter speed but you need absolute darkness.
Check him out at:
http://www.daveblackphotography.com/cre … -portfolio

I will continue to use this as a way to express my art.

Nov 09 12 03:59 am Link

Photographer

KMP

Posts: 4822

Houston, Texas, US

Many years ago Aaron Jones made a career with his light painting style and the equipment he developed.  It was a look that many art directors wanted and after a while it DID become a bit trendy looking.  But it's still a great tool to have in your arsenal of lighting techniques. 

See if you can find an old Hose Master Flash lighting kit.
I know they are still around (used). 

Jones developed a disk that would spin very fast in front of a stationary camera. 
There were 3 openings in the disk. You could assign a different degree of diffusion to each opening or none at all.  It was developed to spin fast enough to shoot people without the blur being as much of a problem. You'd have to hook up a separate flash for each opening so I think there were a total of 3 separate power packs or monolights, or speedlights you'd use. 

You might be able to control the blurring of people if you painted them with very controlled flash(es). Then the still area of the shot you could paint in the traditional way with continuous lights.

It's a very cool technique.  When done properly, it gives  a very cool look.

Nov 09 12 09:57 am Link

Photographer

MKPhoto

Posts: 5665

Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada

KevinMcGowanPhotography wrote:
Many years ago Aaron Jones made a career with his light painting style and the equipment he developed.  It was a look that many art directors wanted and after a while it DID become a bit trendy looking.  But it's still a great tool to have in your arsenal of lighting techniques. 

See if you can find an old Hose Master Flash lighting kit.
I know they are still around (used). 

Jones developed a disk that would spin very fast in front of a stationary camera. 
There were 3 openings in the disk. You could assign a different degree of diffusion to each opening or none at all.  It was developed to spin fast enough to shoot people without the blur being as much of a problem. You'd have to hook up a separate flash for each opening so I think there were a total of 3 separate power packs or monolights, or speedlights you'd use. 

You might be able to control the blurring of people if you painted them with very controlled flash(es). Then the still area of the shot you could paint in the traditional way with continuous lights.

It's a very cool technique.  When done properly, it gives  a very cool look.

$300 on e-bay...

Nov 09 12 10:11 am Link

Photographer

Gabby57

Posts: 424

Coppell, Texas, US

As low light performance improves, this should be even more viable.

Nov 09 12 10:17 am Link

Photographer

Jhono Bashian

Posts: 2432

Cleveland, Ohio, US

nice effects, I remember using the Hose Master back in the early 90's for still life applications and 1K DP's for painting landscapes and building exteriors.

Nov 09 12 10:22 am Link

Photographer

MKPhoto

Posts: 5665

Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada

Gabby57 wrote:
As low light performance improves, this should be even more viable.

Actually, I shoot ISO 200 and f/8 and $2 dollar store flashlights with 7 LEDs. It is very easy to blow highlights.

High ISO would help painting large scale objects, though.

Nov 09 12 10:25 am Link

Photographer

B T Photography

Posts: 29

Milton Keynes, England, United Kingdom

Some of these peoples shots are amazing. Check them out:
"The Seeing with Photography Collective is a group of photographers based in New York City who are visually impaired, sighted and totally blind."
http://www.flickr.com/photos/seeingwithphotography/

Dec 28 12 02:25 am Link

Photographer

Zack Zoll

Posts: 2621

Glens Falls, New York, US

Gimmicky.

Do the images look good?  Yes.

Does it look any different than what can be achieved with regular lighting?  Not really.

By all means, you should feel free to work however you want.  But this is a very process-oriented approach, and the only thing that makes the lighting 'special' is that it took you longer to do it.  If you're doing something differently, but not because you want a result that requires a different approach, then it's a gimmick.

Now if you had them lit in a way that HAD to be done with a flashlight, then I would feel differently.

EDIT:  Have you thought about buying a couple Speedlites and some snoots?  You'd still have the same effect, but without the motion blur.

Dec 28 12 08:14 pm Link

Photographer

Darin B

Posts: 998

San Diego, California, US

Jean Renard Photography wrote:
light painting can be elevated to high art, the key is to create a world that does not otherwise exist...

That. Completely valid and potentially powerful technique. I like it.

Dec 28 12 08:24 pm Link