Light painting: a different way to light up Bonfire Night

Whether it's learning about the political history of the Gunpowder Plot or watching an organised fireworks display on a chilly November evening, there are plenty of fun things to do on Bonfire Night.

But for those who find fireworks too noisy or dangerous, why not try light painting for some colour and energy in the comfort of your own home? It's a great way to bring the spectacle of Bonfire Night inside.

Bonfire night Bokeh effect

1. What on earth is light painting?

You're likely to be familiar with using ordinary paint, but with a little bit of set-up and a photography trick, you can use light to draw pictures.

Using a camera with a long exposure time (how long it takes for the camera shutter to close), an object that moved will leave a blurry streak once the picture is taken. Move a bright light in a dark room and watch it become a (very unusual) paintbrush.

This type of art is sometimes done with sparklers, but there are plenty of safer alternatives.

What you'll need:

  • A camera that can be set with a long 'exposure time,' even smartphones can do this!
  • A tripod, or anything to keep the camera steady
  • Somewhere dark
  • Anything with a bright and narrow light, like a toy with LEDs or a small torch

2. Setting up your camera

'Shutter speed' and 'long exposure' sound like complicated photographic terms but don't worry - it's just about holding your camera's shutter open for a longer time when taking pictures. There are dedicated cameras that have this function built in, but if you don't have a DSLR camera handy, you can do this activity using a mobile phone - if your phone's camera app doesn't have the function, you can download long exposure camera apps too.

Setting up your tripod is also important. It's movement that makes the light painting work, so if the camera is shaky, it might mess up your masterpiece!

Light painting

3. Get moving and painting!

Once you've got your dark space and camera set up, it's time to get painting!

Because you're going to be moving as well as your light, decide whether you want to blend into the dark background or become part of the painting as a ghostly blur.

The type of light you use will also change the end result a lot. Objects that cast a soft light, like a torch, will still work, but it might be hard to see the details of your hard work.

It might take a few tries to get your light painting artwork just right, so have fun experimenting. This kind of kinetic art can prove to be a bit of a work-out! Make sure you have enough space to work, and maybe wind down with a nice hot chocolate as you look through the photos you've taken.

light painting outside

4. Tips and tricks

Need a few ideas to get started on your masterpiece? Give the following a try:

Light paintings work better with large, dynamic movements. Try mixing both slow and fast movements in your painting, and varying your height. How low can you go?

Painting to music is a great way to get your whole body moving. There are plenty of Super Movers Just for Fun films to try for inspiration. If you're light painting with younger children, why not give a School Radio broadcast a try? They even have an episode on dancing like a firework.

If you want to try writing a word with light, remember that you'll need to write the letters back-to front, or face away from the camera for the letters to appear the right way around in the photograph.

Did you take a super light painting photo? Let us know! Take your masterpiece with the #SuperMovers hashtag and show everyone your super sparkler skills!

Super Movers aims to get children moving throughout the day with lots of free, easy-to-use video resources and great football-inspired incentives like a visit from the Premier League Trophy. Brain Booster routines star famous faces and cover key areas of Numeracy and Literacy. They can be used in the classroom or at home to help children feel refreshed and energised whilst learning. The Just for Fun routines help get the whole family active together. Why not have a go?