Drawing in dark photography tutorial

From the 2008 archive.

If you really want to take pictures at night and can't go outside, play with your camera in your room using lights. Here's a nice tutorial I made.

It's been a while since I posted. I was on a Holiday and it was great. I came back with a lesser sunburn and a lot of good memories. The best thing is also I'm very motivated for work and to write/blog. So here's a tutorial I wanted to make for quite some time now.

I while ago, I got really bored in the middle of the night, I couldn't sleep and I wanted to take pictures. Some useful ones. Which is hard to do in the dark. So I remembered the fireworks I shot recently and got a pretty good idea. I'll make my own "fireworks".

I've set my tripod in the middle of the room and pointed it in the opposite direction of the window to the wall. I used the window shutters to make the room even darker, not too dark since I didn't want to trip over my tripod, where my Nikon D80 was mounted on.

To draw light in the dark I needed some light, not too bright. I used one of those lights that are on a lighter (since I don't smoke I borrowed one from my friend). Also wearing black helps to put you out of the picture. It depends on what you want to make, though. If you want only the drawings to appear, wear black.

If you want to have random lines of light on your face, hand, foot etc. seen here and there, you have to make them appear using the light I mentioned before. Only point at them for a period of time. You will get that ghostly look/effect with this.

Next step is setting your camera right. I played a bit with it at first. I used the MANUAL option with these settings:

  • I started at the shutter speed of 3 seconds. So I only had time to draw for 3 seconds. If I needed more time I'd use a bigger shutter speed, but I'd also make the room darker if possible.
  • The aperture was 3.5 which was my lowest on this Nikkor kit lens i use.
  • I've set the ISO to 100 since i didn't want noise. I will be using these pics on a wallpaper and for graphic design so i want them as clean as possible.

Next step was kinda fun. I had to spell my name in 3 seconds. The first couple of tries I ran out of "space" since I was drawing the text too big. Here's what it looked like:

drawing in dark photography

Notice the problem? I started writing from the middle. Here's how it looks the right way:

photography in dark

The other thing you may notice is that it's mirrored. Don't worry, you won't have to draw mirrored so the text appears normal and can be readable from left to right. You can use the function in a photography program like in Photoshop i use Image -> Rotate Canvas -> Flip Canvas Horizontal. This way it's waaay easier to draw :) And here's the result:


Yep, I spelt my name :) You could also start to dance like crazy and get some random lines like the picture below. For an even better effect, you could use more than one light and different colours.

photography random lines in dark

Another thing is lighting your face. Each angle you use to light it you will get a different effect/feel to it. Try it out, here's one of mine, Shutter speed 3 seconds, ISO - 100:

Ghost effect

Also if you light your face, you have different options to do it. If you want them sharp, you'll need to put your shutter speed to a faster setting and the ISO up, you'll lose the ghost effect with this, though. Shutter speed - 1/10, ISO-800:

Demon, scary photo

The angle you choose can make your face really serious or scary looking. Also, try to experiment with the expressions on your face.

I think that's all for this tutorial. The next one will be about how to use these images to design yourself a sweet wallpaper. :) So see you tomorrow.

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