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One of my favorite ‘summer evening’ activities is light painting. Introduced to me at a friend’s house party, this photo op has become a must-have, and has made me look quite artistic and smart. Think of it as the ultimate party trick.

The point of light painting is to use small, controllable sources of light to illuminate an area, capturing it all with a camera with the shutter left open. Flashlights can create a spooky, ghost-like image, while sparklers can run the gamut from romantic to epic battle. These photos can be used for the ultimate Halloween party invite, or score you some bonus points on wedding save-the-dates or thank you cards.  Creativity is what makes these fun and personal, so run with it!

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What You’ll Need:
-dark night with NO other light sources (street lights, house lights, etc.)
-digital camera with a manual shutter setting
-tripod for digital camera
-boxes of sparklers- lots! Most fun to have several colors
-glow sticks

-Beer, to bribe photographer friends
-black/dark clothing, to be stealthy in the background

Getting Started
If you’re not used to taking pictures with a manual shutter setting, it’s a good idea to get used to it before you start making super intricate masterpieces. You will want to set the camera up on the tripod facing your backdrop, or dark area you plan on using. Set the camera to the manual shutter. This will mean that when you hold down the button to take a picture, you’ll need to hold it down for the entire time people are creating their image.  It’s best to call out “go!”, let your friends run around, and have them yell “stop!” when you can take your finger off the button. Alternatively, you can get a remote like this one [] so that you don’t have to stand next to the camera the whole time, potentially shaking the tripod.

Google your camera brand with “manual shutter function” to help you figure out this function if you’re not used to it. Alternatively, make friends with a photographer and bribe them with free beer.


If you have 1-2 people + photographer:
If you have just a couple people, or if you are alone and have a remote for your shutter- these are some examples!

Harry Potter Duel

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Best with two colors! Start in the center, move the sparklers around to create where they ‘hit’, and then back up and pose.  For best results, you can have another person shine a flashlight on you briefly when you’re at your end pose. Wingardium Leviosa!

Simple Shapes
Hearts! Stars! Equality signs!

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These take some teamwork. As you can see, a messed up heart is just plain silly. Plan your movements before you take the picture for optimal shaped results.

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If you have 3+ people + photographer:
You can have a party! Dark clothes are most handy here for the friends running in the background drawing around people.

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Have some people pose, and have another person run around them illuminating with a sparkler. Also works for the super cute couples shots. Great ‘save the dates’ for weddings.


Spooky Ghosts:
For these, you can get really creative. No sparklers, but use your flashlight instead. You will need one person manning the camera, and ideally another on a flashlight.


For people you want to appear solid, go over them twice with the flashlight (about two seconds). Be sure to turn the flashlight off in between people or things you’re illuminating, otherwise the picture will end up too bright.
For ghosts, cut the ‘human’ time in half. One second, or a quick flash should do.

You can also do silly shots of the same person over and over. Just flash the light on them as they pose over and over throughout the frame.

Not Shown:
Glowsticks. I’ve never tried these shots personally, but I have to assume they would be awesome. You can try throwing them, tossing them around, juggling, or tying to a string and swinging around in the frame. Just be careful to not hit anyone with one… (though that could make a hilarious photo).




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