Light Painting & Compositing

Being a full-time professional landscape & nature photographer I am almost always dealing with natural light in my photographs unless I am using a camera flash for fill-light on an animal or flower for example.

But over the years I have also done some experimenting with light painting at night using flashlights and off-camera flashes. A new project I began working on for 2016 takes light painting to a new level for me following the purchase of an LED flashlight that allows me to set the exact color, hue, and intensity of the light. This opens up numerous creative possibilities for me.

In order to get the exact colors and light intensities I want in my subject, I am using a tripod and taking multiple photos for each particular part of the photo I want to control, then combining all of those shots together in post processing.

For example, in this photo of an old International truck I have been photographing for years now, I first took a photo exposed for the night sky. Once I was happy with that photo, I started light painting with my LED light. I first set it to a bright red and placed it out of view on the seat of the truck. Making sure I got a good exposure of the interior, I then set it under the truck and changed various light intensities and exposure settings until I got the look I wanted under the truck and behind the tire.

I changed the color of the light to blue for some additional light painting, then set it to a daylight balanced color to give me an overall color-realistic photo of the truck. Next step is on to the digital darkroom to put all the photos together.

My tool of choice for the compositing has long been ON1 Photo 10 due to it’s excellent masking capabilities and ease in moving individual layers back and forth between modules such as Effects to alter each particular layer to my needs. With the amount of control this particular workflow provides me, I am able to achieve the exact look I am after in each individual layer and thus the overall look of the photo I am trying to create.

Take a look at this video and see the steps I used in ON1 Photo 10 to work on each layer to achieve the final look of this photo.

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