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February 20, 2014

The art of light painting with Lumia

With a four-second shutter delay and superior low-light photography, the stunning art form lighting up the world is now accessible to all with exclusive Nokia Lumia imaging technology.

To prove it we followed light painter, Ian Hobson, on a night of capturing this up-and-coming form of photography using only a Lumia 1020 smartphone.


So what exactly is light painting?

Ian Hobson: Light paintings are created by moving a light source in front of a camera to create an image. To create one with a Lumia 1020, use the camera app to set the exposure time to four seconds, which will capture the flow of moving light.

You can create a light painting with any kind of light source, such as LED’s, flames, or even your Nokia phone light, and it will work more or less anywhere as long as it is dark.


What’s so fun about light painting and why are you passionate about it?

IH:  I first started light painting before digital cameras existed, and with their invention it suddenly became possible to see what you were doing. I’ve followed the work of other great light painters around the world for inspiration.

I’m fascinated with the interaction between a human moving different coloured light sources and objects in front of the camera and the understanding of the time and space required to create beautiful and unusual photography.


You used the Nokia Lumia 1020 to create these light paintings, how did you find it?

IH: The Nokia Lumia 1020 is the first smartphone I’ve ever seen that has the capability to capture quality light paintings due to its four-second-exposure shutter speed and its 41MP sensor, which is great for low-light photography.

It was a pleasure to work with the Lumia and it’s great to think others can now explore the art of light photography without the need for expensive equipment.


Would you recommend anyone to try out light painting?

IH: Light painting is a lot of fun and I’d definitely recommend anyone to have a go. With the advances of cameras in mobile devices, it brings another dimension to the art form, allowing anyone to try out light painting for themselves, but also share and upload them straight away, wherever they are.


Light painting can be difficult for some, even with 30 seconds on digital cameras, so anyone that can produce quality photos during a four-second shutter speed has the making to be an extraordinary light painter.


What are the different types of light painting images people can produce?

IH: There are lots of different types of terminology for light painting, such as light writing, steel wool spins and phone tossing. I create my own LED light painting tools including one customised just for Nokia!


Our tips on creating light paintings using your Nokia Lumia smartphones:

  • Set the Nokia Lumia on a steady surface or tripod
  • Access the camera control panel by swiping the camera icon left for adjustable settings
  • Set the ISO at a low level – 100 – 200
  • Set the shutter speed to four seconds
  • Set the white balance to the ‘light-bulb’ setting
  • Set focus to infinite
  • Set the self timer to 10 seconds
  • Experiment with different light sources for stunning effects
  • To make the most of the four seconds, get your friends to join in to create more light trails in a single shot

Editing: Nokia Creative Studio or Instagram lets users crop and rotate as well as adjust brightness

To see how Ian used a Nokia Lumia 1020 to create these (and more) photos, and learn how to light paint using the phone, watch this fascinating video:

Visit to see more light painting and low light photography taken on a Nokia Lumia phone.