Flashlight photography is a technique that many photographers are driven to these days. The use of flashlights in photography opens a new door of creativity for the photographer. When done correctly, LED flashlights can mimic natural lights and create effects not possible in Photoshop. Also, flashlight photography can be used to “paint” light across an image. This is done by using your camera’s long shutter speed setting and sweeping the light from a flashlight across the scene. In order to take advantage of this kind of photography you will need the right kind of cameras.
Cameras for Flashlight Photography
The single-lens reflex, or SLR, is a type of camera made specifically for use with different film types. The SLR has a mirror on the inside of it which moves when you take a picture so the photographer is able to see the same image the camera does. What makes it so great for flashlight photography is the fact that you can adjust the shutter speed to a long shutter speed, perfect for LED light painting.
The digital single-lens reflex camera, or D-SLR, has the same capabilities of the SLR camera, only it doesn’t use film. Instead, the D-SLR relies on a digital light sensor to capture images onto a memory card. You can also adjust the shutter speed for LED light painting.
Using these cameras with macro lights or LED flashlights for nature photography can create some interesting images. Flashlights have an incredible flexibility in that they allow the light source to be controlled at the photographer’s will. This opens up whole new avenues for creative exploration.
Natural Flashlight Photography
With flashlight photography your creativity can run wild. Flashlights can be combined with other flashlights, camera lights, or ambient lights, to achieve experimental effects. For instance, try using the built in flash of your camera along with an evening flashlight held in front with no direct sunlight. This can add a natural warmness that means the difference between a dull picture and an interesting one. Also, different white balances through different colored gels or color conversion filters in front of white LED lights can simulate several different white balances of naturally occurring sunlight.
With macro, the subject to lens distance is much closer than usual, which allows for the flashlight to be held closer to the subject without being seen in the frame. This method achieves the desired effect in spot lighting photography sessions. Using LED flashlights you can get a cool aesthetic white balance that is perfect for mimicking and/or enhancing night shots. Also, using LED lights you can add subtle touches to your photo, such as “painting” an object with light so that it looks natural; something not capable of being done through an ordinary camera flash.
LED Light Painting
Adding LEDs to your photography is a great way to enhance your pictures. LED lights tend to be on the small side, and don’t give off a whole lot of light. This means that you will need a lot of LED lights to get the picture quality you desire. It just so happens that LED lights are probably closest to the cheapest things on the planet, so you can get dozens of them for just a dollar or so.
Also, LED lights are very small. This means that they are wonderfully hard lighting sources. This is because the light of LED flashlights is extremely focused, so they are great for placing flat on the ground in order to light up the bottom of an object or some other straightforward part. However, if you need LED lighting going upward then you can stack LEDs on top of each other in tripod fashion.
Another way to use LED flashlights is to make a Velcro hook strap that wraps around the lens of your camera (use self-adhesive Velcro). Allow two extra centimeters slack for attaching some loop Velcro. This will create a Velcro strap once you connect the loop side to the hook side with the adhesive side facing outwards. Next, attach the LED lights to the adhesive side one LED at a time until you cover the entire strap, and voila! You now have your very own LED lighting source for pointing LED light directly at objects and you hardly spent a dime.
[ photo by WagsomeDog ]