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Light Painting

Lesson 4 of 19

Light Painting Accessories

Tim Cooper

Light Painting

Tim Cooper

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Lesson Info

4. Light Painting Accessories

Lesson Info

Light Painting Accessories

So, light painting accessories. As I said earlier, the cool thing about light painting is we don't need a ton of gear. Now, I know I have a bunch of things laid out here, but don't get overwhelmed. We don't need a whole lot to get started in light painting. Of course, the most important thing that you're going to consider is your flashlight. There's plenty of good flashlights on the market, but I gotta tell you, I love these Coast flashlights. Right here we've got the HP7R, we've got the HP5. These are flashlights, they're my everyday flashlights. I use them all the time. The main reason is, they're kind of what they call a tactical flashlight. Which means they're built really, really well. Number one, they're impact resistant. They're water resistant, weather resistant. They've got cool things like this slide focus. So you can see how the beam can be really wide, or, as I narrow it down, it can get very very narrow. And then the cool thing is you can actually lock it off so that does ...

not change. That's an awesome feature and I love that. One of the other cool features is the fact that you can actually recharge these. They use rechargeable batteries, but not in the way you'd think, this is so cool. If you pull this end out, here, what you can do, it comes, of course, with these little mini or micro USB. You just plug that in, plug this right in the wall. So you're totally mobile, and you never have to worry about carrying those little AAAs and AAs again. So, typically what light painters will have is a series of flashlights, running from, you know, very very low-powered ones to very high-powered ones. And these are the two I use. Again, the HP5 and the HP7. This is my everyday work horse, the more powerful one. And I will use this for painting very close subjects and very small subjects, because the beam is significantly less powerful. Now, the other neat thing about these flashlights is you can get these little rubber hoods for them, and what you can do in the rubber hood is you can actually put a filter. So here you can see we've got several different filters. We've got reds and greens and yellows. When I want to change this flashlight to a... You know, being from an LED to a nice warm light, you can just grab a little gel, put that in there. You're gonna slide that right into this little rubber hood here, and it slides right on top, and suddenly your flashlight is gelled. It's just that easy, and I think that's a really super cool feature to that. Now, the other thing we're gonna need to do from time to time, even though these do have that slide focus, what that doesn't necessarily stop is the camera seeing the edge of the light source. So we're gonna talk a little bit how you hide the flashlight from the camera so it doesn't show up in the scene. But this is one of the ways you do it. This is my old snoot, made from cut down paper towel holder with a little gaffer's tape just right on there, both inside, of course, and outside. And put that on top, and now suddenly we've got a much more narrow beam coming through here. But, again, you're not seeing the edge of the light source. So if the flashlight shows to the camera a little bit, it won't present itself. Now, if you really get into different types of light painting, there's lots of different ways you can do it, but my approach is a little bit more straight forward and classic. Illuminating the scene. And we'll talk about my approach in just a little bit. But when you start getting into other things, you can get into what's called light writing. And for light writing, you're going to, well, I mean, the simplest thing would be pointing the flashlight at the camera and drawing. And you can just draw whatever sort of shapes you want. This is not something I do a lot of. But there's a great company called Light Painting Brushes, at, and they make all of these really cool instruments. And they're a ton of fun. They all kinda hinge around this little rubber... I'm not even sure what they call it, but I call it a snoot, and you can see it's got threads in here. It's got threads on one end, and it's got threads on the other end. And the larger end will fit on most flashlights, even this very large Coast. And what we're gonna do is we're gonna attach that, and just kind of shove that on there. Now, at this point, it's working as a snoot. Which, for me, has largely replaced the old paper towel snoot that I used to use. So it works well for that. But it works in concert with these other cool options. So notice that this has threads, this has threads, and we can thread this in here. And once you thread that in there, then the only light that's gonna come through is through this little beam in the end. Now, in and of itself, not very interesting. But this is how you'll see people creating those geodesic domes. So basically they're attaching, you know, large piece of string or rope, and then swinging the flashlight around in a circle. Maybe even as far as, you know, over their heads, and in a big dome. All kinds of different shapes that you can create by swinging the flashlight. And this is gonna be a nice little narrow beam, so you're getting really thin streaks of light through your photographs. It's really pretty cool. Again, it's not something I do a lot of, but the people that do it are awesome, and you should check it out. It's called light writing. So the other thing you have, is of course you could do that same option with a slightly larger. So instead of having a very small beam, you'd have a wider, less narrow band. Then, of course, you've got these cool things, which just always makes me think of Star Wars. I mean, who didn't want a lightsaber, right? Well, again, you just sort of plug this in, and you got a lightsaber. I know, it's freaky cool. And so, what you can do with this, I can't even go on about what you can do with this, but. Yeah, swing it, move it, write with it, do whatever you want. But it just gives you another way to create light. To create light, and that's what this is all about, you guys, we're creating our own light as we're light painting. So again, that's Light Painting Brushes, they make some awesome, fun tools to play with. Let's see what else we have. Of course, we're gonna need to gel certain things, like our flashlights, or perhaps even our flash. If you've got this nice little rubber hood type thing, you can use these small gels, that works really well. But if you don't have that, pick yourself up a Roscolux gel pack. Lee makes them, as well. There's little sample packs, and you can see there's a bazillion. And I think that's about how many is here, a bazillion different colors. And you can simply take these, and you can just rip them out of the package, and simply, if you need to, in a pinch, either hold it over your flashlight, you could rubber band it, you can put some tape on it, and that's going to gel your flashlight color. Or your flash. You can see it's just about the perfect size to cover a flash unit. So there's that. But another tool that I use fairly often is a little kit from Rogue here. And this is called a Rogue Grid. And what this does is it allows you to really narrow down your beam even smaller. So when you put these things together, it's gonna take that beam, and instead of spreading it out, it's really gonna focus it to a small area. So you'll see some slides coming up where you need to paint a really tiny area; this is the thing you're gonna use with it. But what also comes with this, which is also pretty neat, is a little gel pack. And, once again, you can never have enough gels, or enough colors, and these also can be used to cover any flashlight, as well. And let's see what else we have out on the table. Of course, last but not least, we're not all shooting timed exposures, so we can't just press the button and run. So we need a cable release. I particularly like this Vello ShutterBoss. There's lots of these on the market. This is not overly expensive, and it does the job perfectly at half the cost of some of the manufacturing models. One thing you might wanna do is put a little gaffer's tape over the red light that comes in the corner that usually blinks. In some ways, that can help you find your tripod again. Believe me, that's not a bad idea. If you lose it in the dark. But if it's gonna get in the way of your photograph, and I've seen that, too, when you're photographing things that are close, go ahead and tape that up. Again, check out Gabe's class on equipment, I'm sure he's got so much more to tell you than what I'm telling you right here about these. So, again, it looks like a lot, but if you guys break it down, what I'm really truly carrying with me: two flashlights, cable release, couple filters, and a snoot. And that's it. So we're taking all this away. This is what goes inside my camera bag, people. All right? Pretty easy, self-contained, not much to add to your bag to create limitless possibilities out in the field.

Class Description

Short on time? This class is available HERE as a Fast Class, exclusively for Creator Pass subscribers.

Shooting at night can create dynamic landscapes or portraits through long exposures. By using a wide range of tools, you can add light to your night photographs to create dynamic highlights or unique shapes. Painting with light opens a door into night photography that will keep you out until the wee hours of the morning. Tim Cooper is the author of The Magic of Painting with Light and in this course, you’ll learn:

  • The basics of light painting from accessories to camera considerations 
  • How to use test shots to capture your focus and exposure in the dark 
  • How to post-process your night images in Lightroom 
  • How to use layer stacking in Photoshop to build up light in your photographs  

Class Materials

Bonus Materials with Purchase

Tim's Lightroom Presets

Tim's Gear Guide

Ratings and Reviews

Student Work

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DiDi Hendley

The BEST class ever! Learned so much--Tim is a great instructor. I highly recommend to the creative photog looking to expand his/her arsenal of tools, talents and products. Appreciated the patience and thoroughness that Tim offered students. Great pacing and information. I can see how I can very easily take his instruction out at night and produce something. I also appreciate that this session demonstrated images that weren't created in total darkness.

Gene Chamberlin

Tim is an outstanding teacher - I love his style, thorough and basic without being too elementary or condescending. I will be looking for other classes by Tim in the future. I'm am excited to apply the things I have learned from Tim and create my own style from the tools he has given. I never would have give much thought to light painting in the past. I have already notice a change in the way I scout my shots, now that I have added light painting into my tool box. Thanks for sharing your experience with the world Tim. Gene

Andrew Gow

Really enjoyable course. Clear instruction and surprisingly easy to put what I learnt into practice, which I did for the first time last night. This is also my first exposure to Photoshop, which initially put me off buying the course. However, Tim is a great instructor and explains his approach very clearly, so as well as an introduction to light painting it's a great introduction to what Photoshop can do.