Q:What is “painting with light”?

A: Painting with light is a unique lighting technique.

Most conventional photography is lit with either existing natural light or some type of flash (either on the camera or studio lights). Painting with light is a rarely used third method. It actually dates back to the late 1800s, before the invention of the flash.

Painting with light is an unusual technique, wherein the camera is mounted on a tripod in a darkened space, and a long exposure is used -- anywhere from 30 seconds to five minutes, depending on the subject. Then a hand-held light is used to “paint” light onto the subject and/or the background. The result is a photo that has a selective, uneven, or mottled lighting effect.

While many photographers use still-life objects as subjects, this technique can also be used on live models. For my photos, the model must hold still for the entire 30 second or longer exposure. Few people can hold perfectly still, however, so there is often a slight blur or ghosting effect in the photo along the edges of the model if they move slightly during exposure. This is a unique and desired effect.

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