Abstract light-painted portraits
PhotoPlus : The Canon Magazine|January 2022
Paint incredible portraits using a fibre-optic brush with James Paterson
James Paterson
THE MISSION

Use a fibre-optic light brush and torch to create colourful portraits

Time needed 45 minutes

Skill level Intermediate

Kit needed

• Tripod

• Torch

• Coloured gels

• Black backdrop

• Fibre-optic light brush

Light painting isn’t a technique you’d normally associate with portraiture, but with a few simple skills you can create fantastically surreal people photos. You don’t need lots of gear for this either, just a tripod, a dark room, a willing subject, and a torch or other light-emitting device you can use to ‘paint’ with.

When it comes to choosing a light source for your painting, there are all sorts of torches, light wands and dedicated tools out there. But one of the most interesting is a fibre-optic brush. This is a technique inspired by the portraits of Gunnar Heilmann, who uses a fibre-optic light brush to incredible effect. The fibres split the beam from a normal torch into lots of tiny points of light that look wonderful when brushed and flicked over the course of a long exposure. We bought our brush from rigu.co.uk for only £25.

Painting with the brush is rather addictive, as you can get a variety of results depending on whether you stroke across the face, dab it onto the skin or shine the light around your subject.

Whether capturing faces or any type of subject, the basics of light painting are the same. We’ll show you how to get set up for light painting by choosing the right exposure settings and controlling the light. It’s a fun technique that’s perfect for a dark evening at home. Although you might want to close the curtains, as brushing a friend’s face with a torch in the dark might attract a few strange looks from the neighbours!

PROJECT 1

THE SET-UP CREATE PORTRAITS IN THE DARK

Prepare for light-painting with a dark room, a willing subject and a fibre-optic brush

01 TRIPOD Whether light painting a person or any other object you need to use an exposure that lasts at least a few seconds in order to give you time to move the torch through the scene. As such, a tripod is vital to keep the camera still throughout the exposure.

02 SELF TIMER Any stray light from the fibre-optic brush will show up in your exposure, so be in position with the brush on the face before you press the shutter. If you’re shooting this alone then use the camera’s self timer or a wireless release to trigger the shutter.

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