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Light Painting with Phone Camera -BTS
A little while back I read a blog post by @fourbrickstall revolving around light painting. At the time I thought it was really interesting, but too advanced for me and not possible because I was “just” using a mobile phone camera. So I filed that idea away to the back of my brain.
Since then I have gotten to know my phone camera a little better, largely thanks to speaking with the fine folks who participate on this forum. Recently, in the space of 2 days I came across two separate posts, one about light stencilling by @alanrappa and another that involved light painting by @unideaedvx – at this point I realised, that this might actually be something I could try on my phone.
The first thing I did was see how long the exposure time could be set to on my phone. It went up to 10 seconds which, from what I understood having read those other articles, would be more than enough. I also knew that for a long exposure it was important to have the camera steady, so I got my tripod out – not something I use all of the time but essential here.
Next step was to start experimenting. The first few pics, completely white. Too light. So moved somewhere a bit darker. Still completely white. I tried moving to a darker area and I could see that the phone was doing what I needed but everything was still almost completely blown out.
I spoke with a friendly expert on IG who told me it needed to be much, much darker. So I moved my stuff to a darkened room. Lights out, curtains closed, doors shut. Pitch black. I knew I would need light for some of the exposure time so I clipped a dimmable LED lamp near my subject. This seems obvious in retrospect and I am sure to those DSLR shooters out there it is very obvious, but this was a learning experience for me.
Starting with my LED light on I pressed my camera button on my phone. After 2 seconds I turned off the light. The photo lighting was good, dark background and a well lit fig but it was wildly out of focus. Here I learned that manual focus was required, otherwise my phone was losing focus in the dark. (Part 2 of 2 below)
I had the lighting correct and manually focussed on the fig so it wouldnt be lost to changes in light. Now I needed something to paint with. I found two light bricks (blue and red) and thought they would go well with my Spider-Gwen fig – who often has kind of stylistic blue and pink lighting in her comic book art.
Once the figure was positioned I set my camera to an 8 second shutter speed. I had my light on and hit my camera button. After around 2 seconds I turned off my LED lamp. Then I turned on my two light bricks and waved them in circles behind the figure for the rest of the exposure time. It worked! Nicely clear lit figure with red and blue lighting swirls behind it. From this point I just experimented with figure poses and different movements with the lights to get an effect I was happy with.
The long shutter speed was primarily needed for my clumsy hands turning on the light bricks in the dark, so in certain situations a shorter shutter speed may have done the trick.
Once I had an effect I was happy with I fiddled with colours, contrast, saturation brightness etc in Snapseed until I was satisfied with the photo.
This process was really enjoyable and I truly recommend trying it if your camera/phone can do it and you have not given it a go before. The native camera on my Samsung Galaxy S9 had the long shutter speed option, but I can see that’s not true of the Pixel 3 or iPhone X, but I believe it is possible if you download 3rd party camera apps.
I took another couple of pics after the Spider-Gwen one and I am looking forward to trying more in the future.
Samsung Galaxy S9
LED colour bricks. Some random Ebay seller ????
Great photo, congratulation! You really enjoyed yourself ...