Anne Darling Photography

Slow Shutter Speed Technique 2:

Using a Slow Shutter Speed to Paint with Light

Another technique which uses a slow shutter speed is painting with light. This is not a new technique and in fact it was the photographer Gjon Mili and the painter Pablo Picasso who first experimented with the idea back as 1949.

Mili visited Picasso in France in 1949 and showed the painter his photos of ice skaters moving across ice at night. The skaters had lights attached to their skates and were creating interesting patterns in the dark. These photos, known as the "light drawing" series, gave Picasso the idea of making his own light drawings using a hand-held flash-light.

painting with light in photography
Sparklers (Photo by Adam.J.W.C.) - Fujifilm FinePix S5700, 4 secs, f/3.5, ISO 64, focal length 6.3 mm

Since then, many photographers have made their own experiments with all sorts of different light sources, including fireworks as you can see in the shot above. This photographer used a 4 second exposure, and his subject is holding sparklers. Of course, with an exposure that slow your subject needs to keep their body fairly still plus the hands need to move in fairly regular circles. You may not get it quite right first time but you know how the old saying goes - practise, practise, practise!

painting with light in the paris catacombs Paris Catacombs (Photo by J.M.Schomburg) - Camera Data Unknown

One last shot to inspire you. This photo was done in the Paris Catacombs which are unfortunately now closed to the public due to vandalism. I managed to visit it before it was closed up, and believe me, t's a spooky place to visit, full of ancient skulls and bones. I absolutely love this image as I think the photographer has captured the spooky atmosphere really well AND managed to be creative with his light painting technique although there is no camera data available so we don't know the actual shutter speed he used.

Top of Page

This site is under construction! Major changes are taking place - apologies for any inconsistencies which I hope will all be sorted very soon. Thanks for your patience.

Improve Your Composition

cover of the art of photographic composition ebook

Be More Creative

cover of the creative guide to photography ebook