An Explanation of the Flashlight Technique

Thread starter #1
I've been ask to explain how to do the flashlight photos, so
I'll do my best to give detailed instructions without being to confusing.

What you will need:
First, You will need a camera with the ability to be set
to manual mode so that you can set your aperture and shutter speed.
It will help to use the self-timer feature if available, but it is not a requirement.
More to come on that.
You will need a tripod for the camera and something to hold your subject.
You CAN do this outside at night, but I would recommend setting up for the shot indoors in a completely dark room.
A Flashlight. Any flashlight will do, but a small one works the best and can be kept in your camera bag.
After showing this technique to FeralOne, He tried it and after seeing his results using an LED White light,
I am convinced they are the best and produce the best color.
An important note about the flashlight itself:
It is best to have one that utilizes a switch that activates the light when
you push it in and goes off automatically when you let off.
If it's the click in and click again to turn it off will make it more difficult.

I will use a flower in this tutorial, but you can shoot many things this way.

First, You will want to pose the flower and set-up your camera, so
that you can fill the frame.
I have found that a slight turn to the left or right gives you the best results, because
you can really get good illumination of the inside that way.

Next, Let's set-up the camera for the shot.
I like to use f16-22 to ensure full depth of field. Then you will want a shutter speed that
allows you enough time to shine the light on your flower from different angles.
For one flower, I use 10 seconds. For two, I lengthen it to 15 or 20 seconds.

If you have a self-timer on your camera turn it on. This will allow you some time after pressing the shutter button to
get ready after you turn off the lights.

NOTE: I set my tripod close to the light switch for easy access and try and have
a lot of room behind my subject so that nothing gets lit up will making the shot.

NOW! Let's take the photo (Or 40):bounce:

1. While the light in the room is on, frame and focus on the flower.
( If you are outside in the dark, use your flashlight to light up the flower while you focus.)

2. If you are using a self timer, press the shutter button all the way down and then turn off the light.
If you are not using a self timer, after achieving focus, turn off the light and THEN press the shutter button down.

3. Light the flower!
If you are not using a timer start this process immediately.

If you are using a self timer, calmly move into a comfortable position and wait to hear the shutter open.
(You can even use this time to practice shooting the light before the shutter opens)
Once you hear the shutter open, It's time to shine some light on your subject.

I prefer to start by holding the flashlight over the flower at close range and
giving it one quick blast of light down inside the flower.
This will give it the effect of glowing like a lampshade.
I then raise the flashlight up and away from
the flower and give it three to four quick burst of light from different angles. (This will eliminate any shadowing from stems or what not.)

I then quickly move the flashlight to a position behind and below the flower and
give it 2,3,or4 quick bursts of light, again from different angles.

The key is to take a bunch of photos and review each one after shooting them.
It won't take you long to see where you are putting too much light and
where you are not giving it enough.

Hope this sheds some light on the subject:rofl::rofl::rofl:

I know F1 is pretty busy at the moment, but maybe he can give you his version before we stick this.


Senior Member
Hope this sheds some light on the subject
Yep, I think it did... I'll put a link to this technique up the top sticky as well...

One thing to add - this technique is also called "painting with light" because you move the light in little swirls or smooth overlapping strokes just like you would a spray gun.

It is also done on whole other scales - teams of "light painters" using BIG spotlights (sometimes with colored filters) painting cliffs, rocks, seascapes, buildings, trees...

I've been out on 2 "painting with light" expeditions where big spotlights were used - both of those expeditions involved 75+ photographers at a nature photography event. In one case, a lot of photographers set up, and 8 or 10 "painters" painted the dark side of a building.

Some pretty neat stuff!!
Thread starter #3
Great addition Rip. Yes, It is called painting with light.
I first learned the technique from a fellow who shot trains at night by lighting them with a spotlight.


Thanks for the tutorial DRB. Yep, Rip this one definitely needed to be linked at the top so it's easy to find when someone wants to try it out.



Senior Member
What you will need:
First, You will need a camera with the ability to be set
to manual mode so that you can set your aperture and shutter speed.

Great job DRB...sounds like fun!
I'll be comming back to this one once I am able to upgrade.


Shutter Mushin' Mod
you nailed it drb . great explanation !!! my light does not have a push and hold switch but i have learned to put my thumb over the end and just let a sliver of light out or more depending on where or how much i want . it works pretty good for me that way but it ain't the easiest !!! thanks for taking the time to write this up !!!


Retired Woody's Mod 7/01-12/09
Nice tutorial DRB, detailed and well written, thanks for sharing it:cool: