We Simplify The Technical!

Have you ever wondered how to creatively light up your subject at night?

Learn to play with light and get incredible images with light painting tips

and techniques from David Sussman.

David Sussman light painting ghost

Light Painting Tips and Techniques
with David Sussman

Light Painting

  • A long exposure technique that uses a light source to “paint” your subject with light while in a dark environment.
  • Done with the camera in manual and RAW on a steady tripod.
  • This technique helps to eliminate shadows on your subject or create abstract images with streaking light.
  • Adding more light helps the exposure build upon itself.


Trial and Error

  • This technique is not exact. The best way to figure out how much light to add is by trial and error.
  • Start in a controlled environment such as a studio to learn the technique.
  • After each try, check your image on your screen – modify your technique or settings and try again.
  • Try to light your subject without lighting up the background – keep it distant.
  • Don’t forget to snuff the light when you’re finished painting!

 “Ambient light is always going to be an issue to some degree.”


  • Almost any source of light can be used for light painting.

     – Flashlights of varying strengths and colors

        – Check the color temperature of the bulb – some extremely powerful flashlights have a temp of 7000K or higher.  This creates a bluish cast that may not balance with other lights in the area. (This can be fixed in post-processing)

        – Color-balanced flashlights are usually at 3000K.

     – Strobe lights (use one that recharges quickly and make sure to have fresh batteries)

     – Speed-lights – just pop the test button!

     – Fiber optic brushes

     – Plexiglass/acrylic paddles

     – Steel wool on a string (be sure to remain a safe distance from anything flammable!)

     – Sparklers

     – Even toys that light up are fair game!

  • A good sturdy tripod.
  • A shutter release cable – to trigger the camera without creating camera shake.
  • A camera that can be set in “bulb” or long exposure mode.
  • Black clothing – lets you move around in front of the lens with your light source without being seen.


“Don’t get frustrated!  Play with it and enjoy the process!”



  • Portraits
  • Fireworks and Lightning
    • ISO 200, f/11
    • Let the image build with multiple bursts or strikes layered over one another in a long exposure.
    • Take multiple (shorter) long exposures and stack/merge them in post-processing to avoid unwanted smoke from fireworks in your images.
    • Use a wide lens (14-35mm) to capture the whole area of the sky being lit up.
    • Set your focus to manual and push it out to Infinity – this will make everything beyond 50’ sharp.
  • Cars – streaking taillights (NOT headlights!)
    • Start at dusk.
    • Keep tripod low.
    • Long exposure (15 sec) @ ISO 200, f/8
  • For large projects, get a buddy to help run either the camera or the lights.
  • Large areas can be tricky to light evenly without missing sections or overlapping areas.
  • For larger subjects, a broader light source is better.


Finding David

DWSussman.com (the business end)

Facebook (for more fun stuff)


Other Episodes Mentioned

Episode 13 with David Sussman

Episode 121 Camera Traps with Andrew West

Understand Photography

General Notes

What you need to learn for a solid photography education.  Watch our free video:


Upcoming Trips:
St. Augustine – April 11-14, 2019
Florida’s Forgotten Coast – May 13-17,  2019
Women’s Photography Weekend, Naples – June 7 – 9, 2019
Tuscany Ladies Photo Workshop and Tour – 
Sept 28 – Oct 5, 2019

New Book!  Peggy Farren and Joe Fitzpatrick have published a book highlighting Florida’s Best Photo Spots!

Florida Photo Spots: Naples and Collier County by [Farren, Peggy, Fitzpatrick, Joe]

Understand Photography is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com.

David Sussman Light Painting North Slough
David Sussman Fireworks Punta Gorda 2016 from the water
David Sussman Bayshore Live Oak Park
David Sussman DownTownTwilight
David Sussman Laser Laboratory Light Painting

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