Winter Reads: Painting with Light

Batting second in our lineup of fireside books is Eric Curry's wonderfully comprehensive Painting with Light.

If you have ever wanted to get into light painting but did not know where to start, Curry will take you gently by the hand and lead you into the world of creating beautifully complex pictures like the ones below…


What I like most about Painting with Light is that it is both start-from-zero and comprehensive. Curry spends the first couple dozen pages detailing the path he took to becoming a light painter. You don't learn a lot there, but the rest of the book makes up for it. It is pure how-to, chock full of great advice and detailed techniques.

He is very generous with tips that will save you countless mistakes he doubtless made on his own journey, which should allow you to get up to speed pretty quickly.

You can light paint with strobes (a la Mike Kelley) or continuous lights, as does Curry. Or, obviously, you could mix and match. But the techniques Curry teaches are nonetheless applicable to both.

He is quick to stress that you don't need a lot of gear. In fact, the photos reproduced here were made without anything exotic: a camera, wide lens, some flashlights and "Q Beam"-style lights. And a sturdy tripod, of course.

If you plan to shoot multi-exposure light paintings, which is what the bulk of the book is about, you will need Adobe Photoshop, as it is far better suited for the layering/masking than are other image such as Lightroom and Aperture.

Speaking of which, Curry is just as generous with his post-processing instruction as he is with his lighting tips. Even if you have never really used layers and/or combined images, you should be fine.

Much like learning to use speedlights, light painting is a skill that opens up entirely new horizons for still life photographers. But Curry does that one better, usually including people in his images.

As you can imagine, that brings with it a whole new set of problems to solve. To that end, there is a whole section on integrating human subjects into light-painted photos.

People have a tendency to move during the long exposures. Curry gives you tips on both minimizing the movement/light tracking during the exposure and patching up the inevitable (and hopefully small) movements in post.

As they are wont to say in Game of Thrones, winter is coming. And assuming you can bear the cold, those long nights of winter (with no mosquitoes) are ideal for light-painting expeditions.

If you are looking to dip your toe into the waters, you won't find a better guide than Painting with Light. It's available at Amazon for $26.30, where it is already racking up a pile of five-star reviews.

All Photos ©Eric Curry


Brand new to Strobist? Start here | Or jump right to Lighting 101
Connect w/Strobist readers via: Words | Photos

Comments are closed. Question? Hit me on Twitter: @Strobist


Blogger Ameer Hamza said...

I've been following Eric's Youtube page for sometime now. He's a genius at light painting!

November 01, 2012 4:42 AM  
Blogger Frank Kendralla said...

Thanks for posting! I love painting with light books! I have Ben Wilmore's book and video (from creative live) which is great too!

November 01, 2012 9:43 AM  
Blogger Rick Massie said...

Awesome - thanks for sharing. I'll have to check out the book for sure. I've been light painting with strobes for a while (architecture, portraits) but haven't tried much continuous light painting. Those images are great - I'll have to try some similar shots in our nearly 24 hours of darkness this winter.

Here's a strobe light painting for a local magazine's halloween issue:

November 01, 2012 11:33 AM  
Blogger Unknown said...

HAHA Winter's comming! Nice touch DH.

November 01, 2012 1:15 PM  
Blogger Janet Ramsay and Keith Winsor said...

Eric's work looks more like illustration than photography, He certainly has mastered his craft.
Amazing work!

November 02, 2012 12:19 AM  
Blogger Wes said...

Thanks for posting this one! My students try to emulate him but of course they can only come close! ;)

November 02, 2012 8:06 PM  
Blogger Jason Roeder said...

I am currently diving into a different book of the same title, "Painting with Light" originally published in 1949 by John Alton. It's primarily based on cinema gear but it's an excellent study in portraiture lighting in general.

November 02, 2012 8:35 PM  
Blogger Martin Liew said...

I came across Eric's light-pajnting videos on YouTube for some time before his eBook publication early this year. His generosity in sharing his skills and knowledge serves a great jnspiratikns for me.

November 02, 2012 10:21 PM  
Blogger Lazlo said...

Oh Lordy, Hobby went from flogging fog machines to selling books and did so fairly seamlessly. What a guy.

November 03, 2012 12:34 PM  
Blogger Nuno Benavente said...

For those who have seen his book.. does it bring many advantages over his youtube videos or you can live without the book after watching them?


November 03, 2012 3:17 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

I saw him at a seminar he did for Southwest Professional Photographers Association last year. It was really amazing to hear him and watch him in action.

November 12, 2012 2:12 PM  
Blogger © 2010 howard linton said...

This is great! Good to see Eric get his due after all the years he's been at it.

November 13, 2012 5:35 AM  

Post a Comment

<< Home