Painting with Light

After almost an hour of trial and error, and an impressive amount of patience from all of my cousins and sisters, we finally succeeded in creating some cool painting with light images. I still wouldn’t say that I have mastered it by any means, but we did come up with a strategy that works for now!


Here is the reference I used as a starting point:

 Camera Settings (I was using my Canon Mark III): 

  •  Set up my camera and on camera flash (600EX-RT) on a tripod.
  • Select an area for people to stand, get them in focus, and mark the spot (because we were doing multiple shots with people in and out of the photos – if you’re just doing one image you don’t need to do this)
  • Turn the auto focus to manual on your lens (I was using a 50mm - but I would recommend a wide angle in the future)
  • Shutter speed 10 – 30 seconds – on the basis of the length of the word / drawing (other people suggested bulb, which would also work)
  • Bring the flash up to +3 Exposure and zoom it (mine was at 135mm, but you may need to do some test shots - and I think a 2nd off camera flash would have improved the quality of the images)
  • Aperture at 11+


  • Have everyone get in position and have the person on the far right (from the perspective of the photographer looking at the people) hold a sparkler – leave space on the right for “writing”
  • Light the sparkler
  • Once everyone is ready, with the sparker lit, press the shutter and the flash will go off and freeze the people in the image
  • Have someone take the sparker from the person holding it and “write” in the air (or the person holding it can flip around and write themselves), while the other people exit the photo. The shutter will still be open during this time.
  • Make sure you don’t bring the sparkler over the area where the people were standing in the image when you’re “writing”, unless you intend to write over them.
  • Make sure that your body is not in-between the sparkler trail and the camera – writer should stand further right than the sparkler.


Coppola Family

Kelsey's painting project

Burnside Family

Tara's painting project

Zanett Family

Technical Difficulties

  • Ambient Light – when we tried to have our subjects stay in the frame while people were writing with the sparkler, the ambient light caused a motion blur. With them running out of the photo, the focus was much better, but we did experience some ghosting in the images.
  • Smoke – If the sparkler is lit too far in advance the smoke will end up in the image when the flash goes off. Try to light the sparkler and shoot the photo as fast as possible afterwards.
  • Writing - we had some trouble writing within the allotted space or accidentally getting in front of the writing

Ambient Light causing motion blur

Blocking the "writing", motion blur, and going outside the frame

If you have any tips and tricks for writing with light, please feel free to share! 

XoXo -