• Different colored laser pointers, mini mag lights, sparklers or small LED key chain lights
  • Digital camera with an adjustable shutter speed
  • Tripod or solid surface on which to stabilize your camera
  • At least two people are needed for this project

(If painting with sparklers, adult supervision is a must.)


Place camera on a tripod or other sturdy surface in a dark room or outside at night. One person starts the exposure of the camera by pressing the shutter release button. The second person points the light source at the lens of the camera to “paint” the shape of the desired outcome. (If the person painting moves continually they will not be seen in the final photo, but the light will.) Turn the light source off to create a space between painted objects. Adjust and experiment with settings as you go for different effects.

The basics: pay attention to ISO and shutter speed:


ISO measures the sensitivity of the image sensor. The lower the number the less sensitive your camera is to light. Set your ISO at 100 and work up from there.

Shutter speed

Shutter speed indicates the length of time the shutter is open. For light-writing you’ll want to keep the shutter open until you’re finished painting the desired shape(s).


Senior Portrait:

For this image, we synced the flash on manual to the exposure we chose to set the camera. The flash fires when the shutter is depressed. This illuminated the girl as she stood still. The flash caused her to freeze in the camera sensor so that even if she moved a slight bit, it would not be picked up once the flash was off. After the flash went off, one or two people went behind her, using the Ice Light in swirly patterns.

Thanks to Francie Baltazar Stonestreet of Fireheart Photography for her help with this.

McKinney Online - Night Writing: Outlined Figure

Outlined Figure: Three people are needed for this fun photo: one clicks the shutter, one stands still, one outlines their body with the flashlight pointed at the camera.

McKinney Online - Night Writing: Starburts

Starburts: Turn flashlight on for a few seconds, turn off, move, repeat. The longer exposure in one place creates the starburst effect.

McKinney Online - Night Writing: Flowers

Flower: We covered the end of a flashlight with pink Saran Wrap secured by an elastic band.