This week I tried tabletop light painting. I followed Caryn Esplin’s how-to on this and I highly recommend doing the same. It was straight-forward and easy to follow along.

Still life painting inspiration

A lot of what I looked up for light painting looked like still life paintings. So that’s where I drew a lot of my fine art inspiration from.

Tabletop light painting still life painting mood board by Merritt J. Jones

Tabletop light painting still life painting mood board by Merritt J. Jones

For the first several photos I tried to recreate still life paintings with what I had on hand. I realize that I really enjoy trying to mimic things, and I think I did a great job with the still life painting “technique,” without the paint of course.

Table Top Light Painting Results

A little background to why I have two of the same still life light painting images. The second picture is actually the first one I took. I lit the candle and, in a way, it did its own form of light painting on the pumpkins. The only problem is it blew everything else out of proportion when it came to the softer lighting you see in all those still life paintings. I still needed the long exposure to light paint with a flashlight, so I Photoshopped the candle from the second image on top of the first image.

Tabletop light painting image by Merritt J. Jones

Tabletop light painting image by Merritt J. Jones

Tabletop light painting image by Merritt J. Jones

Tabletop light painting image by Merritt J. Jones

For these next two images, they aren’t as similar to all the other light paintings because it looks like I just have a one-directional light source. This was because I didn’t move around a whole lot in front of the camera. I did move my flashlight around the objects, but just from the same angle. The Sewing Machine is where I did the most angles. I achieved that look by standing on one side of the table and moving the flashlight around the tabletop, then switching and doing the same thing but on the other side.

Tabletop light painting image with milk by Merritt J. Jones

Tabletop light painting image with milk by Merritt J. Jones

Tabletop light painting image with apples by Merritt J. Jones

Tabletop light painting image with apples by Merritt J. Jones

Tabletop light painting image of Sewing Machine by Merritt J. Jones

Tabletop light painting image of Sewing Machine by Merritt J. Jones

Long exposure setup shot

For long exposure tabletop light painting, you’ll need a flashlight. The closer you get with the flashlight, the more saturated the light will be when you’re painting. Here I have my sewing machine image setup, but with my camera position, this is how it was setup for all of my shots.

I used a Nikon D3200 with a 55-200mm lens since that’s the only one I have at the moment. According to Caryn Esplin’s blog, a 50mm is probably a good lens for this project. As with any long exposure images, use a tripod so the photos don’t come out blurry.

You’ll see this if you end up going to Caryn Esplin’s page, but my settings were ISO 100 — but I switched to 200 halfway through since my camera struggles with low light situations. My shutter speed was 30 seconds, and my aperture was f.11 — I played with f.13 for a couple of the later shots and that ended up being ok too.

Tabletop light painting setup shot

Tabletop light painting setup shot

Even when it was dark outside, I had to keep the tapestry tapped to the wall so our outside apartment light wouldn’t leek inside through the blinds. This wasn’t a problem for my other tabletop fine art images since I had a tighter frame, but it definitely helped in creating an interesting still life painting image.