How To

Making light dance

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While I was trying to take some pictures of my friend taking pictures of himself that I've been reminded that motion + slow shutter speeds + flash = cool effects. Very cool effects actually.

Here is the basic recipe to get light dancing in your photo while still getting a clear photo of your friend. It may not work for every camera, but mostly it should be fine.

1. If your camera has any night mode or manual mode or shutter priority mode, you want to engage that first. For manual mode and shutter priority, try setting the camera to expose for 1 or 2 seconds.

2. Turn on the flash.

3. Find a place where it is dim and there are some light sources in the background. A TV is best because its a colourful light source.

4. Trip the shutter and move the camera. Any motion that is present when the camera is recording will result in lights streaking in the frame. It is important that you keep the camera pointed at your subject, especially when the flash fires! You could experiment with turning the camera, panning it, moving it in circles or just jiggling it. Be creative, try everything.

The light streaks are the result of the light sources in the background 'moving' around in the frame while the camera is exposing the frame. The subject will be relatively clear and sharp thanks to your flash providing ample illumination and because the flash duration is very short, it will freeze the subject at that moment. So your subject does not turn into a blur streak. Some cameras have this slow sync mode, you can try that too!

These are the kind of pictures that does not require you to be perfect with framing, lighting or even focus. It's just plain fun. As you experiment with the range of motion and seeing the results on the camera's display screen, you'll have a better idea of how to get different effects. Then you can work it to get the kind of effect that you like most. Once you have mastered that, you could do it whenever and wherever, as long as it's dark enough that the camera (or you) can set a longer exposure time.

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1 response

  • Richard Seah

    Richard Seah gave props (25 Jan 2009):

    Great "recipe". Die die must try :D

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