Light Painting
Light Painting

How to hide yourself in a light painting photo shoot

A "hot" theme, a question that I am asked very often and it is also the key to a successful light painting. How to make yourself invisible in a photo without editing with Photoshop?

Hiding behind the subject, or even if there is no subject, is one of the main difficulties of light painting photography. This is an "error" forgivable in my opinion, since it is often almost impossible to hide completely or the shot came so well (the pose, the drawing, the composition) that ... who cares, we publish the photo equally :)

The photo cover of this post, for example, is not perfect because you can see Cristina behind me (very good!), Also because of the not quite simple figure. Otherwise with a circle the result is different:

Light Painting

The light painter must not be seen!

The most common mistakes when creating a light painting photo with light tubes (the ones I usually use), if we talk about " appearance "of the light painter during the long exposure are:

  • the feet are clearly visible (ouch!) in photos
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  • maybe only the feet could be seen, also the ankles and partially the legs
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  • maybe only the legs, you can also see the rear in the photo
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  • you can see the face, even if with the light beam it becomes a sort of "divine apparition" in light painting
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  • you can see the legs moving (with very large light painting)
  • Light painting
    Can you spot my face inside the light painting? :)

    Usually when I run into these errors, if obvious and coarse enough, we proceed to redo the shot. It may seem obvious but the risk of "appearing" in the photo is proportional to the movement, the complexity of the light painting design, the risk that the light bounces on some surface in a "wrong" way. If you make a circle, for example, the risk is greatly reduced even if it is not as simple as it seems.

    In this photo my face "magically" appears in the beam of light that passes behind Cristina (also very good here): In my opinion, the errors mentioned above can be resolved in a few steps:

     

    Light Painting: how to avoid some mistakes  

    • Wearing black clothes helps a lot because it prevents light from bouncing off clothes (or on the skin of the light painter). Even a hat or hoodie can help a lot.   
    • Hide your feet behind stones, a heap of sand, in short, something that can hide the ends of the light painter, especially if he wears 46 like myself.
    • Thinning behind the subject , even if the light painter is not really a stem and the model that acts as a subject is, on the contrary, as thin as a thinner. Here the live view from the smartphone (to see live what the camera frames) can be very helpful.
    • Get your model to wear a long dress . Even if it is a unisex solution, the long skirt solves many problems in addition to greatly slimming the figure. I will talk about it in more detail in a future post.   
    • Move quickly . In two seconds of exposure you have to be feline, so as not to light up your legs if you stay still for too many (tenths of) seconds.   
    • Applying black adhesive tape on the side of the light tube facing the light painter greatly reduces the "useless" light even if it can greatly reduce the overall brightness of the photo.   
    • Avoid direct light sources : a lighthouse (even if far away) or even a full moon can illuminate you perfectly, without pity.

    Editing with Photoshop: Ok but ...

     

    Photoshop makes it very easy to delete unnecessary details or, in this case, the light painter. But in my opinion, it detaches itself from the true purpose of light painting, that is, the creation of something "live", during long exposure shooting. So the choice is yours: better to create a shot without having to work on post-production ... or vice versa?

    Photographic equipment for Light Painting

     

    Here's what I use for my shots:
    • Sony A7iii camera 
    • Samyang 14mm f2.8 lens
    • Tripod Beschoi in carbon fiber   
    • 1200 lumen LED flashlight