What is Light Graffiti?
It’s pretty simple really. You take a long exposure, and use a light source to paint graffiti in the frame. You can do this with a torch, a sparkler, a fire, or even a still light source by moving your camera.
If you’ve read all about light painting, then you’ll have a good understanding of how this works. Basically, when you’re shooting in very low light, your camera’s sensor is effectively a blank canvas. And just like in light painting, you use your light source to paint/graffiti on where you want the camera to expose.
Firstly, you’re going to want to set your camera to manual mode. This will allow you to make the most out of your shutter speed. Unlike on Shutter Speed Priority mode, you go all the way past 30 seconds on the dial, and you will be taken to bulb mode.
This means that the camera will expose for as long as you hold down the shutter. I recommend using a cable release for this.
Whenever you’re painting with light, you’re dealing with long exposures. Your shutter speed will depend on how long you need to complete your painting, and then you can then give priority over to Aperture and ISO.
If you’re creating a really deep photo, then you’re going to need to have a narrow aperture, which allows less light into the camera, and will pose other problems for you, which will ultimately result in longer exposures and a high ISO.
Depth of Field
DoF is vital to completing a good light graffiti photo, because if the photo is out of focus, then it’s going to stand out like a sore thumb (for all the wrong reasons).
Check out my photo below, it’s a cool photo, but it’s out of focus. Focusing in low light is really hard, so I recommend two options. Either focus manually, or shine a light on where you’re going to focus, focus automatically, and then switch to manual focus so that it doesn’t adjust when you go to take the photo.
I’ve seen some really amazing light painting photos, just google it, and a lot of these photos require a good depth of field to work. When it’s a small and simple light source, it’s not so obvious, but start getting really creative, and you can start to tell.
As you should all know by now, when painting with light, to produce a deeper depth of field you’re going to have to narrow your aperture, which in turn will provide your camera with less light for your exposure, so bear that in mind.
Honestly, go crazy with this. I’ve use sparklers, torches, flashlights, fire, LED’s, even my phone. If it makes a light, then you can use it, and why not? One light source which I’m yet to try, is glow sticks. They stay bright for ages, come in a variety of colours, and are reasonably cheap too.
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If you’re using a torch, be careful not to shine this directly into the camera, or the light source will start to appear uneven.
I’m not really that big on light graffiti, I prefer night photography, but one game I have played is a form of Pictionary. You get together with a group of friends, and draw something with your light source, while everyone else has to guess. It’s a fun and creative way to spend an evening.
Let’s see your photos! Leave a comment below, or leave a link on the fan page under the correct link, or post it on the wall. If you’re copying straight from Facebook, please remember to copy the image location/URL and not just the link in the address bar.
You can follow the progress of this project on Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest.
Want to play with light in other ways? Photoelasticity lets you create amazing rainbow light effects with plastic objects you have around the house!