Painting flowers with light


As a small weekend project, I shot a few indoor pictures with a somewhat new (to me) technique. What I wanted was to show colorful flowers with a completely dark background. I didn't want to use a flash because the light would be too harsh, it reduces the "depth" in the picture and may illuminate the background because of its reach. So I used the light from a mobile phone display which was soft and weak enough to only illuminate closer objects. The pictures came out better than I had hoped for.

So here is a quick rundown of the technique I used.

This sketch shows the basic set up.

  1. Camera set up on a tripod for long exposure
  2. Flowers set up on a stand in a dark room
  3. A mobile phone display was used to provide the soft lighting during the shoot.
  4. Any background objects are far off so that the light would not reach them.

That's it, set up a suitably long exposure. Focus in manual mode accurately with lights on. Then with lights off, trigger the shutter remotely if possible to avoid shake. During the exposure, use the glow from the phone display to light up the flowers. Move it around to light from all directions and avoid shadows. Review the picture, adjust shutter time as required to get the correct exposure.

Listed below were my settings -

  • Camera - Canon EOS 550D
  • Lens - Canon 50 mm f1.8
  • ISO - 100, Low ISO = less noise
  • Aperture - f/6.3, Gives enough depth of field to have all the flowers in focus
  • Exposure - 20 seconds, Long exposure to capture the image in low light, also gives time to move the phone and illuminate the flowers uniformly