The form of light painting has been around since the camera was invented, and only with the growth of technology have I seen an increase in the use of light painting. While there are many forms of light that you can use such as fireworks, LED’s, Glow Sticks and flashlights. However today I am going to show you the difference between using an LED and a Glow Stick.
LED or a Light-emitting diode is a semiconductor light source that uses a small amount of voltage to power it. LED’s come in eight different colors red, orange, yellow, green, blue, violet, purple and white. There are two other LED’s that are in the color spectrum but our eyes cannot see the light they emit, those are infrared and ultraviolet. Most of these LED’s you can buy from your local Radio Shack which is where I purchase mine and they are fairly cheap.
For this demonstration I am using the larger 10mm Ultra-High brightness Red LED, and a 1.5v watch battery. I prefer the larger LED’s because they provide you with the most light, and they are easier to handle then the smaller 3mm or 5mm LED’s. To hook the LED to the watch battery I simply take some black electrical tape and slide the ends of the LED into the tape with the positive leg of the LED on the positive side of the watch battery, as well as the negative sides. To activate the LED I just pinch each side of the LED and go to work. With a few quick movements I was able to pull of this great photo.
Glow sticks are great if you want to add different colors that can provide a glowing effect to your photo. Glow sticks can come in several colors and shades and if you visit your local Dollar Store they are generally cheaper to buy then an LED and a watch battery.
In this photo I was using an shutter speed of 30 seconds, and over the 30 seconds you can see how a glow stick adds a great glow to the models body.
Pro’s and Con’s to LED vs. Glow Sticks
LED’s are great if you want to write words, or if you are looking to add very defined lines to your photograph. Since LED’s output a more lumens then your glow stick, they require less exposure time to the camera. The downside to these is that you have to face the focal point of the LED at the camera which can make your hand turn in strange ways to get the effect you’re looking for. Overall LED’s can cost more than a Glow stick but they can provide you with those defined lines you are looking for.
Glow sticks are cheap, only last maybe 12 hours and emit less light than an LED. However, they can do things that LED’s can’t. For starters they can create a glow effect surrounding them which can give you dramatic shadows or create a mystical glow. Since glow sticks emit less light, you have to decrease your shutter speed greatly. When you do that, you run the risk of appearing in your photograph when you are moving around behind the glow stick. When I did the shoot with the model from the photo above, that happened in several photos and in some cases ruined a fantastic photo.
Overall both LED’s and Glow sticks have their advantages and disadvantages, what you need to decide is what kind of effect are you trying to achieve with your light painting.