How to Light Paint Using a Slow Shutter Speed

A slow shutter speed can achieve a lot of different types of fascinating shots, like the one below:

This type of shot is very popular and this type of photography is referred to as light painting. This is done by using a slower shutter speed and then using a flashlight to make the desired shape, like I’ve done here with circular movements of the flashlight around the card.

Light painting is a lot of fun, but the above shot can be a bit difficult for beginners to execute. So let’s perform an easier light painting shot.

We’ll do an exercise to create a heart shape with a flashlight. The shot will look like the one below:

Here are the steps involved in taking such a shot:

  1. This exercise is best done at night time when switching off the lights will result in complete darkness. But for just about satisfactory results and understanding the concept, you can do it at any time.
  2. Use the following settings:
    1. F-stop number/Aperture: f22
    2. ISO:100
    3. Shutter speed: 5 seconds
  3. You actually don’t need such a large f-stop number but here we are assuming that you are doing this in a room that is not completely dark. So the high f-stop number will help you cut down light and underexpose the shot which is important since you want the shape made by the light to stand out. If you are doing this in complete darkness, you can use a smaller f-stop number also. Another advantage of using a larger f-stop number is that the deeper depth of field makes sure the light shape stays in focus irrespective of your movement while drawing the shape.
  4. Place your camera on a table or a tripod .
  5. Next, get a flash light.
  6. The next thing to do is to get an accurate focus on the flashlight. Place the flash light in front of your camera and then make sure the focus point is right on the light as shown in the image below:
  7. Then half press the shutter button to lock the focus on the light. If you are doing this in a completely dark room, make sure the focus point is right on the light otherwise the lens will have a hard time locking the focus since everything is dark.
  8. Once the focus is locked, take the shot and move the light around to get your desired shape. For example, in this case, you’ll have 5 seconds to draw the shape of the heart.

About the Author

portrait photographer for portfolio shoot in pune

Hi there, I'm Kush Sharma, the founder of Creative Pad Media, an organization dedicated to simplifying photography and videography education.

We have over 40 online courses that cover various genres in photography & videography, catering to both beginners as well as professionals. These courses are available via Our courses have been downloaded in over 170 countries.

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