Lightpad Photography - 6 easy steps

Using a Light Tracing Pad to create magical, translucent flower images! 

5 easy steps to get you started

I love to capture flowers in natural light. The light brings out the almost translucent quality of the petals. I wanted to find a way to get this same effect when shooting flowers indoors, especially during the winter months. Using a light tracing pad is an easy way to replicate natural light and bring out the translucent qualities of the flowers. 

Step 1: Gather your equipment

The first step is to purchase a light tracking pad. They can be found online or at local art stores. They range in price, and I recommend starting with a small, inexpensive one. If you end up enjoying this process, you can upgrade. They run around $20, so it is a relatively inexpensive tool. 

The great news is any camera will work for this type of photography. Lens choice is also up to you. Shooting with a 24-100mm lens will give you variety in the focal distance; you can also use a macro lens. A Lensbaby lens will also work and give you even more creativity.

A tripod is necessary! It will ensure you can take a longer exposure, get the image in focus, and allow you to shoot straight down. You want to set up as if you were shooting a flat setup - so have your camera head facing straight down to the light pad. 


Step 2: What to photograph? 

What to capture is the fun, creative part! You can photograph all types of fresh flowers, dried flowers, seedpods, sliced fruit, berries, leaves. You do want to select a subject that is naturally a little translucent. To test translucency, hold the subject up to the light. If you can see a little light coming through, it will be a great subject. Darker subjects do not have as much transparency and may require additional light to get a great shot.  

Step 3: Set up your photoshoot? 

Set up your light pad on a stable work surface. I like to set my light pad on the floor and then stand with my tripod to shoot. You want to be set up in a room that has bright natural light. Working in a room with windows or a doorway lets extra light in and will help you get the proper exposure. 

Place a test subject on the light pad so you can set up your tripod. Adjust your tripod as needed based on your lens focal length. 

Once your equipment is in place, begin to arrange your subject on the light tracing pad. To get started, you can shoot a single flower or get creative with your display. I like to place the flowers like a floral bouquet on the light pad or place them as they would be viewed growing in the garden. Try different setups and see what works for you. 


Step 4: Capture the images and overexpose!

I recommend shooting these images in manual mode. You will want to adjust the shutter speed to get the best pictures. The recommended settings are ISO of 100, F11-F16 aperture to get lots of detail, and a shutter speed of .5 sec to 1 sec. Shutter speed will have to vary based on the light in your room, the strength of your light pad light, and the color of your subject. 

The key is to overexpose the images by 2 - 3 stops. You will want the exposure to be very bright. I like to capture one image overexposed by two stops and then another by three stops. You can combine the photos in post-processing to get a nice balanced exposure. The key is to bring out the translucent quality of the flower as much as you can. If you are capturing a dark flower, like a red rose, you may need to add extra light. You can use a lamp or flash for popping the brightness on the top of the flower. 


Step 5: Editing these images is a breeze! 

If you want a simple edit, the two-stop overexposed image is a great place to start. Pop the whites more if needed, add some contrast and work with your colors. Adding a texture or other creative editing tool can make them even more creative. 

If you are comfortable using Photoshop, you can combine each of the exposed images. I like to blend the images, using the three-stop overexposed image to mask in extra brightness. 

This is a creative way to capture flowers, seeds, fruit. It makes a great rainy or winter day photography project. Enjoy playing with compositions and capturing the translucent quality of your subject. 


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