Light Painting - car photography

How To Shoot and Edit a Light Painting

So you want to learn how do to light paintings? But what exactly is light painting?

 

Light painting is a technique, usually done at night, in which you set your camera on a low shutter speed and use some type of light to illuminate an object while everything else stays dark.

 

Okay now that you know what it is, I can show you how it’s done. The shooting part is actually pretty easy and fun at the same time so that won’t take too long to explain.

 

SHOOTING

 

To start light painting you need a minimum of these 3 things: camera, tripod, and a light source. To make your images even better and more fun you can get a remote shutter or a friend to help you out.

 

  1. Set your camera on a tripod

  2. Set the shutter speed to more than 1 sec

  3. Click the shutter release

  4. Take your light source and start “painting” your car

  5. Repeat steps 1 – 4 until you have the whole car painted

 

You want to do this in parts because getting the whole car in one exposure will be near impossible. So what I do is do focus on certain parts of the car for each exposure: wheels, front, back, etc…

 

Here are the different images that I got after I finished with the light paintings:
 

 
Most importantly, have fun! This is probably the most fun I have when shooting cars. Don’t be afraid to try some new things, go crazy!

 

Great, now you should have a few exposures of the light painting, which we will take into Photoshop and combine into one to make it look even better.

 

Before packing up, make sure you have every part of the car in an exposure so that we can combine them and make one big light painted car.

 

EDITING

 

To get started, you will first need to open up all of the images that you’re using in separate layers but keep them on the same file.

 

Once you have all of your images together, chances are they are not all equally aligned, even the slightest bump of the tripod will move it and it won’t be aligned. No problem, we will fix that right now by selecting all of the layers at once and going to Edit > Auto-Align Layers and choose Perspective. This will allow Photoshop to use one layer as the base layer and match all of the other ones to it.

 

This usually takes a few seconds depending on how many layers you have, so be patient.

 

Once it’s done, you should have all of your layers aligned and most likely have some white parts around the edges, for this you can just use the crop tool and get rid of those edges.

 

Now let’s get to actually putting all the images together and making the light painting come alive.

 

Starting with the top layer, change the blending mode to Lighten and work your way all the way to the second to last layer. You want to leave the bottom layer on Normal because there isn’t anything under it.

 

What does the Lighten blending mode do? All this does is it looks at that layer, compares it to the one below it, chooses the lightest parts and only shows you those parts. This is handy because we only want the lighter parts to show. Doing this to all of the layers, except the bottom one, allows all of those light painted parts to show on one image.

 

Once you have changed all of them to Lighten (except the bottom one), it’s time to remove some of the stuff that we don’t need, like light on the ground, light on the windows, etc…

 

To do this we will just use layer masks. Click on a layer that needs something removed and create a layer mask by click the button on the bottom. Now take your black brush and just paint over the parts that you don’t want to show. BOOM! It’s like magic!

 

Keep repeating this for all of the layers until you have removed everything that shouldn’t be there.

 

Once you’re done with the layer masks, there really isn’t much left to do besides correcting the colors and all of that shit. The light painting itself should be complete after the layer masks.

Here is my outcome:
 

lightpainting

 

THAT’S ALL FOLKS

If you’re not satisfied with the outcome, then you did something wrong. If you don’t know why your light painting keeps coming out bad then feel free to post it below in a comment and I will take a look at it.

 

If you successfully did this then I would love to see your image. Share it with the LTSC community in a comment below so we can see your masterpiece.

 

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