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The Invisible Man (writing with light)

dalegem| 24 May 2013| 0 comments | Tips

Sometimes, it’s nice to mix it up a little and try something new with your photography.  So, why not try ‘writing with light’.  There are some truly stunning examples of this online. You only need to search ‘light writing’ and then you’ll find some great inspiration. Whilst travelling through New Zealand in May 2013, I was fortunate to have some beautiful clear skies.  Using a long exposure, I was able to capture some stunning photographs and even caught the milky-way.   Night photography requires a lot of patience though, as you need to do a few test shots to ensure you have everything you want in frame, and every picture can take between 20 – 30 seconds exposure time.  On this particular night, I had a red led key ring light with me…and that’s all I need to start playing around!  After I had captured the night sky, I kept the same photography settings and jumped in front of the camera with my torch. ‘Writing with light’ is really easy once you now how.  On our journey home we stopped off in Shanghai to see some friends.  Here, I taught Douglas the basics of the technique.  The trickiest thing is getting the letters right.  You must write them as though you are writing on a shop window – backwards for you, but correct for the people looking into the shop. Here is a quick video with some tips and Douglas’ photography efforts.


To start with, you will need an SLR and set the camera to MANUAL.  You’ll want as long an exposure as possible.  Most SLR cameras allow 30 seconds, but if you have a remote, you can set the camera to B (bulb) and you can open the shutter as long as you like.  But for now, lets stick with 30 seconds! Take the picture you want without attempting to ‘write with light’.  Remember, long exposures can create some wonderful photography anyway.  For example, the ocean becomes a beautiful mystic fog. It can also cause problems. People will look blurred if they move.  Really think about your background and the effect you want. It’s best to use a dark background.  Anything too bright will just wash out your writing. Wear dark clothes!  Because you are constantly moving, your image is not captured by the camera, making you invisible…but if you wear white or bright clothes, the slightliest amount of light that hits you will likely put your image on the picture. Practice what you want to write before getting any models involved.  Remember, they have to stand completely still for this to work and you don’t want them to have to wait whilst you mess up the letters. Experiment!  Try using different coloured torches, put the torch on some string and throw it around or why not try and draw the outline of your model to create interesting silhouettes. These are just the basics.  There are some very  skilled people in this as an art form.  Give it a go and see what you can create!  I would love to see some of your final products. And if you have any questions, feel free to drop me a line!  Dale.

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