DIY Portraits Backgrounds – Painting with Light using Olympus Live Composite or Bulb Shooting Mode

DIY Portraits Backgrounds – Painting with Light using Olympus Live Composite or Bulb Shooting Mode

In this video I am going to show you how I
created unique portrait backgrounds using different kinds of light – in camera – in
the dark…. wait guys – I still need light – I’m not
ready…. oh, come on really??? Stay tuned… Hey gang! You heard me right, I said unique portrait
backgrounds – in camera – in the dark. The possibilities with this technique are
endless and it’s actually a lot easier than you might think. I created the backgrounds by painting with
light” while making the exposure. Some of you may be thinking that light painting
has been around for decades but it’s not very practical for shooting portraits. With most cameras you would be thinking correctly. Indeed, you can do light painting with pretty
much any camera that has a BULB mode that will allow you to lock the shutter open. But my Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark II camera, has
a Live Composite feature that gives me incredible control and dramatically simplifies the process
in a way that makes it very easy to create cool portrait backgrounds in real time. So, I am going to show you how I did it with
my Olympus camera but be sure to stay tuned until the end and I will give you some really
useful tips for doing this with other cameras using a BULB shutter setting. In Live Composite mode the camera shoots a
series of images continuously using the same exposure time. All the images are combined together into
a single composite, in camera. The first image is used to record the ambient
light. After the first exposure, only the brighter
pixels in any following images are used. If nothing becomes brighter in the scene,
nothing changes in the picture. I can see that confused look on your face
– so let me walk you through the steps. I have my E-M1 Mark II and the M. Zuiko 45mm
f/1.2 PRO lens mounted on a tripod. To make the process even easier, I’m shooting
tethered to my laptop using a TetherPro cable from Tether Tools and the Olympus Capture
software. This allows me to set the computer up behind
my subject like you see here and then control the camera and watch the image build as I
am moving the lights around. To set the camera up in LIVE COMPOSITE mode
you must work in Manual exposure. So before I enter LIVE COMPOSITE Mode, I will
decide on the aperture that I want to shoot at and select a shutter speed ranging from
half a second to 60 seconds. For my studio portraits I use the camera’s
base ISO of 200. Next, by dialing the shutter speed all the
way down past 60 seconds I will find the LIVE COMPOSITE setting and by clicking the menu
button at this point I can tell the camera what exposure duration I want to work with. Two important tips that I learned while perfecting
this technique… Don’t use auto focus or auto white balance. Since I am working in a dark setting and since
I will potentially move my lights in front of my subject as well as behind my subject
– I don’t want the auto focus to hunt. – so manual focus is the solution and the same
with white balance, since I am using all different colored lights – I don’t want the color
balance to shift during the exposure. When I press the shutter the first time the
camera records an establishing shot of the ambient light. This is the shot that all the other shots
will build on top of. For these portraits – I am working in a very
dimly lit studio – so with an aperture of f/11 the camera is basically recording a blank
frame. Then when I press the shutter a second time
the flash fires and that image begins the composite. You can see on the LCD that I have my subject
– but still no background. Now the camera will continue recording images
until I press the shutter button again to stop the process. You can see how the image builds in real time
as I move the wand around behind my subject. Pretty cool huh? I wind up with a full resolution raw file
that is exactly what I saw in the Live Preview. You can set a duration of anywhere from half
a second to 60 seconds for the composite frames and the camera will allow you to do this for
a total exposure time of up to three hours – which is MUCH more than you need for a portrait. I used a setting of 2 seconds and my total
exposure time for most of my shots was no more than 30 seconds. I know some of you are already asking that
question and my answer is… whatever you have available. Be creative! The first shot that I showed you was done
using the Yongnuo YN360 LED Video Light wand. You can find these on Amazon for about eighty
bucks – but you don’t need to spend that much money. This background was created with 22” glow
sticks that you can get a Party Store for less than ten dollars. I waved them around and it created a kind
of smoky feel. This colorful background was created with
a pair of light up LED gloves that have different color modes. I purchased the gloves online for less than
$15.00. Notice that you can also move your light in
front of your subject to help create a feeling of depth in your shot. Here is a version that I did with a black
light bulb. The possibilities are truly endless. You could work with a flashlight or if you
have a fiber optic party light or even the light from your cell phone could be used to
create a cool background. You may remember in this video I showed you
how I used the Yongnuo light wand and painted with light to photograph the aluminum flowers. I explained how it was a trial and error process
to get the exposure just right. With LIVE COMPOSITE there is very little trial
and error. Here is a simple product shot of an Olympus
Camera done with Live Composite. You can see that I am able to watch the light
build during the exposure and that allows me to decide where I need more light. Notice that the light source is an iPhone. So, you see – LIVE COMPOSITE is an extremely
useful feature in many genres of photography – not just star trails and night landscapes. Here is a shot created by Olympus Visionary
Mike Boenig. Mike took this iconic Chicago landmark and
using a 12mm lens on an Olympus OM-D E-M1 shot at f/22 with one second shutter speeds. The live composite feature allowed him to
record the theater marquis and leave the shutter open long enough to record the headlights
and taillights without over exposing the marquis. In this shot Olympus Visionary Peter Baumgarten
used the OM-D E-M1 Mark II with an 8mm fisheye lens at f/1.8 and shutter speeds of 20 seconds. The live composite feature prevented the light
from the home and it’s reflection on the water from becoming over exposed while recording
the star trails. Here is an image by Olympus Visionary Jamie
McDonald that use the Live Composite feature with 8th of a second exposures over an 8 minute
time period to record the Philadelphia skyline and catch multiple lighting strikes. Live Composite isn’t just for shooting in
the dark. Here is a shot from Olympus Visionary Frank
Smith done in daylight with a neutral density filter using one second exposures that gives
the clouds a painted effect. If you’re not using Olympus cameras you can
still create your own portrait backgrounds by using the BULB shutter setting on your
camera. The major difference is that there will be
a lot more trial and error because you will have to work out the exposure instead of having
the camera do it for you. You will need a remote shutter release that
has a bulb setting to lock the shutter open for the duration of your exposure and for
portraits like the ones that I did – you will want to work in a totally dark room so that
there is no ambient light accumulating in your frame. If you are shooting on a bulb setting I would
recommend working at a very small aperture like f/16 or f/22. Power up your flashes to give you enough light
at that aperture and then if you are using LED light sources like I did – you will have
more time to work with adding light to your shot instead of having the LEDS immediately
overexpose and become too bright. I hope this gives you some ideas, take this
idea and run with it – go create and show me what you come up with. Until next time, please hit that thumbs up
and subscribe so that you don’t miss any videos. Now go pick up that camera and shoot something
because your BEST shot – it’s your NEXT shot, so keep learning, keep thinking, keep
shooting. Adios!

57 thoughts on “DIY Portraits Backgrounds – Painting with Light using Olympus Live Composite or Bulb Shooting Mode

  1. Great video Joe ! People need to know how Olympus cameras are magiK πŸ˜‰ ! Check out my lightpainting album, all the latest pictures are made using Olympus OMD-10 mark III :

  2. You are fantastic, Joe. I always enjoy and learn by watching your videos. Great job done!!! Just keep it up.

  3. This was the most helpful video I’ve seen on live composite. I’m going to give it another try now.

  4. @ 3:55 "I use the setting of '5' seconds" haha, slight glitch in the matrix πŸ˜› Great vid as always though!

  5. I was wondering when would you get creative with this fantastic feature created by Olympus. I did a product shot using a tiny, cheap flashlight I bought at Amazon. I had to mask multiple exposures but it was my first attempt shooting in the dark and although it was a post production challenge, I had a lot of fun when shooting and the experience opened a new horizon and is like having a new tool for your image making factory.

    Thanks for the video, Joe. I'll definitely give it a go with a human (LOL) It never occurred to me I could use flash to freeze my subject on the first frame and than play with light in the dark to fill those "empty" pixels.


  6. WOW great video Joe, and I am so jelouse of that built-in mode that your new Olympus camera has make it so easy. I feel the pull to the Olympus side of the force my master 🀣 but the Sony side is still strong in me πŸ˜ƒ. But like learning about different cameras.

  7. Ever hear the saying β€œThinking outside the box” then along comes Joe Edelman, he seems to have just thrown the box away altogether.

  8. I can only assume the 4 people who "thumbed down" did so by accident while they were falling out of their seat. I'm a Fuji S5 shooter, we're the Fonz of the photography world; we're too cool to show emotions. (HaHaHa)

  9. NICE Joe. Didn't know you could use Live Composite while tethered. BTW the overdub at 3:55 cracked me up.

  10. Great video! My Pentax (well, yes, Pentax) has almost the same composite mode which brings A LOT of fun, but I have never tried it in portraits. I have to find a chance to try it!

  11. Great video as always! Has anyone ever told you that the way you speak if very similar to fellow YouTuber Steve Perry. Not so much the voice (although that is close) but just your delivery/speech pattern.

    I was sent an email from olympus and look who's name turned up does any one know who he is – hehehehehe

  13. Darn you Joe! Making it hard to justify keeping my current set up! lol. Awesome video. I would love to have live composite for many types of shots.

  14. I have to say, I've added more of your videos to my 'favorites' and 'watch later' section than any other channel on YouTube. I've really enjoyed your teaching style. While I'm a long time Olympus shooter (E-1, E-3, E-5, and EM1 mk 1), I have to say this video makes me really want to crack open my manual and learn what other cool things I can do with this camera. Thanks for all of your hard work and all that you do for those who love great photography.

  15. Wow. I think my mind is blown enough to go find the Tylenol. I need to get the simple uses of light solid first before I go here.

  16. Loved it. I use LiveComp all the time but never thought of using it for portraits even though I have done some in bulb mode.

  17. dude, olympus should pay you salary)))
    imagine doing this for sony – you would've been a world-wide celeb, not only to photography community
    olympus, don't let Joe switch, he probably is the only REAL creative photographer you have under your brand
    as always – good job Joe!

  18. Great video tutorial. And very informative tips as always. Thank you for sharing your experiences and especially also examples from other photographers with us! Kind regards Marcel

  19. I tried doing this at a recent shoot…. made the mistake of not being in a black room… so it didn't work :/ all well, live and learn.

  20. This is a very creative technique and beautiful results!
    Question: you first take a stablishing shot of the subject, and then you add the brushes of light to the frame in the following exposures, right? Is the model standing still for the lightpainting stage exposures? Or can it move away from the frame after the first exposure and leave you adding the lights while the live comp is still in progress?
    I guess the person has to be there if you mean to lightpaint behind it, right?

  21. Great video Joe. I've done this before and now makes me want to do it again this time using your images as inspo. Love it!

  22. Please tell someone at Olympus to improve this feature so that i can press a button while using live composite and subtract light instead of just keep adding it! That would be really awesome!

  23. Hi Joe. Thank you for sharing! Don't know if you reply to comments on videos posted a while ago, but what was the white balance choice for this session?

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