Light painting is a photographic technique in which exposures are made by moving a hand-held light source or by moving the camera. The term light painting also encompasses images lit from outside the frame with hand-held light sources. Light Painting Photography can be traced back to the year 1914 when Frank Gilbreth, along with his wife Lillian Moller Gilbreth, used small lights and the open shutter of a camera to track the motion of manufacturing and clerical workers. Man Ray, in his 1935 series "Space Writing," was the first known art photographer to use the technique and Barbara Morgan began making light paintings in 1940.
By moving the light source, the light can be used to selectively illuminate parts of the subject or to "paint" a picture by shining it directly into the camera lens. Light painting requires a slow shutter speed, usually a second or more. Light painting can take on the characteristics of a quick pencil sketch.
Light painting by moving the camera, also called camera painting, is the antithesis of traditional photography. At night, or in a dark room, the camera can be taken off the tripod and used like a paintbrush. An example is using the night sky as the canvas, the camera as the brush and cityscapes (amongst other light sources) as the palette. Putting energy into moving the camera by stroking lights, making patterns and laying down backgrounds can create abstract artistic images.
Light painting can be done interactively using a webcam. The painted image can already be seen while drawing by using a monitor or projector.
Another technique used in the creation of light art is the projection of images on to irregular surfaces (faces, bodies, buildings etc.), in effect "painting" them with light. A photograph or other fixed portrayal of the resulting image is then made.
In 1949 Pablo Picasso was visited by Gjon Mili, a photographer and lighting innovator, who introduced Picasso to his photographs of ice skaters with lights attached to their skates. Immediately Picasso started making images in the air with a small flashlight in a dark room. This series of photos became known as Picasso's "light drawings." Of these photos, the most celebrated and famous is known as "Picasso draws a centaur in the air." During the 1970's and 80's Eric Staller  used this technology for numerous photo projects. The artist photographer Jacques Pugin made several series of images with this technique in 1979. Picasso and Mili's images should be regarded as some of the first light drawings. Now, with modern light painting, one uses more frequently choreography and performance to photograph and organize.
Since spring 2007 the term Light art performance photography or LAPP has been in use, used to describe the work of the Light Painting team of LAPP-PRO. In this photography the integration of the background, the execution of performance and choreography is a very important element.
This artform is currently enjoying a surge in popularity, partly due to the increasing availability of dSLR cameras, advances in portable light sources such as LEDs, and also in part due to the advent of media sharing websites by which practitioners can exchange images and ideas.
A variety of light sources can be used, ranging from simple flashlights to dedicated devices like the Hosemaster, which uses a fiber optic light pen. Other sources of light including candles, matches, fireworks, lighter flints, glowsticks, and Poi are also popular.
A tripod is usually necessary due to the long exposure times involved. Alternatively, the camera may be placed on or braced against a table or other solid support. A shutter release cable or self timer is generally employed in order to minimize camera shake. Color Gels can also be used to color the light sources.
Some Light Painters make their own dedicated devices to create light trails over the photo background. This can include computer-controlled devices, such as the 'Digital Light Wand' pioneered by US Light Painter Mike Ross. This Arduino controlled LED array can render images that could not be done by just drawing in the air with a single light source.
Portrait illuminated by light painting with a sparkler
Light painting with steel wool
Light Painting with steel wool
- Light art performance photography
- Light art
- Fire dancing
- Night photography
- Kinetic photography
- Light painting video art
- ""Pablo Picasso" by Gjon Mili". VP Gallery. Retrieved 2008-12-23.
- Eric Staller - Light Drawings
- Light Painting historical article on the site of Light Painting World Alliance
- Light Art Performance Photography "LAPP-PRO". JanLeonardo. Retrieved 2013-01-28.
- Greenspun, Philip (January 2007). "Studio Photography". Photo.net. Retrieved 2007-09-26.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Light Painting.|
- Article in Amateur Photographer magazine on the fundamental basics of Light Painting
- Diverse light painting techniques by Michael Bosanko
- Light Graffiti Photography - Jasper Geenhuizen
- Light Painting Photography - Comprehensive Light Painting Resource
- SWISS LAPP - Light Art Photography Team
- PBS Arts - Off Book on light painting
- Light Art Photographer Jan Leonardo Wöllert | euromaxx
- Lichtfaktor - Light painting artists collective
- Light Painting World Alliance - non-profit organization united all light painters in the globe
- Painting with Light - How it all began - Historical article about light painting's roots
- The Graffiti Light Project - Light Painting Exhibition and Event Team
- LightArt-Photography - Light Painting and Light Art Photography since 2005, Founder Of The LAPP Technique
- Light Junkies - The world's largest light painting community
- Life Magazine - Behind the Photograph - about Pablo Picasso as he paints with light
- International Light Painting Award | Annual, International Photo Competition For Light Painting