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Beginner Photography: Long Exposures

Happy Spring for those of you in this part of the world! It doesn’t feel like it yet, but I can’t wait for it to get warmer and drier so I am motivated to get out and shoot more.

This week’s live show topic is long exposures, which I really hadn’t attempted¬†before. But a month or so back we had a party for my stepson’s birthday and our friends brought sparklers. I thought it would be a great time to try out some impromptu light painting. These wound up being abstracts, which I love, not the intentional kind of light painting that you generally see. Those are a bit more complex and you can learn multiple ways to do it from Tony’s video here:

I think my kids would love to try those as well, so maybe we’ll attempt them in the future.

So all it took to capture these photos¬†was some experimenting with the shutter speed.¬†I took some of just the firecrackers burning, but I didn’t find those too compelling. The ones I liked the best had the eerie ghosting of the kids moving through the frame around the light. Others, I chose to pivot myself while the shutter was open to create light trails.¬†

f/3.6, 5 sec, ISO 640


f/3.6, 3.2 sec, ISO 320


F/3.6, 5 sec, ISO 1000


The first two images I converted to black and white in Lightroom and adjusted the exposure. The colors in the shots weren’t very pleasing and didn’t add anything to them. In the last shot however, I adjusted the white balance to make the yellow lights more blue and thought the abstract look of the whole thing was beautiful.

I thought these were really fun to shoot and I look forward to trying it again, a bit more intentionally next time. 

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Live Show Recap: Light Painting

Hey there! This week we looked at your light painting photos and we got some good ones. And a bunch that were in tunnels.

Click this for joy. Then this to hear Chelsea sing.

Ok, we get into your photos here, these are our faves:

  • Porche. Porsh? Porsha. “Tony Northrup, who pronounces it “Porsh” like an animal”
  • weird HDR ghost town
  • “she’s like the queen of raves
  • Street Fighter
  • skull
  • don’t start a fire, don’t burn down boats
  • “you just said Greg is cooler?” “the cool judge”
  • abstract
  • Tron mask/light babe¬†“when you find a woman like that, you keep her”
  • spooooky couch
  • grainery¬†“You know what would have been great? If they’d light painted a chicken. No big deal, just a chicken.”


  • We tested the¬†Sigma MC-11¬†adapter. It did not go well.
  • Nikon D500¬†is here! Might be the best camera of the year. Keep an eye out for our review.
  • Nikon 200-500
  • Canon T6. Meh. It’s a fine entry level. “Come on guys, you gotta keep up with my mom.”

Over to me with some viewer questions:

  • Why does the camera not like LED? We get that answered by a viewer later. Cheap LEDs blink on and off constantly, so it doesn’t give you consistent light.
  • What was the best food T&C had in Portugal? A sandwich with cheese on top soaked in gravy. Bacalhau.¬†“You just offended all of Portugal”

Now let’s take a look at a viewer’s portfolio! Great images, great layout. Pare down your categories since you don’t have enough images to fill each. Less navigation the better.

Alright, let’s look at some more of your photos:

  • parallelogram” “That’s a trapezoid you noob”
  • “this is what you see when you die”
  • Space Invader! ‘Would you rather have a Pixelstick¬†or a pixie stick the size of a Pixelstick?”
  • “She blinded me with science” “I think it’s an illusion. I’m giving it five stars because I’m confused and disoriented.”
  • LEDsaber
  • FIRE ROPE¬†(please use extreme caution) “You won. You won light painting” “Sorry to everybody else who doesn’t have fire rope.”
  • “sparklers are definitely an outside firework”
  • illuminated rocks
  • real estate

Ok, back to me for some questions:

  • Sony overheating issues?¬†The a6300 overheated for us and wrecked a shoot. A7s has been fine though.

Let’s do some Chit-Chat! Our friend Elias-Emir Mahmood made this cool pop-art logo for us.

  • Tony showed up in a weird futuristic training manual. “Generic business guy”
  • Tony acted.
  • Andre Agassi wore a wig. But before that he had some serious neck beard.
  • Justin explains fire rope. ‘Ok, I sense a tutorial coming up and it’s going to be awesome and probably lethal.”

Ok, let’s blow through some more pictures before we end the show:

And back over to me for a few last questions, my house is very loud:

  • Does music inspire you? “Heck yeah!” “Eh.”
  • What is the connection between programmers and bird photographers? “Just nerds.” Patience, technical stuff. “I don’t believe in that brain stuff.”
  • What’s your experience with vintage lenses, are they viable for videography? None. But if it fits the mood of your video, try it!

And that’s a show! Next week we’ll be looking at fashion photos. Keep an eye out on our blog for some tips!




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How to Create Light Painting Photos

Want to submit your Light Painting Photo to Tony & Chelsea LIVE for review? Watch this weeks episode HERE. It airs Thursday nights at 5pm EST (check your timezone.)

Light Painting

Light painting is manually adding light to a long exposure. During a long exposure (say, 30 seconds,) you can walk through the frame without appearing in the final picture. This gives you the opportunity to walk around a picture and selectively add light wherever you’d like it. To help hide your movements, wear all black.

At its simplest, you might use light painting like a portrait photographer uses strobes‚ÄĒto improve the ambient light by filling in shadows. However, light painting is also a rapidly developing art form where people create amazing pictures using night landscapes and complex, custom-build light contraptions. Though he wasn‚Äôt the first light painter, Pablo Picasso showed the world light painting in 1949 when Life magazine photographer Gjon Mili visited him; Picasso had been inspired when Mili showed him his photos of ice skaters with lights attached to their skates, jumping in darkness.


Light Painting Tips:

  • Long exposure¬†Use bulb mode (learn how to set bulb mode on your camera here) and a remote shutter timer to keep the shutter open for minutes at a time. (Get a cheap remote shutter timer for Canon¬†and Nikon¬†here.)
  • Light source¬†You’ll need something to “paint” with such as a flashlight, glow sticks, or glow wire.
  • Keep moving¬†Whoever is doing the painting needs to keep moving so that they don’t show up in the shot.
  • Don’t set a fire¬†Be responsible out there, kids.

This is a small excerpt from the Night Photography chapter of Stunning Digital Photography. Read more on night photography here.