How to Create Spectacular Light Painting with a Mobile Phone

Light Painting Mobile Phone

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July 31, 2019

Have you heard of light painting? It has become more popular recently, it is using long exposure photos and a light source to create photos that look like the light is dancing. You’ll discover the techniques used to create the best light paintings on any phone. The article has three main parts, supplies you will need, taking photos on your phone, and then light painting with your phone as a tool.

Light Painting App

Supplies You’ll Need


Portable Shutter Release Button

Camera Apps

A Light Source

Fireworks Photography Cell Phone

Tips for Taking Light Painting Photos with Your Phone

To take a good photo there are two options. You can try the live view feature or download a long exposure app. For older models, you may not have the live view so you will need to download an app. I recommend the app Light Painting for iPhone which is free. Light Painting is a simple but powerful app for light painting. I usually only use it for light painting.

Using Live or Motion View to Create Long Exposures

The easiest way to create a simple light painting shot is to use live view or motion view. This captures 1.5 seconds before the shot and 1.5 seconds after. This works well on photos of fireworks or tunnels. Then you can edit the photo and choose the long exposure in the native camera app. This way works on some photos but others you will need to use a long exposure app or light painting app.

Light Painting With Mobile

Apps for Painting with Light for Android and iPhone

The Light Painting App for Android and iPhone is very simple to use and works great for this purpose. Open the app then look at the bottom of the app to see the main menu. Tap on the first option, settings to choose between auto and manual. In manual mode, you can adjust the ISO and Exposure. When taking light painting photos you’ll want photos that are very dark. On the left is the ISO button. You’ll want to keep the ISO fairly low at around 100 – 300. The next step is to increase or decrease exposure. You can do this by sliding down to decrease the exposure. If it is still dusk but you want to take light exposure photos you can decrease the exposure to make the photo look darker.

On the main screen, the next option is to turn on the flashlight, by tapping the light. Then you can use the phone for light painting. Make sure you have the light turned off when you go to take a photo or it will be too bright. The third button on the menu option is the duration. This is where you set long exposure time. I recommend choosing a time between 20-30 seconds. It can go up to 60 seconds if you prefer. Lastly, there is a timer option where you can set the amount of time before the camera takes the shot.

light painting photography tools

How to Take the Photo

If you are using a long exposure app you will need to set up a tripod and use a shutter release button. After the camera is set you can use your light painting tools and start creating. There are many special effects you can create. Here are some ideas but you can create your own.

  • Words- When creating light painting words make sure you have set the shutter speed to 20-30 seconds. That will give you enough time to create the words. Also, make sure you write backward so that it will read from left to right. Then hit the shutter release button to take the photo and start writing.
  • Shapes- You will need one of the tools to create the effect, set your camera for a long exposure shot and draw. You can start close to the camera and walk backward for a spiral effect. Also, you can try to create shapes by walking right to left through the frame.
  • Car Light Trails- Now set up your mobile phone using a tripod and set the exposure time. As cars pass by the light will be painted as they move through the scene. This is a great way to capture cityscapes.

Light Painting Smartphone

Using your Phone to Paint

The other option when creating light painting photos is to use your mobile phone as a light source. If you have a friend with a phone or an SLR this works great. A phone can be used to create light in several ways. There are specific apps you can even download for light painting with your phone. Also, your phone can be used as a flashlight to create shapes and words like sparklers or glow sticks. You can also use your phone to light up an object. Lastly, you can paint with the screen of the camera.

Flashlight Apps

Using flashlight apps for light painting can add a spark of color to your photos. There are a few options for great apps. While these apps are simple to use, they work great for painting with light in color for long exposure shots. You can choose from different screen colors or a changing pattern. This will create a rainbow effect in the long exposure photo. Try new light patterns light strobe light, emergency light, disco, and rainbow. The apps I recommend are Flashlight ∞ for iPhone and Color Flashlight for Android

Flashlight App IOS

Flashlight iPhone App


Flashlight App Android

Color Flashlight Android App

Light Painting Techniques

Lighting up an Object

Begin by setting up in a dark place indoor or outdoor. Make sure the object is perfectly still and shine the light from behind the camera on the subject. This effect is used often when taking photos of rocks in nature in the dark of night. Sometimes you may be able to have a still object in a room and cast a light on the object and then light paint in the background.

Painting with Words

First, choose a source of light to try. You can use the camera’s flashlight or a colored app. This can be used to create shapes and words. When painting, avoid staying in the same spot for too long. Then the light will overpower the photo. Now, if you use the camera’s flashlight to create the photo the LED lights will create a very white, and cool tone with a blue tint. You may want to add some color you can use the recommended apps to change the color.

Cell Phone Photography Light Painting

Using Light as a Background

Creating a background for an object is a great way to use light painting. Have you ever been in a dark movie theatre and someone turns on their phone? The camera’s screen emits a lot of light and can be distracting at times. In that situation can be distracting but the light from a phone can be used to create great backgrounds. Photos of solid blocks and designs work great for this. Experiment on different types of photos and how they look.


Light painting is a great technique to improve your mobile photography in a creative way. In this post, we covered the recommended tools for light painting. The tools are a tripod, remote trigger, light source, and camera apps. Next, you will need a light source, this can be sparklers, glow sticks, smartphone flashlights, or the litra torch. Try painting with different styles, experiment with words, shapes, and car light trails. Lastly, remember to use light painting techniques to light up an object, paint words backward, and use light as a background to highlight subjects. We hope you were inspired to try light painting as a creative way to take photos. Please share with us your photos and experience.

Take a minute to try these tips to become a great smartphone photographer. Want more inspiration? Here are some additional resources that can help you:
How to Take The Best Selfie? 10 Tips for Photos With your Phone
LitraTorch Review- Mobile Photography and Video Adventure Light
How to Take Instagram Photos Like a Pro With a Phone
Give those tips a read and you’ll be ready with new hacks and tips to help you make the most of your phone’s camera. See our photos on Instagram at @picxtrix.

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