Light painting

I shot this for a story we did advancing the home brew competition at our local county fair. The designer and food editor at the time gave me free reign to do whatever I wanted to illustrate the story... which is the best kind of assignment and so rare!

I bought the barley and hops from a local vendor. The lighting was hit and miss as I choose to light paint. First, with a softbox directly overhead, you pop it off about 2 stops under. This is to light the shadows so there isn't a huge disparity between the painted highlights and the unpainted areas of the scene. Then working in a pitch black studio with the camera shutter open you walk around the scene with a black card and shutter release cable in one hand and a strobe head (modeling light on only) in the other hand. Working quickly, you basically "brush" the light over the areas you want lit using the black card to shield the light from the camera in between "strokes." The resulting image is aglow in a soft warm light. It took about 10 shots to get this one.

Too add to the soft glow, I used a black nylon over the lens. You take old black stockings, cut out a square, then using a rubber band, put it over the lens. It's a darkroom trick I used to do when I was a custom darkroom printer. It's like using the Gaussian blur tool in Photoshop pre-Photoshop! Even being a Photoshop master, I still use this trick as it produces a more natural softness than Photoshop does. Especially wonderful on portraits.

Also, another low-tech solution for light painting if you don't own studio lights – a hazard flashlight! I don't have studio strobes at home and that's how I shot this jewelry I made for a friend. This was lit completely using a $12 hazard flashlight from a local hardware store. The flashlight uses a quartz so it produces a real clean neutral light. Perfect for digital photography!

YOUR TURN: What's you favorite "low-tech" gadget?


  1. Super clean photo of the bread & brew. Even after reading what you did, still i have no clue how you did what you did, but it came out beautiful!

    And you know your jewelry is quite photogenic in and of itself. Who knew you could do so much with a flashlight?

    Have you ever used a light from a flashlight focused on the ceiling and/or wall and use your hands to make birds and other shadow puppet figures? That was always fun when i was a kid (and still now!)...

    Fave low-tech gadget? i like my sister's fake Swiss Army knife. i need to invest in one! Comes in handy often. So many uses. OK, so you can't take a photo with 'em but they do pretty much everything else...

  2. Hi Kleo...Yes, having as many sisters as I do, we often entertained ourselves making shadow-mals on the walls with flashlights. Aaah! The good old days!

    I carry a fake Swiss army knife in my camera bag. Yes! It sure comes in handy!

  3. That's a fantastic shot! Elegant is the word that comes to mind, despite the fact that the subject is not one traditionally described as such.

  4. Brilynn...
    Welcome! and a big thank you! Shooting that was highly satisfying... glad you like it!


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