A Lesson in Light Orbs

It’s fairly surprising that, considering we love long exposure photography almost as much as we do the high speed variety, we haven’t banged about light painting before now. Light painting, for those of you who haven’t given this awesomely fun technique a try before, typically involves a long exposure and a hand held light that someone draws with (the person holding the light is normally moving too fast to be visible in the photo). This kind of photography requires either a very dark room or for it to be nighttime. We prefer night, as that's when all the most fun stuff happens. If you type ‘light painting’ into Google's image search you should get an impression within seconds of just how creative you can get with this technique. Looks pretty fun, right?

This is why we were excited when we saw Triggertrap Mobile user Tim Gamble creating light orbs with our very own app! He did this using our simplest and probably most under-appreciated mode, Cable Release. This mode actually has four options for taking a photo, one of those being Time Mode; in which users press a button to start the exposure and press it again to end the exposure. This, of course, works perfectly for light painting when you are unsure about the length of time you will need to make your drawing and don’t have a hand free to hold down the shutter button while doing it.


What you will need:

• Camera (duh)
• Tripod
• Triggertrap Cable and Mobile Dongle Kit, available here: tri.gg/shop
• Android or iOS device with Triggertrap app downloaded
• A string of battery operated LED/fairy/holiday lights
• Whatever batteries said lights require, if they don’t already come with some
• A role of preferably dark coloured gaffer tape
• Scissors
• A dark location to shoot in - with plenty of swinging space!
• You may want to add some coloured plastic sheets to this list, just for fun.

Remember to make sure all battery-operated equipment is fully charged and that the light from your phone or whatever device you have hooked up isn’t going to get in the exposure. You are going to need to swing your lights so make sure you clear a large enough area in whatever space you are using. Any area where you usually swing cats is probably ideal.

The next step is preparing your string of lights so that they are in one defined group. Select a handful of the lights and securely tape around them so they are all facing in the same direction together. Then put tape over the rest of the lights so that they are no longer visible when turned on. You should probably check if there is any unwanted light leaking before you begin photographing. The lovely people at lightpaintingphotoraphy.com have really good instructions with accompanying photographs to help you with this stage.

Once you have prepared your lights and set up your location and camera with the Triggertrap Mobile device attached, press your cable release and move into position. Remember to turn your lights on once in position and not before otherwise you will have an unwanted light trail in the photo. Now carefully swing the lights in a circular motion whilst slowly rotating. It is important to try and move around one central point (like the disc on the floor in Gamble’s photo above, or just make a small mark) in order to make a defined enough circle. You should also try and keep the swinging motion as vertical as possible so that all of your circles will line up in the end.


Lastly, if you want to make your orb a different colour, it’s time to attach those coloured sheets to your lights! Even braver, why not try taking your orb out for a walk in the woods like Tim did? The best part about light painting is the experimenting: literally not knowing how something will turn out until you’ve tried. So what are you waiting for? We need orbs, people!

For more light orb inspiration from Tim come and check out his Flickr page.

Can't wait to get stuck into some light orb photography?

For more detail, check out our tutorial below!