Skip to main content

Light painting

Try your hand at some long exposure photography and paint with light on a dark night.
Plan a session with this activity

You will need

  • Camera or phone
  • Torch or phone
  • Tripod (optional)

Before you begin

  • Make sure you’ve risk assessed your meeting, and also have a COVID-19 safe risk assessment that’s been agreed by your line manager. You can check out more detailed guidance here
  • Ask everyone to come along wearing dark clothes. Let them know that it’ll be helpful if they can bring some of their own equipment too.
  • Check that you’ve got parents and carers’ permission to share any photos you take during the session.

Safety checklist

Use the Safety checklist to help you plan and risk asses your activity. Additional coronavirus-related controls to think about may include:

  • Set up a handwashing station that you can use throughout the session.
  • Ask everyone to bring their own torch or smartphone to use if possible.
  • Clean any shared equipment immediately before and after use. Think about how you’ll clean technical equipment, such as cameras or phones, without damaging it.
  • Consider asking one person to take the photos so that multiple people don’t touch the same camera.
  • Remind everyone to keep a safe distance while they’re taking their photos.

 

Take some photos

  1. The person using the camera should set it up to take long exposure photos.
  1. Everyone should work together to decide where they’ll take their photos, frame the scene, and set up a tripod (if they have one). They should try to eliminate as much light as possible from their scene, for example, by avoiding standing directly under street lights.
  1. Everyone should split into small groups or pairs to plan their ideas for their light painting.
  1. Each group should get into a space to chat about and practise their light painting ideas.
  2. When they’re ready, everyone should take it in turns to take their photos. One group at a time should move into the photo space and spend a couple of minutes trying out their light painting ideas with the camera. They could use a torch, head torch, or light on a smartphone as a light source.
  1. Once all of the groups have had a go, everyone should show off the photos. If there’s time, they could try out some different ideas or camera settings.

Lighting ideas

Once you’ve got the hang of the basics, try some different techniques and torches and see what everyone can create. We’ve come up with a few ideas to help get you started:

  • If you’re painting words, you’ll need to write them backwards: if you’re facing the camera, write from right to left so that they come out the right way around on the photo. Don’t worry if you forget or find it too tricky – you can always flip the photo post production.
  • If you’re painting letters, it can help to use a flat surface like the ground or a big log to write on. Use your body as a guide to try and make sure they’re all the same size.
  • Try taping some string lights to a stick to make your own light bar and create different patterns.
  • You can include people in your photos if they stand still in your scene. Use a second light source to light up your subject so that you can see them clearly. If you’re using a smartphone, try taking a screenshot of a plain white page to use to light up your subject, instead of using the smartphone torch.
  • You can include spooky transparent figures by asking someone to stand still in the frame for a few seconds, then quickly move out of the scene.
  • If it’s really dark, you could ask someone to pose in front of the camera and use torches to light them up from behind – this will create a light silhouette outline of their pose.

Reflection

This activity was a great chance to get creative and try something new. Did anyone learn any new skills in the session? Perhaps people learned more about how a camera works or picked up some tips for taking photos in the dark. Many people take lots of photos every day, but they may not have stopped to think about the different settings they can use or how to adjust their camera before.

Everyone also got to spend some time with their friends and have fun. Everyone should take it in turns to share the things that they enjoyed the most about the session. You could challenge everyone to take some more photos in their own time or try to work together to spell out a positive message to share.

Safety

Dark

Provide some light, so the environment isn’t completely dark. Everyone must be able to see others and move around the area safely.

Phones and cameras

Make sure parents and carers are aware and have given consent for photography.

All activities must be safely managed. Do a risk assessment and take appropriate steps to reduce risk. Always get approval for the activity and have suitable supervision and an InTouch process.