Light Painting

Man on Fire

Light Painting by Dennis Calvert

Light Painting by Dennis Calvert

In this light painting tutorial I’ll explain how to create the fire effect in the above photo. If you aren’t familiar with light painting, check out this post to understand the basics.

What you need:

  • eveready electric glow sticks (no, the company does not compensate me for telling you to buy their brand, these glow sticks just work better than others for this effect)
  • a flash or flash light

How you do it:
Overexpose the area behind your subject with a flash or torch, but maintain a dark silhouette. Fill in the silhouetted area by jiggling the glow sticks around. Yep, that’s all you have to do for the fire effect… just jiggle glow sticks.  The overexposed background helps ensure you don’t color outside the lines with the glow stick. This isn’t a precision trick, but spatial awareness is helpful.

Camera Settings:
f/8 – 400 ISO is a good place to start. You may need to compensate for ambient light and other variables. Give it a shot and adjust accordingly.

Time-lapse making of vid:

The video step-by-step:

  1. I first shine a flash light onto the scene to ensure I have the composition I want.
  2. I step into position and point to flash light at myself as I trigger to camera to help with auto focus.
  3. I have a speedlite strapped to my back and set to full power which is triggered on the first curtain.
  4. I jiggle the red electric glow stick everywhere I was standing to fill in the silhouette created by the flash.

Note: There was no post work done for the final image. It’s a single exposure straight out of the camera. The making of video is not the same take as the final image I have presented. A car drove by while I was recording the time-lapse and hosed the shot so I had to do another one.

eveready electric glow sticks
electric glow sticks

I hope you find some inspiration in this post. If you have any questions about the technique leave a comment and I’ll get back at you.


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  • Aaron

    Thanks for this cool technique Dennis, I’m definitely going to share this with my readers, too!

    • Dennis

      Hi Aaron, thanks for sharing!

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  • Antonis

    totally digging the soundtrack! … and the tutorial too!
    (Where did u find this version of Tool, btw?)

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  • Bri Morris

    I like the speed light trick Dennis, Ive got to give this a try. How did you fasten this to your back?

    • Dennis

      Bri, I used a bungee cord and hooked it onto the back of my coat. Also some tape :)

  • DSLR flash

    Woah this blog is excellent i like reading your articles. Stay up the good work! You know, a lot of people are looking around for this information, you could aid them greatly.

  • indigo

    thank u for this need trick… I`ve known bout something, but this thing with exposing the background is cool… so I dont need to have a ligh in the back for the whole time, just for the few moments???

    • Dennis

      How long you need the light on will depend on your exposure. A flash will work too.

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    2 ice

  • Mark

    I have to say I really like the flame effect from those glow sticks, so much so I just ordered some. Thanks for sharing, I can’t wait to give it a go now…

  • Alex

    This is so interesting! If I’m understanding this right, you were holding the glow sticks yourself and moving them around while the photo was being taken? How then do you still have your hands at your side and not blurred out?
    Sorry if it’s a noob question – I’ve never actually done this sort of photography, but am considering experimenting with it.