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Light Painting Tutorial – How to light paint a skeleton

Light Painting Tutorial – How to draw a light painting skeleton

I often receive questions how I create the light painted skeletons in my photos. Because of that, I will start my series of light painting video tutorials with it. The set up for the photo I have made the video at my studio in bright light in order to have a good quality of the video. Remember to always shoot the light painting photos in low light, otherwise, you’ll just end up with an overexposed image!


The set up for the photo
One thing to take in notion is that the brighter the light you use, the higher aperture figure you need to use. Also the slower you move the light, the brighter it looks in the photo. Starting from an aperture of 9 to 13 is a good place to start.


‘Still Got the Blues.’ In this photo, I used an aperture of 6.3 with exposure of 195 seconds on ISO 100.


Drawing the skeleton
For drawing the skeleton, I recommend you use a bulb mode with a cable release since it most probably will take longer than 30 seconds. Drawing the skeleton The basic idea for drawing the skeleton is very simple: All you need to do is trace your body with the light, imagining where the bones approximately are.


‘Making of.’ In this photo, I used an aperture of 7.1 with an exposure of 176 seconds on ISO 100.


A few tips that might come in handy:

-Always remember to point the light towards the camera

-You don’t need to trace each bone to give a realistic effect, just enough to give the idea

-As a basic rule, the upper part of hands and legs have one larger bone, and the lower part consists of two thinner bones

-Use a light that has an on/off switch, so it’s easy to move the light between the traced parts

-You can easily variate the skeletons position by moving your own body and trace it

-Drawing too much detail to the skull easily overexposes it, try to be minimal. Eyes, nose and just one line for the mouth will do nicely

-Once you have gotten experience, try to think what the skeletons could do instead of just drawing them standing still


Above is a music video of a light painted skeleton band I have made with Ville Olaskari for the Hahmo band. The video consists of 800 individual light painting photos which are then looped as longer patterns.

The light painted skeletons are a very nice addition to photos since they add so much storytelling power to them and are relatively fast to draw too. I’m hoping to see a whole army of light painted skeletons on the internet soon, exploring all over the world with a message that photography (and skeletons) can be fun too!



Music in the video by Jannis Sid, Hannu Huhtamo and Pekka Parviainen






About The Author

Janne Parviainen

Janne Parviainen is a light artist from Helsinki. His work has been featured in various magazines, books and art blogs such as The National Geographic, The Guardian, Daily Mail, Wired, Juxtapoz, Spiegel Online, Metro Newspaper. Janne has worked with well-known brands such as Adobe Systems Inc., Olight and Nippon Television producing high-level artistic material for commercial use. His work has been on display globally on exhibitions, light art festivals and museums. In his light art Janne Parviainen studies the possibilities of spaces and dimensions by creating topographic maps with light and by incorporating illuminated forced perspective drawings with light painting.

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