Right lens for this lighting technique?

Discussion in 'Canon EOS' started by heath_hays, Dec 27, 2020.

  1. I'm a new photographer in the middle of researching buying a used camera to do a specific lighting technique called light painting. Black background, 10 sec shutter speed, cutting all the lights and illuminating the piece with a quickly moving flashlight beam. The guy that made the how-to video I'm following uses an older Canon Rebel T3i camera with a 50mm Canon EF50mm F1.8 lens. He says you can use any DSLR camera with manual mode, but for simplicity's sake I'm researching buying the same camera and lens.

    So in searching ebay I'm finding lots of T3i cameras but very few with the 50mm 1.8F lens he mentions. 95% of the T3is offered are bundled with either or both... an EF-S 18-55mm lens with F 1:3.5-5.6 and/or an EF-S 55-250 lens.

    I've read how the larger 1.8F would be better in low light conditions, and I wondered how this extra functionality over the more common 3.5F lens would be a factor with this technique.

    Is anybody familiar with this type of lighting scheme or have an idea what type of lens would be better for it?

    Last edited by a moderator: Apr 9, 2021
  2. Literally any lens and any camera capable of a long exposure will work.

    f1.8 will allow shorter exposures, but it's by no means required.

    Essential is manual control of shutter speed and aperture.

    Be prepared for a lot of experimentation though!
  3. It's a very old technique. Check out the RIT "Big Shot"- The RIT Big Shot – Celebrating More than a Quarter Century of Painting with Light

    Anything can work but I'd be wary of very wide angle or large scenes. Faster lenses are better but with modern sensors you can get more sensitivity than in the old film days, so a slower lens should be OK. Remember that noise levels build up over time so you may need to take blank noise reduction frames to combine with the image, if the camera doesn't do that automatically.
  4. SCL


    Helpful hint: bracket your exposures, especially if you plan to shoot film. Good advixe above re lens focal lengths. Personally, I'd go with a faster lens, as I assume that light painting isn't the only thing in the world you plan to photograph, and the extra speed can be helpful in producing effects you might desire at a later time. Not to mention, faster lenses generally are better designed and constructed, hence often more expensive than slower lenses.
  5. I'm too lazy to watch the entire video right now. What aperture did it's author set?
    Hit an online DOF calculator and tell me how you are going to utilize f1.8 for a product shot. <- A quite serious rhetorical question. To me it seems most products require more DOF than stopping all the way down would provide.
    You can benefit from a fast lens by making your camera more likely to acquire focus in dim environments.

    In case you are planning to do other kinds of photography too with that Rebel; get the kit zooms, yes even a pair of them (if the long one is an IS version too) and add a 50mm later after figuring out that you need one whyever. It is a typical 3rd lens and I'd recommend it as such.

    If painting with light is your thing: Why go EOS? - I believe Olympus MILCs can even display the exposure progress during the exposure procedure. - I don't use them, so I am not sure.
  6. Thank so much for all the great info, feels good to be back into photography. I've asked my questions in a few of the forums and I've gotten a lot of great responses. Looking back I wish I would have given a little more detail about the shots I'm intending to make, but I think I see the direction things are going. First, I'll be making the exact same shot as the one I pictured. They'll be of dining tables or similar furniture up to 8 ft long, oriented the same direction. Thankfully I have a lot of room to stage and about 20 x 24ft of black backdrop.

    I've decided to go with the Canon T7 and probably the 18-55 lens. Only thing I haven't reconciled yet is that I've seen suggestions for both the 18-55 lens and that I'll probably be around f8 for my shots, although this lens doesn't go smaller than f5.6. Haven't quite figured that one out yet but it seems like the 18-55 will do the trick.

    Does knowing the exact shoot scenario effect the advice on what lens I should look for?
  7. As said above, any lens, stop it down, F/8 - F/14 (depending on lens sharpness/defraction), ISO 100 should allow nice long exposures for light painting, it my take a little experimenting, playing with f-stop and shutter speed, trial and error to nail the best settings for your set up and conditions. The best way to learn is playing with settings and practice. Have fun.

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