Light Painting

Create glowing artworks in mid-air with this photography activity. Using simple, familiar technology, this activity introduces students to light and long-exposure photography. Explore the wondrous relationship between science and art as you swirl, spin and shake your way to illuminated paintings.

You will need:

Fairy-lights, torch or finger lights / iPhone or SLR / tripod or a steady hand / a dark room / enthusiasm

How to:

1. Download a long exposure app on your phone, such as Easy Long Exposure Camera or Slow Shutter
2. Get your lights! Coloured lights and fairy-lights work really well but you can also use a use a torch.
3. Set up your camera or phone. If you don’t have a phone stand, tape your phone to something stable or ask someone to hold it very still. Turn off the lights.
4. Start a long exposure photo and move your lights around in the dark.
Make some shapes and have some fun.
Check out your photos!

Light painting by children. Photo by Rosina Possingham
Children in front of their light painting, credit Tony Lewis
Light painting by children. Photo by Rosina Possingham

How Does it Work?

The long exposure time allows the camera to capture the light’s movement. It is like seeing the action of a video over time in one still photo.

Hot Tips
  • Try it at night – the darker the room the brighter the light will appear

  • Make your camera extra still – tape your phone to a chair or buy a phone tripod and remote


Questions to Discuss:

  • What is light? Watch this video for a quick introduction to light and discuss.

  • Where do different light sources come from? How many can you come up with? e.g. flashlight, flame etc.

  • What does dark / darkness mean? After discussing read these definitions

    • absence of light or illumination

    • absence of moral or spiritual values

    • having a dark or somber colour d) How does darkness make you feel? Why? e) How does light make you feel? Why?

  • How does the dark make you feel? Why?

  • How does light make you feel? Why?

Further Activities:

  • Research long exposure photography

    • Did you know that the first photos were long exposure photos? People had to sit very still for a long time to have their photo taken.

    • Make a collage or Pinterest board of your favourite long exposure and light painting photos.

  • Write your name in light (it is easiest to do this ne letter at a time and then join the photos with an editing app or by printing them and glueing them together)

  • Print a light photo and make it into a card – write a note to a friend or family member and send them the card.

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