Shooting Challenge #22 — Drawing With Light (Win £500 of Victorinox Kit)

By Martin Snelling on at

The Spanish painter dude Pablo Picasso is known for many things: painting, sculpting; wearing striped clothing, and also, for being one of the co-founders of cubism. He was also a bit of a fan of the photographic technique light painting, after being introduced to it back in 1949.

Light painting is a photographic technique where pictures are created by moving a light or series of lights in front of a camera. An alternative method is to move the camera instead of the light.

Armed with just an electric light, Picasso created a series of images for LIFE magazine; the photos and story behind Picasso’s experiment with light can be found here.


The Brief:

For this Shooting Challenge I want you to create a light drawing. It could be anything you like -- a proposal to a loved one, a digital Vitruvian Man, a light sabre duel between friends, or some good old-fashioned school blazer style graffiti of a cock and balls (traditionally drawn with stolen chalk).


The Technique:

To create a light painting all you need is some darkness, a movable light source and a camera capable of long exposures. That’s it! Off you go.

While this week’s Shooting Challenge is simple in both concept and execution, it does require some thought in terms of what you’re going to photograph and also what camera settings to use. So to help you make light work of your light work, I’ve put together 13 top tips that could turn you into a digital Da Vinci:

- Use a tripod; you’ll need to keep your camera steady when working with long exposures
- Use a low ISO setting on your camera. A high ISO makes the camera more sensitive to light, so set it low to reduce noise/grain in your images. Reducing the ISO will mean you’ll need to increase exposure time.
- Exposures can be anything from between 10-30 seconds or more -- it depends on a number of factors including camera ISO, aperture and how much light is being captured.
- Manual focus: use an assistant's help with setting up the focus. Get them to stand in position and shine a light at the camera; this will allow you to get a nice sharp focus and keep it.
- Use different types of light to create different effects -- torches, candles, mobile phones, or glow sticks work well.
- Use different coloured lights to make your images stand out. Single colour paintings can appear flat and lifeless.
- Improvise. If you haven’t got different coloured lights, create your own ‘gels’ with cling film and coloured felt tip pens (Sharpies are great).
- Use different strengths of light -- a variable brightness torch is recommended.
- A remote shutter release or cable is recommended if you’re shooting alone.
- If you’re the painter, wear dark clothing -- ninja suits are the best (I know, as I happen to own one).
- The use of props or the landscape around you can create stunning images. Paint around things or insert painted objects into a scene.
- Practice, practice, practice.
- Think about what you want to create and how you are going to create it before you shoot.

Looking for inspiration? Check out Google Images here.


The Prize:

This week, we've got £500 worth of limited edition goodies from Victorinox for the winner, including a technical tent, camo festival vest, midnight mini champ Swiss army knife, Spartan Lite Swiss army knife, packable rucksack, and packable tote -- all of which can be seen here. Phew. That's one large prize for whoever wins!


The Rules:

- Submissions MUST be your own work.
- Submit your best image.
- Photos must be taken after the challenge was published; so no existing shots please.
- Minimal image post-processing is allowed (global changes to levels, brightness, contrast and cropping are permitted)
- Explain, briefly in your submission email, the equipment, settings, technique used and a bit about the gadget. Please ensure EXIF info is intact (if image was taken digitally).
- Email submissions to, not me.
- Please ensure your image is at least 600px wide and less than 3MB in size.
- Save your image as a JPG, and use the following naming convention FirstnameLastnameLight.jpg
- Don’t forget to include a shooting summary (see above).
- Send your best photos by Monday, 16th September 2013 at 6pm UK time with “Shooting Challenge - Light” in the subject line.
- Anyone can enter, regardless of location.
- The most important rule — HAVE FUN.

Image Credit: Minamac88