Light painting is the common term for a technique that uses a single light, which is moved during the exposure, or through a series of exposures, to simulate a more complex lighting scheme. Most often, a small lamp is moved around to seem as though the shot was taken with a larger light source, or multiple sources.
Back in the film era light painting was always fun, but often unpredictable unless extensive testing was done. Camera LCD review features and the ability to blend multiple exposures in Photoshop elevates this age-old technique from a technical chore to an adventure.
For the purpose of this article, let’s divide light painting into three categories:
1. “Artistic” Long exposures that use a moving light, or series of lights, some of which may appear as trails in the finished photo. This includes combinations of continuous or strobe lights, and endless creative variations.
2. “Practical” Multiple exposures of the same scene with different lighting schemes. This approach is best suited to static subjects including product, architecture, scientific and other needs that require methodical lighting solutions.
3. “Hybrid” Combining a static light with a moving one in a single exposure to create a result that looks like it was shot with a complicated setup. This is a great way to get dramatic shots on location with very little gear.