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Photo Tutorial — Light Painting

Published by Diana Tula · November 1st 2013

Today we’ll learn how to paint with light, discovering history and technical details of this photo technique. Our lesson guided by Gareth Brooks, a Welshman with passion for Light Painting. Gareth has captured our hearts with his whimsical pac-man and space invader photos. Without further ado, let’s pick up tips and tricks behind this craftsmanship.


Light Painting is a rapidly growing genre of photography. Through the use of a long exposure and some lights, you can create works of art. Many people presume that light painting is relatively new, but you'll be surprised to learn that it can be traced back to 1914. Not only that, but Pablo Picasso tried his hand in this art in 1949 when he was visited by Gjon Mili.

So what exactly is ‘Light Painting'?

Light Painting is the art of using artificial light sources during an exposure to manipulate what you want the camera to see. To start in light painting photography you need a camera and a mobile light source; you will use this source to light your subject or create new images. Let’s begin:

1) If you were to go outside in a dark forest and take a photo at a shutter speed 1/125 and aperture f/5.6 with a base ISO of around 200, you'd find that your camera has just recorded a virtually black exposure with nothing there.

2) Now by changing your exposure time to BULB, take the same shot again. This time, as your camera sensor is still recording the shot, use a torch and shine it over the areas that you want your camera to see. Now close the shutter and look at the result! If all went well, you should notice that those trees, leaves, etc are now showing up in the exposure.

With light painting photography, the only real limit is your imagination. Your torch (be it your phone, LED torch, glow sticks, etc.) is your paintbrush and the dark sky is a canvas for you to paint what you want. I've been doing this for a few years now and I find nothing more relaxing then heading off into the sunset for some light painting. Once you start, you'll find it hard to stop!

As a light painter, I often get asked "Why aren't you showing in the picture?". Well take for instance a photograph of traffic trails on a motorway — Where are the cars? You can see the lights, but you can't see the cars. That's because the cars are moving the light is emitting away from the source. If I stood still for long enough, with a light shining anywhere near me, I would show up in the exposure. The same principle can be used if for instance somebody was walking towards you at night with a light source. You'd see the light source, but you can't see the person holding it.

So before I start on the tutorial here's a couple of shots I took purely for the 500px blog:

What do I need to start?

Here is the equipment you'll need to get out there tonight and give this a go:

  • DSLR or a camera capable of shooting long exposures
  • Sturdy tripod and head
  • Cable release or remote
  • Torches, led's or any light source! (Even hold a flash and a few gels!)
  • Batteries and spare batteries for your camera!

How to write your name

Now that you gathered all the equipment, here's a step by step tutorial on how to write your name with a torch to get you started.


Find somewhere dark for a location and wear dark clothes. Don't wear white trainers, especially the ones with reflective stripes on (very handy tip!).

Set your tripod and camera up and compose your shot. Set your camera to M setting (Program and Auto modes are useless for light painting, so you welcome to the world of Manual mode. It is after all the photographer who should be in control). Then set your shutter speed to BULB, basically keep on lowering your shutter speed until it goes past 30". Adjust Aperture to f/5.6 and use an ISO of 200. As the last step, plug in your remote cable (when the camera is off!) or set your camera to receive an instruction from a remote.


Now Autofocus can be very unpredictable at night, so you're better off switching the lens to manual. Turn off any image stabilization or vibration reduction compensation options.

Focus on a spot using a torch to highlight the area you are going to be standing in. Now place a stone or remember where you was when you focused (you'll get better with your spatial awareness as you practice more).


Set a few seconds delay on your camera and open the shutter. If you're using a cable, ensure it's on lock for BULB. A remote will keep the shutter open until you press it again.

Get into position and start writing your name with a torch. Remember though that you'll need to write it backwards! Or for the purpose of this tutorial, just write your name as you normally would (you can flip it if you want in your editing software).


Finish writing your name, then make sure you don't turn on any head torches or lights until you've closed the shutter. You can also use the torch to light up any areas you want to show in your exposure.

Release the cable lock or press the remote to finish, then review your picture on the camera. You should get a real kick when you see the image on your camera.

Did it work for you?

Too bright? If the image was to bright, try closing the aperture down more.

Too dark? Increase the ISO or open the aperture more. Remember though, higher ISO's introduce a lot of noise in the picture. Personally I find it's better to use a brighter torch, or leave the shutter open up longer to gather more ambient light.

I hope this tutorial has inspired you to pick up your camera after the sun has gone down! You can keep up to date with my work on my 500px page, website or my FB page. All of my Light Paintings are created using LED Lenser torches. Please check out my sponsors the UK's Premier Authorised LED Lenser Stockist.

Thanks for reading! To learn more about Light Painting check out How to paint a ball of light, Painting with fire and Long exposure photography tutorials. Do you have a tutorial you'd like to share on our blog? Get in touch, email


Halloween Photos To Inspire & Scare. BOO!

Published by Diana Tula · October 31st 2013

Boys and girls of every age, wouldn't you like to see something strange? Enjoy our selection of 500px photos to inspire and scare. Click on each photo to send it to family and friends. Happy Halloween Everyone!


500px Is Turning Four!

Published by Diana Tula · October 30th 2013

Hey everyone, tomorrow is our Birthday! 500px is turning four years old and to celebrate we have a special surprise for you.

I remember it as though it was yesterday. It was the evening of October 31st, 2009, and two of my friends: Evgeny and Oleg were about to launch a self-funded, hard-labored and very awesome website — 

Now four years later, 500px is home to the worlds’ best photography with an incredible community of photographers & photo lovers. Because of your love, support and feedback the site has evolved over the years and what started as a 2 man endeavor has become a 30 people company. This would not have been possible without you, thank you so so much for all your love and support. Our Birthday is your Birthday too, so let’s celebrate together with gifts...  

Let’s Celebrate!

To mark our four year Birthday we want to shower you with gifts!

1. Our first gift is Fuji Film X100S cameras to four lucky 500px members. All you have to do to win one is 1) Take a photo that interprets 500px logo in a creative & clever way and 2) Upload it to your account with tag 500pxbirthday. You have one month to enter and winners will be announced December 1st 2013. We will ship world-wide, no age restriction and winning photos will be judged on creativity and photo techniques.

2. Our second gift is the gift of Awesome. The first 40 people to comment will get automatically upgraded to one year of Awesome accounts. Yay!

3. Our third gift is a bundle of swag. So if you ever dreamt of getting your hands on that 500px logo T-shirt, cup, stickers etc. this is your perfect opportunity :) We are giving away four special bundles on our social media pages. Visit our Twitter and Facebook pages to enter.

4. Our last gift is a virtual hug and a thank you!

The words are not enough to express our gratitude and appreciation for your commitment, support and feedback. Every comment that we’ve received over the years, be it an email to help, twitter shout-out or an in-person thank you has made our hearts skip a beat and will be forever cherished. 

Let’s make it many more years of awesomeness together!
500px Team


Weekly Monday Contest

Published by Diana Tula · October 28th 2013

Want to get featured on our blog? Every Monday a theme is announced and you have until Sunday to submit your entry. You may already have a photo that suits or you can see it as a weekly photo challenge. Continue reading to discover new announced theme, deadline and how to enter.


Last week we announced Bird’s Eye View theme and have received over 1,400 entries. We have chosen twelve from all the contestants to share with you today. These are gallery thumbnails and you can click on each for a full size photo. Let us know which one is your favourite in the comments below :)

New theme: Silver Lining

1. Select photo that fits this theme. Upload image to your 500px profile or pick an existing photo.
2. Add a tag "silver500px".
3. You are done. To track all entries click here.

Theme is open to your interpretation and creativity, so get snapping and tagging. Deadline is November 3rd at 12PM (EST). To make your efforts worthwhile there’s a random draw giveaway for all who enter for a chance to win 2 months Awesome membership. Lucky draw winner is Andrea Marconi.

Good luck this week!


Meet Liat Aharoni

Published by Diana Tula · October 22nd 2013

Over a year ago Liat picked up a DSLR camera for the first time, which is impossible to guess from looking at her photos. Liat Aharoni’s work is bewitching, exploring darkness, sabbath and new photo techniques. Today we’d like to share with you the story of how Liat got started in photography, accompanied by her beautiful images. Please enjoy.

I’ve always felt artistically inclined more than anything else — visual and creative outlets have always felt the most natural to me. Growing up, I typically had a camera in hand to record my life and the lives of those around me. I never pursued to deepen my knowledge of photography, it was simply a way for me to capture and remember moments. In high school I felt that I had to drop all of my creative classes to focus on math and business. I lacked any creative outlets well into university.

April 2012 was a pivotal time for me – I was a fourth year political science student and felt disengaged from my studies. As a form of procrastination I would read about surreal art, which exposed me to a whole other world of possibilities. I felt inspired to create again and chose photography as my expressive medium. A year and a half has gone by, I've graduated from school and am building my fine art photography career. I feel blessed to honour and nurture my passion for art. Having found that my personal history has largely echoed those of others, I appreciate that 500px has created a platform for artists like myself to share in our often mutual experiences :) 

Thanks to Liat for sharing her story and thank you for reading! Liat Aharoni is a self-taught photographer from Toronto, Canada. To get in touch with Liat, view her full portfolio and to subscribe to future updates please visit her 500px page.

Our blog is a place to promote 500px photographers, of all backgrounds and talents. If you’d like to get your work out there get in touch, email


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