Dark summer nights are the perfect time to bust out the flashlights and your camera for some fun with light painting! 

What you'll need:

  • A dark room, basement, or anywhere without natural or artificial light
  • Different light sources—flashlights, pen lights, laser pointers, etc. 
  • A digital camera with a long exposure setting OR a digital device with slow shutter app (we use Slow Shutter Cam for iPad)

What to do:

  1. Gather your light sources. Experiment with flashlights, pen lights, lasers, glow sticks, and more! For different colors, we like to tape colored tissue paper to our flashlights. 

2. Set up your camera or device. Tripods are really helpful here. Have a friend behind the camera or device, while you stand in front with your light source ready. 

3. Set up a long exposure or slow shutter speed. Look for a function called "Shutter Priority" or "Bulb" (sometimes just "B") on your camera settings. For devices, your slow shutter app should be pretty easy to set up and play around with. Ten-second exposures or longer are best.

4. Turn out the lights! Once the room is totally dark, your friend presses the shutter button and you start "painting" with your light source. Try writing your name, or try tracing a friend with the flashlight. Experiment and have fun!

For more fun with light, check out Library materials like the Exploratorium's book Exploring the Science of Light: 30+ Illuminating Experiments & Colorful Science Activities.

Here's a video slideshow of some of the cool light paintings kids made at the Library's Painting with Light program recently:

Build a Better World

  • Ada Twist, Scientist

  • Tap Tap Bang Bang

  • Dinosaur Dig

  • Iggy Peck, Architect

  • What Do You Do With an Idea?

  • Jack and Jill’s Treehouse

  • Raise the Roof

  • What Color Is My World

  • Young Frank, Architect

  • Free Association: Where My Mind Goes During Science Class

  • Building Our House

  • Rosie Revere, Engineer

  • If I Built a House

  • The Most Magnificent Thing