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Light Painting with Smartphones

If you are interested in photography then you must have come across light painting. Light Painting is a beautiful effect which is achieved leaving the camera shutter remain open for several seconds. During this time, a light source is moved around or manipulated in some way. The result is a ‘trace’ of light on the picture, which gives rise to the term “light painting” as you can literally paint with light!

Galaxy S3 Light Painting - Samsung Geeks

Best Settings to use for Light Painting

To achieve the shots in this blog post, we used a digital SLR camera and:

1) Long exposure times: minimum 6~10 seconds

2) Low ISO settings: 100-400

3) Low F-Stop settings (though a bit higher if you have a very bright/close light source). We used f/3.5~f/5 for these shots.

Light Painting with Smartphones - Samsung Geeks

Best Light Source for Light Painting?

We’ve found that smartphones and tablets are the best source of light to use in light painting. To make the shots you see here, we used the Galaxy S3. Smartphones are bright, clear, and you can adjust what the screen displays to suit the effect you want to achieve.

They are also extremely dynamic, and allow you to change the colour you want to paint with quickly and easily. You could use an App like Color Flashlight or something equivalent to quickly paint with different colours, as we did in this embarrassing attempt to light-paint the Olympic rings (you can spot a transition between the yellow and white rings).

Galaxy S3 Light Painting Hand - Samsung Geeks

What we have found to be most effective is to use pictures or images with different colours and tones. Dots or lines of colour work really well too – you can achieve a fantastic streak effect or a liquid-like flow of colour through the air. It’s great fun to do, and the outcome can be marvellous:

Galaxy S3 Light Painting Olympic Rings - Samsung Geeks

More uses for Smartphones/Tablets with Light painting

If you want to use your smart device in an even more creative way, you could look into an App like Dr. Light or Light Painting, Light Graph to write 2D and 3D text or even draw pictures using some very clever algorithms. You input the text or bitmap image, and the clever software does some maths and allows you paint light images with your device simply by moving it from left to right. Check out this inspiring video by Samsung Mobiler Duane Harrison where you can see this sort of thing in action.

There are also a few Apps there which are able to simulate a long-exposure on your smartphone’s camera. Camera Streak is one such App, which takes multiple shots and cleverly combines them together to give a similar (but not perfect) long-exposure effect. The cameras on smartphones are nowhere near good enough to be able to do this kind of photography without such clever trickery.

Galaxy S3 Light Painting - Vortex - Samsung Geeks


Let us know how you get on with your light-painting and please link us to your pictures in the comments! We’d love to see them!

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