Posted by: quilnib | July 9, 2009

How to: Light Writing / Urban Graffiti

Don't worry, it's not nearly this complicated

Don't worry, it's not nearly this complicated

I’ve been getting lots of questions from friends and readers about how I created my light writing images, so I’ve decided to share my knowledge.  I’m doing this for a couple reasons:  I wanted to help other experimental photographers out there with creating new art, I spent far too many sleepless nights taking pictures and learning what works best, and because when I first started looking for information on how to do light writing the best advice I could find was something along the lines of “set your camera on a timer and then use some lights to draw stuff.”  I’m going to go a bit more in-depth for you.

I took my pictures with a Canon Rebel xsi and I generally used the same settings on my camera for each picture.  Here are my settings and why I used them:

F stop: I turned my F-stop (aperature) all the way up (20+ is best), that way my images would have a larger depth of field and more of what the camera saw would be in focus

Shutter speed: What works best is turning your shutter speed all the way down to BULB.  From there you can either push the shutter button once to start the image and then once more to end it, or you can get a small remote for your camera so you don’t have to worry about causing camera shake.

ISO:  In general I recommend trying to keep your ISO at 400 or less, otherwise your images will start to become grainy.

The equipment necessary for your images to be successful is also quite important, Here is what I used along with some advice:

Camera: I used a standard SLR camera (Canon Rebel xsi) with a basic zoom lens.  Light writing is possible with any type of lens, so feel free to try others.

Tripod: A tripod or sturdy surface is absolutely necessary for this type of photography, without it your pictures will never be sharp due to camera shake from your hands.

Remote: To help reduce the chances of causing camera shake by my pressing the shutter button, I used a simple IR remote to open and close the shutter (start and stop the image).

Lights: This was one of the most difficult aspects of light writing and I wasted a lot of money on flash lights and glowsticks that did not work because they were not bright enough to use for urban graffiti (light writing in city/partially lit areas).  I ended up having to make my own lights by soldering together some custom circuits so that I could achieve the colors and brightness that I desired.  The end product was a light that was bright enough to almost instantly give me a migrane when I accidentally shined it into my eyes.

If you are interested, I can send you a kit with all necessary parts and instructions.  The kit includes PC board, solder, wire, blue LEDs, resistors, power connector, switch, novice instructions as well as standard circuit diagram.  The kit is $31.99.  If I had had one of these it would have saved me about $100 in burnt out bulbs and short circuited boards.

Order Here



  1. […] you liked these pictures you may like to read my new How To post for […]

  2. You have a nice site! Great information!

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