Discover a simple technique of indoor light painting. With a basic tool such as a flashlight and using Luminar, you can get as creative as you want!

Image by Jason Hahn

Some days I just have to grab a camera and spend quality time looking through a viewfinder.  While it's rare that mother nature presents weather so bad that I won't venture into it, my photo subjects tend to think differently.  Combine wind, rain, and dim skies, and you have a recipe for staying indoors with your camera.  I have come up with many "rainy day" photo projects, to provide an outlet for when you just have to scratch that photography itch, while also not breaking the budget.

The key to doing this work is to source the gear from common suppliers like Home Depot, Walmart, Ace Hardware (or any hardware store for that matter.) Keeping the cost down makes it accessible and most of all fun to do.

Light Painting With Flashlights

During your trip to the hardware store, pick up some LED flashlights. They are perfect for painting with light. 

One of my favorite photo projects for the great indoors is light painting, a very simple technique requiring minimal equipment.  I find it very addictive, offering all sorts of creative possibilities.  Compositions and techniques can be as complex as you like. It's a process that can grow with your skills while remaining budget friendly.

While it's a popular technique used on a larger scale for night-time landscape photography, it's well suited to still life, macro, and even portraits.  The recipe for light painting indoors is very simple:

Find something to take a picture of

  • Get your camera set up, on manual mode, with a shutter speed of around 30 seconds
  • Turn off the lights so you have a pitch black room
  • Take a picture, and shine a flashlight on your subject during the exposure

Congrats, you have now light painted!

Think of light painting like this.  The painting is already there, it's just hidden in the darkness.  You reveal the subject and scene using your lights.  Like a painter selecting brushes, you can pick different types of lights to use; brighter, softer, bigger, smaller, it's up to your creativity and what you want to reveal.  The longer you play light across an object during your exposure time, the brighter it will be.  Because we can work in three dimensions, you can apply light from just about any angle to create different effects and shadows.

Being in Two Places at Once

One of the toughest things about light painting is getting the light to all the right places and angles in the time you have.  This is where adding an adaptable support like the Impact Flex Arm Super Clamp Kit is a good idea to help you be in more than one place at the same time.  It enables you to produce multiple types of lighting effects without having to run around in the dark, risking an expensive trip and fall into your setup and gear. 

Using the Flex Arm attachment, you can mount a variety of lights to create different effects.  Probably my favorite to use is a compact LED video light for a soft fill light from the side and front. It's also easy to adapt GoPro accessories to hold other lights on a Super Clamp and Flex Arm.  To me, GoPro parts are like Lego's for photographers. They are fun to use to make all kinds of cool things with.   

With the main LED light on, I used another flashlight to paint in the shadows. I checked my work on my computer. (I tethered it to the computer.) If you don’t tether, use the camera’s monitor to check your work. 

Experiment with using only the flashlight without the LED panel. Frankly, if you don’t have one of these, it really isn’t necessary. 

Luminar Makes It Easy To Combine Different Photos

Chances are that you will have several photos with different areas lit by your flashlights. Bring each one into Luminar as an image layer. Change the blending mode from normal to lighten. The lightest area of each layer blends into the darker areas below it! With Luminar, you can even mask out areas that don’t belong with the Brush tool.

These photos of my CF cards are the parts that I combined in Luminar to make the final photo.

Try It Yourself!