Sharon Cooper 

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Photography is all about the light, finding it, playing with it, creating it, enhancing it... but painting it!! That's a whole heap of different fun.  Find a dark space, a few bits of kit and something with a light source, then crank your imagination into high gear and start enjoying painting with light. I did my very first light painting with a mini LED torch in 2007, Ive learnt lots since then and used the technique to make creative images for clients.  I've used it on people's wedding nights, and had lots of fun with guests also helping out. I've painted with sparklers, head torches, led lights, light sabres, and even (and most dangerous) a big ball of wire wool on fire! The potential for individual creativity and unique results really appeals to me.


The light painting in these images were taken using my home-made, 6 white LED light-stick and a colour changing light sabre. 

The set up also used strobe, remote triggers, remote shutter release,  and a 15 second exposure was set on most of these shots.  
Kat had booked me to run this lightpainting session, after seeing my work.  She says 'I saw Sharon create some fantastic lightpaintings at a friend's wedding and really fancied learning the technique myself as there seem to be endless things you can do with it: different subjects, lights, shapes,... As part of my 1:1 tutoring with Sharon, I therefore asked if we could maybe try it out and of course Sharon was up for it straight away. The evening was just brilliant! The three of us had so much fun posing and painting with different lights; every time the shutter went, we raced each other to the camera to be the first to see the result."lightpainting-stick-and-sabre.jpg
With camera on tripod and my strobe on a light stand, it was a case of firing by remote release, whilst I ran into my composed shot to paint around the couple. Here is the first frame, Id fired the remote shutter release in error, so Kat and James waved their headtorch around, not wanting to waste this frame (well once that shutter went we did have a full 15 seconds and felt the need to use it)
This image below is the result of me walking behind James waving my 6 LED light stick up and down.
Once the test shots were done, I let Kat fire the shot and paint the light, using her willing other half as our model!
This shot is lit by both me and Kat, I did the crown, heart and body outline and Cat did the 'Heart monitor bleep'
You can see me wielding my light stick in this one below, and notice I didnt paint all the way increased the exposure time.
The fun thing about experimenting, is you really can play with the lights and effects, by tweaking small details or your movment. Ideas pop into your head and the results are immediate. Such an exhilerating technique to try.

Kat said "Tiny changes, like the source of light or the amount of time, make such a difference, which makes the technique really exciting and the results surprising every time. Many of my friends have since commented on how fabulous they find the pictures we created. They certainly are an eyecatcher and I can't wait to experiment some more!'lightpainting-8.jpg
When you've got your exposure, composition, flash power and everything else just right, well that feels and looks just great.
If you've got an idea for a light painting shoot, I'd love to hear about it...please get in touch.
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How you choose to light an image is the most important factor on your end result. Whatever your camera, whatever your lighting. Long before I had a speedlite, Id play with different lighting, and experiment, often loving the results, often being surprised by mistakes. You can obtain some dramatic lighting with something as simple as a bedside lamp, I often have, and still do. By playing with your light source and direction, you choose what you want lit and what you wish to remain in darkness.  You create mood contrasts, effective use of this is sometimes labeled “Chiaroscuro”.  This originated as a characteristic style of painting that relies on these dramatic contrasts of light and shade.  It comes from the two Italian words, 'chiaro' (clear) and 'oscuro' (obscured), though it is normally (and very unsatisfactorily) translated as 'light and shadow'. It evolved rapidly in the 17th century: Caravaggio (1573-1610) is normally held up as the first master to use it; Rembrandt van Rijn (1606-1669) further developed the technique, and gave his name to the style when used in photography ('Rembrandt lighting'); and Wright of Derby (Joseph Wright, 1734-1797) arguably took it further than anyone else.

A very simple example of chiaroscuro is using a single subject and a single light source. The use of tungsten light can make for a very warm picture, which if you shoot in RAW you can change, or keep, whichever you think works well. In both painted and photographed chiaroscuro, the light source must be directional and the background is not overly well illuminated. Artificial lighting can meet these requirements. In portraiture, if you set out to make conscious use of chiaroscuro, you have to ask yourself whether you are really using it, and how effectively you are using it. Maybe it's better to forget the word and the preconceptions, and concentrate on the image you are making.  Find a light source and play and experiment! If Ive taken late evening photos, during a boudoir shoot, I've sometimes used a soft lamp to evoke a different feel to my other more controlled lighting shots. I've shot with what I enjoy calling 'ghetto lighting', a bedside lamp, or a loft inspection lamp and got results which pleased me. I've occasionally shared images taken using these methods, to be met with comments about the amazing chiaroscuro, so whether you intended the image to depict that mood, or it just happened, enjoy it.  As with all critique and feedback, it's the viewer who can use their words to put their own impressions to your work. But its you, the photographer, who knows what you wanted to depict and whether it was a happy accident or a planned success!

Here are a series of images, using one light source.

"Breathless" one light source + lensbaby

"Fetus" Bedside lamp

"Untitled"  Phillips Wake lamp precariously propped on a pillow.

"The shoe fitting" Bedside lamp

"Chiaroscuro"  Energy Saving bulb screwed into a wooden candlestick lamp 

"Without doubt"  Desk lamp

"Untitled" Bedside table lamp

"Unparalleled lines"  Phillips wake up light on high

"Smooth" Hot light

It's worth experimenting with if you have no other form of lighting yet, or even if you have a kit full of it. I enjoy the mood it makes and the spontaneity this simple grabbing of a lamp can bring. Put your 50mm lens on, crank up your ISO and turn off all the other lights. Have a go and let me know how you get on, or feel free to link me to your images that use this technique, I'd love to see them.

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