Light Painting Tips and Techniques: Closer is Softer.
In my light painting workshops and presentations, I talk a lot about lighting theory, and how I believe that it is easier to understand how light works if you can break lighting theory down into just a few basic rules.
One of the most important rules, and one that becomes essential to understanding light painting, is that the softness of light is in large part determined by the size (relative to the subject) of the light. To take it further, the size of the light is (effectively) changed as the distance of the light to the subject changes. As a way of illustrating this idea, think about a light source 10 inches in diameter. At 30 feet away from the subject, that light source is quite hard, and yields shadows and highlight/shadow transitions that have sharp edges. Now, bring that same light source 1 foot away from the subject, and it becomes a very soft light source, with soft shadows.
In light painting, we have the fantastic ability to bring the light in very close to the subject, often just 1 inch or so away. In this way, a 1 inch diameter light actually becomes quite soft. Also (and this is something that we can only do in light painting), we can move the light in particular ways to even further soften it as the movement, in effect, makes the light source even larger in relation to the subject.
I decided to make the following video tutorial while I was photographing some of my pipes, most of which my grandfather had given me. This is the same grandfather who inspired me to photograph an anvil a few years back. He spent his career as a blacksmith trained in the Journeyman System in Switzerland, and he smoked a pipe for as long as I can remember. He recently decided to stop smoking pipes, and he gave me several of his favorites, which I treasure.
The video demonstrates that by simply moving a light closer to the subject, we make it effectively larger and therefore softer, which in my opinion, is usually more beautiful.
This is one of a series of tutorials that I’ve created involving my light painting process, and it is just a quick look at the kind of information that my students learn more in depth at my workshops.
After the video starts, please click on the “gear” icon on the lower right to increase the video resolution for better viewing quality (1080 recommended)… especially if you want to watch it full screen.
To see more of my videos on Light Painting technique click HERE