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Long Exposure / Light Painting – Canon Rebel Xti

I know it’s a little late to be talking about the Rebel Xti. It’s been around for as long as Moses has and almost everyone’s already done a review.

But the main reason for this article is basically to show you how you can do stuff like this with the Rebel Xti.
(This Photo courtesy Abduzeedo – Photograph by Christopher Hibbert)

Light Painting is basically the art of taking long exposure shots to get the desired effect. It’s basically as simple as putting your camera in one place, giving it’s shutter a manual timer and then just standing back to watch the fun.

Here’s a break down of how exactly you can achieve some of these stunning effects with minimal effort. Of course, I take no responsibility of the outcome, mainly because it takes some practice, some skill and a lot of patience.

Lets start with Light Photography and then we’ll move onto Long Exposure shots.

Things you will need:

  1. An SLR. (I’m using the Canon EOS 400D, though any camera with a variable aperture setting and manually adjustable shutter speed will do.)
  2. A tripod
  3. A Torch, laser light or any other kind of portable light source.
  4. A dark room (Only if you want to achieve something like in the picture above.)

You first set the camera up on a tripod, you’ll need this to make sure that the camera doesn’t shake when the shutter’s open. The recomended settings for the camera would be to use a very low ISO, most people suggest setting it to ISO 100. The aperture settings should be set to a high number (smaller aperture size). Anywhere between f8-f11 should work and set the shutter timer to about 10-15 seconds, depending on what you want to paint. I normally work with 15 seconds, but if you want something more complex, like the 2nd photograph above, you might need to set it to about 30-40 seconds. You can also use a shutter release cable and hold it open indefinitely so you have all the time in the world to paint, but if you’re a beginner I would just recommend sticking to about 15 seconds or so till you get the hang of it.

Once you’re all setup, just think up a topic and you’re good to go!
Note: For most camera’s you’ll have to set the mode to manual to be able to adjust the shutter speed.

This same technique can also be used to take some really awesome long exposure photographs. The fundamentals are the same; Tripod, very slow shutter speed, a place with a lot of light.

Here are a few examples of what you can do:



If any of you have any experience with Light Painting or Long exposure shots and want to share tips or your photographs, please leave us a comment.


  1. Hello, I am the photographer who shot \”Love\”, the second light painting.
    My photos are under copyright, please add my name or delete it.
    Good article by the way. Thank you.

    1. Hi Christopher,

      Thanks for the comment. I’ve notified the author. He’ll edit the post and make the necessary changes.

      Sorry for the trouble.

    2. Hi Christopher,

      Sorry about not adding your name. I figured adding a link to your post on Abduzeedo was enough.

      It’s a lovely shot.

      Let me know if it’s OK now.


  2. Hey Esther,

    Setting the shutter timer depends on which camera you’re using and which model.

    In most cases it’s pretty simple. If you go through your owner’s manual it tells you how to set the camera to manual mode.

    Once it’s set to manual you can adjust the shutter timing.
    If you gave us an idea of what camera you’re using we’d be able to give you a better idea of how to fiddle around with the settings.

    For a Canon 400D, you set the camera to Manual by moving the mode dial to M, then you can adjust the shutter speed by moving the main dial around.

  3. Hey im going to try this technique for my art foundation degree Just wondering do u use the flash at the start if you are using models in the shot? Then draw/paint your light drawing whilst the model stays perfectly still? Im new to this Thanks in advance


    1. Hi Dan,

      The trick is not to use the flash as it will light up the entire frame.

      You want to set a long exposure so that only natural light is captured over a period of time to get the ‘Light Painting’ effect.

      You can have your models stand still and set the shutter time to whatever you chose, this will mostly depend on what you want to paint or draw.

      You may have to play around with the aperture and iso to get the right kind of shot, but a little practice is all you need.

      Warm Regards,

      1. do you have to point the light at the camera at all times. Since i want to do a outline of a guitar but cant quite get it to work.

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