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27 Oct 2013

While I was clearing a box "useful" junk in my room. I found my old laser pointer. It was more like a laser gun as the green laser beam emitted is so strong and powerful that the beam can be seen on the wall of a flat that is 100m away.

As I sat down at my sofa playing with it, the idea of light painting photography struck me. Quoted from … "light painting photography is a photographic technique where the artist opens the shutter of a camera for an extended period of time and uses various light sources to create color and design with in the frame...".

Although I am  not an artist that can paint well, I am keen to explore the different types of light painting techniques. With only a laser pointer on hand, I wanted to start off with something basic and simple - writing and drawing with laser pointer.

Easy and Simple Setup for Light Painting

No extensive setup or flash required is the beauty of light painting photography. The following are basic setup required for any types of light painting photography.
  • A dark location - If experimenting at home, you will require a dark room that is without any source of direct and indirect light (e.g. ceiling light, table lamp, monitor light, etc.) that could be affecting what you are painting - the darker the room the better. If experimenting it outdoor, then the location must be dark enough - street lights, lights from car headlight, etc. should be avoided.
  • Tripod - As long exposure will be used, a tripod is definitely needed so that you do not end up with a bad picture due to shakes.
  • Various Sources and Types of Lights - These are the "paint" that you will be painting with, e.g. laser pointers, torch lights, light sticks, sparkles, etc.
In this particular exercise that I'm doing, I am using my laser pointer as the only source of light. I also had a black background, which is the "blackboard" that I will be writing and drawing on.

Camera Settings

Small Aperture with Long Exposure Time

In light painting photography, a small aperture is typically used as it allows lesser amount of light to pass through, which will help to create a dramatic light effect as the subject is painted with light when exposed over a period of time. The amount of exposure time varies depending on how the subject is painted.

Pre-Focus Beforehand

As the shot is taken in the dark under long exposure time, a pre-focus on the subject is required. At home, simply do an auto-focus on subject using the room's ceiling light or table lamp, and switching it to manual focus once is pre-focus is done (note: remember to switch off light in the room before taking pictures.) If outside, use a torch light to shine on the subject so as to allow pre-focusing to be done.

My Results of Writing Using Laser Pointers

I wanted to create a set of handwritten A-to-Z using the laser pointer on the blackboard. 

Initially, I set my camera to bulb mode to capture my writing, however I find that it is really difficult to align the written characters properly if I do so. Furthermore, I cannot gauge the edge of the camera's frame in the dark which makes writing really difficult.

So I ended up taking taking a set of 26 alphabet photos, each with an exposure time of 3-seconds (just sufficient time for me to finish writing a character). After which, I combine all the alphabets together into a simple picture. As you see from the alphabets written above, it is actually not that easy to write neatly using a laser pointer!

I look forward to try out the other types of light painting techniques and share is with everyone when I've done so.