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Ideas for night photographers at home

Night photographers! Whether you’re staying home because of cloudy skies or less-than-ideal conditions, that doesn’t mean you can’t continue creating photos. Here’s a few ideas we can do while not leaving the house.

Backyard light painting

Night photography with light painting in the back yard!
Night photography with light painting in the back yard with electroluminescent wire!

This first photo of R2D2 above was done in my backyard. I used electroluminescent wire and a little penlight laser to create the lighting as well as a regular LED flashlight. While I did this outside, there’s no reason why you can’t create images like this indoors as well.

Feel The Force while doing night photography in the back yard!
Feel The Force while doing night photography in the back yard!

“There is no try, only do!”

Show some spirit for your sports team with night photography in your back yard!
Show some spirit for your sports team with night photography in your back yard! The ground was lit using electroluminescent wire.

Sports fans can get in on the action as well.

These sorts of images do not need to cost a lot of money or require a lot of setup to do. You may have a lot of the materials in your home already, or at least be able to purchase them inexpensively. You can purchase electroluminescent wire easily on Amazon or elsewhere. It often only costs around $13, not including the battery.

What can I use for light painting?

Although I use a ProtoMachines LED2 for a lot of “light painting,” a light painting device that is fantastic but rather expensive, many of these were photographed before I purchased that. I did many of these with a relatively inexpensive LED flashlight. You can also make snoots or light modifiers easily for either to control the light further.

I photographed the tree in my yard with a Zhiyun LED tube light.

Another sort of light you can use that offers a large, even light would be something like a Zhiyun LED tube light, great for photography or video.

Controlling stray lights in your back yard

Now I am rather lucky in that I have a lot of trees on the periphery of my backyard. It blocks a lot of neighboring lights.

Still, I live in the city, and there are a lot of stray lights from the neighbor’s houses that occasionally manage to sneak their way through the trees and into the camera lens. I try to photograph from a lower perspective so it eliminates most of these lights.

Spider in backyard.
Sometimes you can photograph your friendly nocturnal neighbors, such as this spider, in your backyard!! In this case, I left the porch light on to illuminate some of the spider, and used a headlamp to accentuate the spider.

Still, though, despite my best efforts, some lights still get through. To eliminate these, I sometimes take some dark blankets or paper and hang them from the trees or with some extra stands I have lying around.

I do usually have to go into Photoshop later and darken this a little bit more just to make the background even, but it typically does not take very much effort since I am pulling these back farther from the subject and not shining the light on the blankets. I also prefer to underexpose the background and keep it black as well, which helps immensely.

Creating a special message

And finally, you can “light write” important messages indoors!

I created this photo on New Year’s Eve with Lisa helping out. She did not know that this was going to be a marriage proposal. I set up the camera, had her help out by lighting me with a flash. Then I used “light drawing” to write this message while the camera’s shutter was open for this long exposure photo. I did this only once.

Then I had her look at the LED screen on the back of the camera. She was very surprised! She said yes. I joked and said she had to “light write” her answer.

I had intended to propose in Joshua Tree National Park at night, with the stars in the sky and next to a Joshua Tree. But when we were there, it was 40 degrees and windy. New Year’s Eve it was, inside the warmth of our house!

A special, personal sort of proposal through light writing

I liked that I was able to propose while doing so in a way that was fundamentally me. After all, I am a night photographer. It’s fun to imbue this with my personality and what I love to do.

Being able to create a photo that actually captured the very moment that I proposed as well as creating a fun surprise really illustrates the way that we can create lasting memories — and images — even while inside the home. In fact, it may be that very familiarity that works in your favor. Here, we have an image that makes for a great story and will last a lifetime.

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Rafael Jones

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