Winter Reads: Painting with Light
If you have ever wanted to get into light painting but did not know where to start, Curry will take you gently by the hand and lead you into the world of creating beautifully complex pictures like the ones below…
What I like most about Painting with Light is that it is both start-from-zero and comprehensive. Curry spends the first couple dozen pages detailing the path he took to becoming a light painter. You don't learn a lot there, but the rest of the book makes up for it. It is pure how-to, chock full of great advice and detailed techniques.
He is very generous with tips that will save you countless mistakes he doubtless made on his own journey, which should allow you to get up to speed pretty quickly.
You can light paint with strobes (a la Mike Kelley) or continuous lights, as does Curry. Or, obviously, you could mix and match. But the techniques Curry teaches are nonetheless applicable to both.
He is quick to stress that you don't need a lot of gear. In fact, the photos reproduced here were made without anything exotic: a camera, wide lens, some flashlights and "Q Beam"-style lights. And a sturdy tripod, of course.
If you plan to shoot multi-exposure light paintings, which is what the bulk of the book is about, you will need Adobe Photoshop, as it is far better suited for the layering/masking than are other image such as Lightroom and Aperture.
Speaking of which, Curry is just as generous with his post-processing instruction as he is with his lighting tips. Even if you have never really used layers and/or combined images, you should be fine.
Much like learning to use speedlights, light painting is a skill that opens up entirely new horizons for still life photographers. But Curry does that one better, usually including people in his images.
As you can imagine, that brings with it a whole new set of problems to solve. To that end, there is a whole section on integrating human subjects into light-painted photos.
People have a tendency to move during the long exposures. Curry gives you tips on both minimizing the movement/light tracking during the exposure and patching up the inevitable (and hopefully small) movements in post.
As they are wont to say in Game of Thrones, winter is coming. And assuming you can bear the cold, those long nights of winter (with no mosquitoes) are ideal for light-painting expeditions.
If you are looking to dip your toe into the waters, you won't find a better guide than Painting with Light. It's available at Amazon for $26.30, where it is already racking up a pile of five-star reviews.
All Photos ©Eric Curry