Light painting for kids
Light painting with a plastic bottle was one of the first creative photography activities I tried with my daughter.
Over the last few months we’ve been experimenting with light painting in the studio. It has gone down really well with families so I thought it would work as a home activity.
Light painting is probably easier to do in the winter when it gets dark earlier but if you can darken any room it works in the summer months.
The best thing about light painting is that it doesn’t need any specialist equipment other than a light.
Light painting with a plastic bottle
I’m often looking out for objects that can be used as light painting tools. A while ago I came across the plastic money box in the shape of a classic coke bottle. It just so happened that I was a carrying a torch with me at the time so I could measure the opening of the bottle to see if my torch could fit inside. Luckily it fitted perfectly which gave my the idea of light painting with a plastic bottle.
Equipment you need
A plastic bottle. You can find these on eBay
A torch that can fit into the top of the bottle.
Translucent coloured materials to put inside your bootle.
A camera with a BLUB setting. If you are using a camera phone then we recommend using the ProCam app.
A tripod or a stand for your phone. If you don’t have a tripod then a small table should work.
A dark room. This is best done at night but if you have a room with black out curtains or blinds then that could work.
Preparing your plastic bottle
We started off by filling our bottle with a variety of arts and crafts materials but found we added too much.
Pick a couple of translucent materials like strips of coloured plastic sheets to add.
Once your bottle is full put the torch into the top of the bottle to see how the light passes through.
Setting up your camera
Choose the area where you will be lighting painting. Allow plenty of space to move. Set up your camera on a tripod and test how much space you have in your frame to move.
Set your camera to the BULB mode. This opens the shutter for as long as you have it pressed.
Choose an aperture at around f8 to get everything in focus and your ISO to 200.
If during your light painting you aren’t seeing enough light trails then push the ISO up to 400 or higher.
Pre-focus your camera with the light on. This’ll make it sure your finished image is in focus.
The light painting
Turn off the lights, hold down your camera’s shutter, turn on your torch and start painting.
There’s no right or wrong way to light paint.
Start off with an exposure that last 3 or 4 seconds to longer exposures with slower movements.
Swing the bottle around the space you know will be in the frame.
Try making shapes and patterns.
If you have an additional flash try using that in your exposure.
Experiment and have fun.