Discover The Magic Of Black-Light Photography
Photography week|September 23, 2021
Learn how to combine ultraviolet light and neon body paint to create incredible glowing portraits

1 DAY

Black-light photography involves shooting a subject under ultraviolet light. To the naked eye, these lights appear to emit very little illumination: that’s because the bluish UV light is at the limits of the visible spectrum, so much of the output is invisible to us. But this UV light can cause white or neon colours to produce visible light, giving it a glow that looks amazing when used in conjunction with body painting.

We booked a model and a makeup artist, and hired a couple of UV LED battens for our black-light shoot. But you don’t necessarily need to spend lots on this, as you can achieve similar results on a shoestring budget – both body paint and UV lights or bulbs can be purchased relatively cheaply online. Then all you need is a willing subject, a paintbrush, and a dark space to get creative in. The main challenge is to overcome the low light, so all the usual lowlight techniques come in to play. You may need to use a high ISO, a long exposure, a tripod, a wide aperture – or a combination of these – to overcome the problem of crafting a usable exposure in low light.

We’ll explain how it’s all done here, from setting up the scene and camera to applying the glowing paint to your subject.

THE SETUP BLACK-LIGHT PORTRAITS

1 UV LIGHT

Ultraviolet light causes the pigments in phosphorescent paint to glow. We used two UV LED battens to illuminate our paints and subject, which we hired from a party supplies company. Low-cost ultraviolet lights and bulbs are available online too.

2 BODY PAINT

Phosphorescent body paint can also be bought online – search for ‘UV body paint’. As well as normal paints, you can also find mascara, nail varnish, hair spray and more. The brand we used and recommend is Moon Glow (www.mooncreations.com).

3 TRIPOD

UV lights have quite a low output, so you might need to lower your shutter speed to get a usable shot. A tripod or monopod lets you drop your shutter speed down as low as 1/30 sec; shooting any slower increases the risk of motion blur in your subject.

4 CAMERA

Continue reading your story on the app

Continue reading your story in the magazine

MORE STORIES FROM PHOTOGRAPHY WEEKView All

SONY ALPHA 7 IV

Not just another affordable all-rounder, but a real powerhouse

7 mins read
Photography week
December 02, 2021

FEIYUTECH LAUNCHES NEW RANGE OF PRO GIMBALS

Scorp and Scorp Pro are designed for videographers, vloggers and influencers

1 min read
Photography week
December 02, 2021

HOW TO... MULTIPLY YOUR PIXELS

Explore Super Resolution, and double your image size with this AI-powered tool

1 min read
Photography week
December 02, 2021

THE TIGER KINGS

Learn how to capture dramatic big cat photos on a UK safari, as a keen wildlife photographer gets a masterclass from pro Ben Hall

10+ mins read
Photography week
December 02, 2021

A DAZZLING DISPLAY

Mike Harris shows you how to capture an autumn landscape and use colour grading techniques to enhance the russet tones

3 mins read
Photography week
December 02, 2021

THE EARTHLY LOCATIONS THAT LOOK LIKE ANOTHER PLANET

Photographer finds interstellar inspiration in dramatic landscapes of Namibia and Iceland

1 min read
Photography week
December 02, 2021

XPOSURE

THE WEEK’S MOST INSPIRING READER PHOTOS

1 min read
Photography week
December 02, 2021

LEE FILTERS ANNOUNCES THE CIRCULAR BIG STOPPER

New LEE Elements range features round versions of five popular filters

1 min read
Photography week
November 11, 2021

HOW TO... MASTER SHADOWS AND HIGHLIGHTS

This powerful tool has more to it than meets the eye, and it’s ideal for landscapes

1 min read
Photography week
November 11, 2021

LIFESTYLE PHOTOGRAPHY

Professional photographer Jordan Banks takes us through the process of capturing unique lifestyle images, and keeping clients happy

10+ mins read
Photography week
November 11, 2021