Light Sculpting – Review

A little while ago, while taking part in an online class I discovered Light Sculpting Still Life, I wrote a post on my Still Life blog here. I discovered a few different artists creating work this way, but I was particularly struck by Harold Ross. I spent a month (well more actually) watching his tutorials, looking at his work and actually conversing with him via email. Unfortunately for me he lives in the states, but his work on Still Life and Landscapes is truly stunning.

Harold Ross Fine Art

This style of images spoke to me, in a way very differently from other types of Still Life, and it was something I was very keen to have a try, I did not have anything to re create it with.

“Light Painting (or Sculpting) requires working in a completely dark studio, opening the camera for extended periods of time, and ‘painting’ the light onto the subject. This reveals greater shape, texture and colour, and is very much sculpting with light.” – Harold Ross

The system Harold Ross uses is quite expensive, he also now makes and sells his own version, also still expensive, I had no idea if I would be any good at it, it looks quite complex. So a Friend of mine (who is very clever with lights) offered to make a prototype version for me. This is it here on the left, it doesn’t look like much, but it is VERY, VERY cool.


It has multiple RGB LED down one side, I can have white, seperate colours, or a combination of various LEDs.See same rose shot with various colour LED combinations, below.


I started out small and have been gradually working my way up. It can also be used in conjunction to poor natural light for a softer look.


Now the images are becoming more complex, not so much as the subject, but the way it is shot and processed.

Single shot with light source
Multiple Shot and Multiple exposure blended in Photoshop
Single shot, multiple lights, multiple exposure
Multiple shot, multiple exposure, multiple lights types, blending in Photoshop for maximum Shadows and Highlights

It is critical that the subject remains constant and the camera is set up on a tripod, I have a slight halo in the last image as I must have knocked the tripod during a shot. Sure I could have deleted it, but then that’s not what this experiment is all about.

Now remember you are working in almost complete darkness, so you need to first set up your shot, get your focus and then turn the lights off and play with various exposure settings. The aperture should most likely remain the same, although I did play with mine to get various different effects for DOF as well as light.I also use a wireless trigger, so as not to bump or move the camera (in theory). Because you are working in the dark and moving the light wand, it disappears from the shot, if you ‘see’ the light, then you’ve stuffed up and need to re shoot. Sometimes, like when you are after highlights you can mask the wand (or your hand) out of the shot in Photoshop.


This is what happens when it doesn’t work properly……….you can see the lightΒ 


Now I know if you look at my attempts and then go back to Harold’s image they are worlds apart, but he has been at it for years and years, I have only had a few attempts……’s a LARGE learning curve on this one and I am also inventing a little bit as I go. I am hoping to perhaps run a workshop or two on this next year. So I better get back to it. No doubt I will post a few more images along the way. I just adore the soft, almost painterly effects you can achieve with just light.

~ Julz