Shoot: Painting with Light
Years and years ago I got asked by, uh, there were four guys that were all dallas cowboy football players that bought a chain of kentucky fried chicken restaurants and for some, somehow I got this phone call to photograph one of their buildings and the guy said, we want a beauty shot of this at night, and I'm thinking, ok? And I'm thinking I took the job quoted the job and then I thought, how much I like this building at night, so I called one of my friends who was an old old old guy who's no longer with us, but I said, I gotta like this building up tonight what do I do? He says that's easy, he says pain with light is easy, and he talked me through this concept called painting with light, and I never really considered it until then. What we're going to today is the exact same concept, but on a smaller scale with a smaller light, so I've got my little handy dandy, many married flashlight I'm a little mini mag flashlight, it's, a really inexpensive little light that goes everywhere that ...
I go. This is one of the best tools of my own because it's not very bright, you can see it's not a very bright light, but over a minute it's really bright over ten minutes, it's extraordinarily bright right? So it's, not it's like a fifty one light bulb, fifty one light bulb is not very bright, but it's really bright if you leave your lens open for two minutes, right, same concept with this. So what I thought about is, how do we how do we do this on a small scale? What we did on that building was we use flash and we walked around, we took meter readings, and we've fired meter readings at the with flash hit in this building, and and, you know, when the flash fired off one time I was getting f eleven, but I need to shoot it f twenty two to hold the building sharp. So if one pop gave me at eleven, two, pops gave me f sixteen four pops gave me f twenty two exponential one to four a sixteen so four pops gave me f twenty two. So what we did, basically, we put the lens on b we're in the middle of the night nobody's around and walked around the building two, three, four waiting for the flash to recycle, and we flash fire four pops, and then we move down about ten feet and flash for more pops, and we do that all the way around the building and lift this entire thing and painted the entire thing with strokes. Probably one hundred pops throughout the night then we're still dark and I had a guy with a cart piece of cardboard a we just cover the lens so the lenses still been exposed but there's nothing there's no light hitting the film it's like ok now turn on the interior lights in the sign and we all open open exposure for that okay one, two, three, four bam! Close that let's take a look and exposure was exquisite the longer you can stretch out an exposure, the larger and greater your margin for error think about this. If I've got an exposure that's two minutes long and I screw up by ten seconds you'll never know it. I would have to go four seconds in order over expose it by a stop I'd have to go sorry. Four minutes over exposed it by stuff I have to go one minute toe underexposed about full stop financed by ten seconds nobody let me know it, so stretch out those pops if you're going to use a flash to do painting or stretch out your time if you're going to use a continuous source, so what I want to do now I'm going to a continuous source I want to paint a product and we're going to see what we can see what we can pull off here so basically have borrowed the purse of the lovely and talented producers in a and we're going to light it up, so if you guys will just let me give me just a second to get this set up so I got my problem. I got myself a trump, I got myself, I got myself a table, I get myself a purse, I'm gonna have that back come back that's right? That's not a knife, this is a knife, so I got myself my purse put it a little bit of a forty five, and as I'm thinking about this, I've done this a few times, so I'm thinking about how I want to make this appear. So what I'll do as I'm painting this thing with light during this exposure you were the trick is when you use us continuous source like this, the trick is to keep it moving don't let it be still unless you're trying to create ah hard highlight or hard shadow. But if you want soft, swirly, cool, funky, painterly shadows it's right here I got to keep this thing moving during the ex exposure. So we're going to take a meter ring and I'm going to show you how to accept this explosion exposure is going to be dead on you, just wait. I have done this before so we're going to we're going to paint this guy like this and I'm just going to paint the whole purse but I'm not going to paint quite the whole thing because I wanted to be a little bit paint really looking so I'm going to leave little spots where it's dark and I'm going to use this hand when I'm on this side of the purse this hand is a gobo from my lens so I can't go accidentally like you because that will just flare the shot and I'm dead I don't want to spend two or three minutes painting to have a dead shot because I fled the lands so there's my gobo so I'm just going to like this I'm just going to paint not put a hard edge right there in that age that seem and maybe I'll put highlight right across the top get the idea so I'm kind of right now my my head I'm kind of working out how to do this I'm kind of working this thing a little bit and I'm looking this side I got chrome and the front I'll be careful about the chrome and then maybe I'll put one right in here I might go real hard right in here in this lower corner some like that okay so I don't want to be to u n reform because they look kind of flat and kind of boring okay all right so yeah so here's what we're going to let me grab my meter oh, my meters over here we're going to need to go dark here in just a second but not quite yet I do need another set of hands up her do you want to do this? You want the mother said hands thank you thank you so stand by for just a second with both of those for just a second and let me get this guy set up in the center here and you know the fun part about this is again it's it's this is this is photo exploring one o one you know, because you really are you're kind of exploring what's going on here and I would probably go ahead and get a little bit lower then this but for now this is this will be fine. Okay, so right there I'm sharp on that that's looking good that's good. So now I think I want to shoot at about half I want to shoot about eleven and I'm gonna take my eyes so let's go toe let's go toe so four hundred so I'm gonna take my I esso and I'm going to bump that up two, four hundred just because we want to be here all day with this right? I'm going to leave my color balance at daylight because I want this to go warm and earthy if we make a mistake, we'll look at it, we might all decide and go back to time since so it's more realistic. If I were shooting for the bag company, they might want to be truly the right color that's the world of shooting fashion or shoot any kind of textiles, they got a match when somebody sees something, the catalog and they ordered it better look the same, but if it's an artistic rendition of something, you can kind of have free rein to do whatever you want, ok, so here's, what I want to do, let me get, um, let me get you to hold this guy part of this on I'm going to set this, I'm gonna go to f eleven on my meter and I'm going to let you hold that right there, and I'm going to aim this I'm going to name this right at that dome, and before I can read this, we need to kill the lights, so I felt like you guys, if you wantto q everybody get this down like so it's kind of fun. We're having a little bit of a discussion in the chat room about guess what light meters, whether you need them, whether you don't, whether it's quicker to just click the light meter or whether it's quicker to do trial and error by using the in camera meter when you don't even you mean there's discussion about meeting isn't that weird? Isn't that a surprise? I think this is very interesting, I love to experiment as much as anybody and certainly there's an awful lot of experimentation that you can that you can do and it's right to do that we're artists and we need to be artists, but at the same time, I want to be very, very careful about the fact that I don't have time to make a lot of adjustments after the fact, and especially if it's a job that was high boy and where you've got a lot of files to shoot, you know, if it's a big job and you've shot a lot of stuff, man, you could get yourself in real trouble real fast so it could be an issue, okay? All right, so I think we're about ready. So here's, what we're going to do before, but to get started, I'm going to name the dome of this, I'm gonna make sure that this is all the way down focused look at the wall there, see the focus, I'm just going to focus at all the way down as small as it'll go, and I'm aiming right at the dome, and I just need you to push that button right by your forefinger. No one right below that right there that one yeah put it right at this. Okay, so right there it says at eleven about f eleven eight and a half I'm going to shoot a half second okay, so good you can move out so what it's saying is if you shoot it at eleven for a half second hold this steady the exposure right where that hits is going to be perfect, everything else will be pretty dark but if I'm going like this it's going to be more like three or four for five seconds which is what I'm gonna be doing I'm not holding steady someone I'm going to set my brain on a bet four to six seconds of painting and I'm gonna keep this moving now do you want to hold this button down or do you want to hold? Can you wanna hold a camera button down for me? Okay, let me just go to bulb on my exposure so that's going to the next question somebody was going to ask what's your exposure, I'm going to bob so there's eleven there and I'm taking this down to a bulb. Well, both bob is down below okay, so what I need to do when I tell you to I need you to put your hand in here and push that down real soft don't hit that little bit in there and hit that mean but just hold him in and try not to shake the camera okay right nearby ready okay so here we go this is coming down slow like and go for it and hold it in until I always let go of it turn that off sorry one of me out of turn off the strobe right behind me that's going kablooey tony tony tony tony right now all of my friends all over the country going your sex and goober okay, let's try this again shall we put it in and hold it in and we're burning were burning were burning and I'm painting painting I'm painting I'm having the time of my life you guys get the idea now I'm gonna put a little I'm gonna put a little a little highlight across the top it see that little highlight oh, can you all feel that one look at that that's a good little highlight right there that's a great little highlight right there I'm just going to really put a good one there and I'm gonna get this little scene right here just a little hot spot right in there. Oh, look at those shadows coming and see all that across the middle yeah, and I'm gonna come around behind you real quick on dh let me just hit this corner a little bit right in there like that and in the real world we would be in complete in pitch dark I would come back there and I would start like that my backdrop like there for a while see what I'm doing I can't cross over actually I could cross over because I can go faster what we're ok no light hit me so I'll be a good time ok? I'm going to see what happens when this is gonna be a disaster yeah, we're a little hot. Well, the ambience is getting us a little bit it's pretty hot, so we'll do. We'll try this one more time and all this be faster and I'm gonna take my eso down because that's what's killing me here but you guys get the point, right? I mean, this is this is something that's kind of a cool thing let's do this again, you know, it's going to quicker and because I don't want to let that sit too long actually, you know will be really good if you can get rid of that, do we have a, uh, anything that we can use? Brittany jenny journal black notebook your little ipad cover if you can jump appearing to be my auxiliary shutter, okay, if you'll just stand right over here and cover that baby up like right there, but don't touch the lens there you go and go ahead and start that and when I say open and then you close one eye sight close ready set go hoping oh can you feel it? Can you feel it? Can you feel it keep it open it open keep it open all that that was a good thing that was a really good thing oh, now we're cooking with gas I'm burning that thing and I hope I'm not on the side so cover for just a second and I'm gonna come over here and just real quickly now open them try to hit the background a little bit what I'm back here and again the whole thing here is it's just for fun you know, kind of give it a little stripes like there you can put a burst across there like that if you want you got this it's playtime basically ok cover and let me come over here this side and I'm just going to hit this front corner right in here ready open right like that and I'll hit the class just a little bit try to stay away from the chrome I don't want a silvery streaks okay let's try that that's better you get the idea you can see that we're getting close sorry there you go you got it it's still a little hot on the background and I think that's uh making around can't quincy well that's not too far off the bag looks pretty good I kind of blew the background but I think we're getting pretty close. You get the idea? Thie the idea is that we've got something here that again I will go into the closet I think we can bring lights up everybody thank you, you know we'll go into a we'll go into a situation, as I mentioned earlier today where I'm gonna be photographing a bride, you know, and I might go into a closet with her with her bouquet and her rings and her invitations and and all the tools of her day, I can step into aiken, step into a closet and I can make something sort of happened there and it's not it's not a terribly challenging thing to do is you just saw a goober good. Clearly I was getting too much light in the background from from ambience room, but think about being in your closet or in your in your living room and night with all the things pitch pitch dark you can really get and the texture think about textures to that's a good point of u s product. The thing about texture is texture is a direct result of light skimming across a surface so it's either created by highlights or shadows that's what texture comes from so what questions you have anyone here in the room I got a question for you, okay s o if you were doing this alone in the studio I have a question to things would you use these? Would you use a remote for opening closing your shutter and would you do like a mirror lock up? I would I would not do a mirror lock up ok, because room would be pitch black anyway okay, so I don't really need the mirror lock up, but I do need a locking cable release okay when I'm by myself, which I don't have in my bag so I thought I had it I don't have it but yeah, you want to open that bulb and lock it, but if I'm in a pitch dark room it can stay open all day cohen and I go over and then the fun part like I show you on that oak an antique camera where you know you you take your flashlight and during part of the exposure use just playing like this then maybe I would put a antique warming filter over my flashlight and go over and just paying a highlight down one side of the strap or maybe just a little burst in the background I mean, I could even have gone, you know, and a zay started to do you know you can go in and I could do something like even that. And hold it steady in one corner. Maybe just wiggle it a little bit like that. That can make a cool backdrop. Yeah, and then I could have those in different colors so I could have a red one or a warm one or a green one or yellow honor, hambor accent or whatever I want. Uh, but but the beauty of this is again you're you're doing something that, uh, it's very artistic. You guys get to dictate how it looks, uh, and it's something that can be really quite useful. We had a studio. She one year we were shooting for a a company called eco international who made all these paper clips and staplers and office products. And our whole studio was covered with with sets. Everything was being shot all around the studio, and a jeweler came in and with a product and he needed a shot and he needed about tomorrow. And one of the assistance is we'll drop it off and we'll see when we can get it in here so we can do and we'll call you. Ok? It was a jeweller that new us. And so so the guy left, watch what it wasn't any left well, lo and behold. The assistant says I'll get this one, and he took this watch into a closet and did this painting thing. He made a very elaborate set, but once he got in there and did the painting, he was in there probably thirty minutes, but it came out with two shots and they were both excellent. Well, the client loved it, and it didn't take up any space in the studio. It was done in a closet or a bathroom or something. So you you really can do something with this. So the question I just wanna say, I'm not the audience at home can see it's just a regular old bag and just in the ambient light, it's, very flat, you can't see any texture, anything in it, and even with the ambient light blowing out the background, does that look three d? Yeah, I mean, he just I could just imagine what it would look like in a dark closet, because that has just brought out the texture and the depth, even with this ambient light, and you can't even see looking at a dead, although, and we've we've done. We did this over the last seven minutes, eight minutes, so, you know, give me a half a day in term you loose with a flashlight. I could make some magic happen, but I gotta work it a little bit and I got to spend some time with a little bit and you come again you got to focus on this and not however many people are watching you got to focus on this and get into but once you get into this kind of his own thing and it becomes in like when you're by yourself in a dark room you're like young you're chanting and shooting and and it's fun too because if you think about it you know during part of the exposure let's say when I get down to the buckle let's say on that right buckle if I'm one of that to have a little flair to it, then I can have an assist you just put like a piece of cellophane in front of the limbs and then I just paint the buckle with cellophane there and then I moved it out the way he'll move that away and I got a little flare so there's this there's all kinds of things you could do uh I'm just going to say one thing this is very similar to technique we use in the department and I've actually painted entire buildings and we hear this car accidents at night so you could have one guy flagging off the limbs just like we did there the guy walks down the street with a flash raises the flag, fires the flash and just keep going. You could paint an entire already doing that you get to the whole downtown scene this way. There was a famous black and white eighteen hundreds and early nineteen hundreds train railroad photographer named winston and he used to do that. He would line the tracks with all these strobes and just think these trains that came through was great question from karen from katie, a photography if you wanted to, could you take a basic low strobe exposure and then just finish it off with the light painting tool and use that is like an edge? Or you absolutely can accept that the the low flash exposure is almost always too much it's trying to try for yourself, but I've tried, and every time I've done it, I've gotten mohr of the flash exposed and I really wanted, so I'm just not doing it for me anyway, so cool. And then another question here from pro photographer do you ever use multiple lights when your light painting? They have a little light kit? I don't know that's a great question, I don't really have a light kit, but I do have little widgets that are made for this, and I've got little pieces of black aluminum like black rap. Aluminum so I can make little snoops I've got lots and lots of different color gels you can you can make this a sharp are soft as you want I mean I think about this I could make this a little mini soft box by putting a frosted piece of gel over the front of this and then kind of softly paint and not move quite so much and just making all my it's like a soft box so there's a lot of different options like that but multiple lights you know I really don't I really don't do multiple lights on this kind of thing and it's pretty much one like cool thank you so question from chuck nineteen oh six got a situation he wants to use a model in the foreground but then just paint the background here so how would you like the model without messing up the painting in the background? The chance that the biggest challenge is to make sure that your flash when you freeze the model with flash you're far enough away from the background and you've positioned her and your strobe your flash in such a way that it can't possibly contaminate the background if you get even a third of a stop of contamination your pennies like the look is great as you want it so it's really critical to make sure that you flag off get black go bos get black v flags some way to keep any light any straight life from hitting that background when you when you add light to dark background that's been protected and unexposed you get great screaming vibrant colors you really get good good stuff back but if they've been hit with any kind of contaminated light at all, they're not so great the thing that just again keep in mind all of these all these tools these little these little mini mag flashlight the new the new low led flashlights all of those tools were really, really great I know people that will do this painting with light for larger products and use little small video camera lights and just you know, they're sixteen square six inch by nine inch or whatever and just walk around and kind of paint with those so doesn't like his light I don't care where I steal it from I'll still light you know? So did you have a question just just going to say I was doing a practice session with a different journey from creative life here and at the end we decided to try some of this light painting and being the time of year I was able to get some um led multi colored lights and what we tried doing was with an led flashlight painting the model and then taking the multicolored lights and doing a very fancy background and it takes a bit of getting used tio doing it but what it told us was this is something we want to spend some time with it because it was it was we took a couple exposures that came out really cool so it is something I want to spend more time it's kind of it's kind of ah a pandora's box of things you don't mean you can get yourself in deep and being there all day trying to get one thing making crazy but then you could also on some days come out with twenty things that exactly what you want they're just great varieties so it's fun I mean, I did a whole series on forks I did just the shadows from forks and I did the whole thing with many mag flashlight and I probably got fifty pictures of foreshadows where I'm just you know, but you know, if you frontline of four kids a fork lift, you move it off the frame and send one these two it at a weird angle man pointed up like this and then tip that dam and then change its color. Well, now you've got these weird streaking things of how did you do that? Use the mini mag flashlight a fork it's a project called around the kitchen, you know, so it's pretty finally there's a lot of really fun things that you can do, and I think that for me is, uh you know, that's, when you kind of get back to the root of the craft of qatar, if you get in an experiment, you know there is nothing. There are no rules here to be broken. Just get in and try stuff, and if it doesn't work, great, tried again. Nobody got hurt, you know, that's. The thing about it is that, you know, it used to cost us two or three dollars, every time we hit the button doesn't cost us that much now.