While working on photos for the family Christmas card, I used a “light painting” technique learned during a Montana Landscape Photography class this fall.  Very simply you use a flashlight to “paint” objects in your image during a long exposure.  It helps create some really dramatic photos with rich colors.

Original Photoshop


Image info:
Canon 40D, Canon EF 24-70 L series lens, Focal length 34mm, large JPEG

f16, 30 seconds, ISO 100, color temp set at 3000K

The scene setup:
Camera is set up on a tripod about 25 feet from the tree.  Foreground basket and greenery is about 3 ft from the camera.  Middle ground Santa, snowman, and Christmas cat is about 6-7 ft from camera.  The Christmas tree is about another 12 ft from the Santa and snowman.

Setting the camera
With the large depth of field (F16) I focused on the snowman, which is 1/3rd of the way into my image.  Remember to also set your camera on timer so you have time to get into “painting” position.  You will also need to be sure your “painting” position is not inside the framing of your image.

Painting the scene
I used a single penlight (Adjusted to a spotlight beam.  Tungsten light works best to keep colors true.) to light paint the details in the foreground and middle ground characters. I was very careful not to paint in the bottom of the photo where there were some distractions. (paint what you want the viewer to see. Don’t paint what you don’t want them to see) The exposure had to be just right for the tree lights and the power of the flashlight. All the other lights in the room were out.  It took me about 6 tries to get this image.

Some extras in Photoshop
The painterly effect was created with a Photoshop plugin called Topaz Adjust.

All thru this process my wife was sitting in the recliner behind the santa figure. She never knew what was going on. At one point when she saw me pointing the flashlight she said, “what in the world are you doing?” HAA! or maybe HO HO HO!

I will use this image as the cover of our Christmas card with text overlaying the image on the bottom. Other images produced with the light painting technique will be used inside the card. The finished product will be a press printed card.

I learned the light painting techniques while studying this fall with Dave Black, who is an independent photographer from Colorado Springs.


He has a great web site. Here is the link to his creative lighting portfolio that contains several of his light painting images: http://www.daveblackphotography.com/creative-lighting-portfolio


Here are a couple of the other images that I did using the same light painting techniques.


For the Christmas season, here are two great links from the LA Times about creative photography techniques during the holidays.






Merry Christmas everyone!