Friday, June 14, 2013

How To Paint Light With A GoPro Hero3 Black

Update: If you want to try this, do not update your Hero3 Black with the new
app firmware 3.03. The new firmware disables the exposure lock on
.5 and 1 second time-lapse interval modes. So we will be back to auto everything.
As you might guess I am not happy with this, I updated my Hero3
not knowing the exposure lock feature was being taken away.
Now I have to figure out how to back my camera up.


 A couple months ago I wrote a post about the Siesta Key Drum Circle.
In it I used a GoPro Hero3 Black Edition to get some cool light
painting still photos and time-lapses, check out the video click here.

So how did I do it?
Short answer, long exposure still photos.
Long answer, you have to trick the all automatic POV camera.
The GoPro Hero3 Black Edition is the latest in a series of
"point of view" POV cameras made for sports and adventure
photography.  It's made to be idiot proof, so it's all automatic.
This new camera has a much better chip then previous models
so it is much better in low light.  A new feature to this model
is that the exposure will lock in time-lapse interval mode (stills).  
So if you want to do light painting, you need to get the longest
possible exposure, which is a half second at 2.8 at ISO400.
When you start your time-lapse the exposure will lock on the first frame.
So, if you put a lens cap on the camera, making it shoot black,
the auto exposure will open all the way up.  Then pop off
the lens cap and do your light dancing.
I set the time-lapse interval mode to a half second so
that the camera is always shooting with no pause in between shots.

Important note, if you start a time-lapse during the day
with the lens cap on, all your photos will be overexposed.
This trick is only for night shooting.

Below are some sample stills and camera setting shots.

I made a companion video to this blog post with new light painting
time-lapse shots, check it out here. 


  1. can this work with hero 3 silver

    1. Yes and No. You can't do it like I did it above anymore because GoPro took away the half second exposure
      and the ability to lock exposure away in the firmware upgrade for the Hero 3s.
      But, you can still do it even with the Hero3 silver, it just won't look as good.
      The silver is not as light sensitive, and it does not have the ability to do longer then a third second exposures.
      Hopefully GoPro will give us more exposure control and longer exposure times and the ability to lock them in future models ...... we can only hope. If they do that, then this little camera will truly ROCK.

  2. Very nice tutorial will be doing this some time soon,Thanks again.

  3. I like it, I have Hero3+ Black Edition will this hero version do the light painting?

    1. Yes, but I don't think it has the half second exposure time in stills mode and exposure lock, so it will work but it may not work as well as the examples above.

  4. What is the light you are using to make these figures? Thnx.

    1. Several different. An LED paklight, mag light, a kids toy that spins with lights on the ends, I even had a stick with two LED lights on either end .... and just spin and swing it.
      No rules, just little lights and get creative.

  5. You can do it with a GoPro Hero3 silver, it may not look as good as a Hero3 Black but it will work.
    To do the light painting I have described above you take one picture at a time in time-lapse interval mode.
    So you can do it for just one photo, but I do it in time-lapse mode which captures many photos.
    So yes you could end up with hundreds or even thousands of photos.

    You can always give it a try in photo mode using the remote.

    Sorry about your previous attempt at posting here, it must have entered the spam filter.
    I never saw it, I always respond to serious questions.
    I hope that answers your question.


  6. Como fazer Light Painting gopro?

    Desenho “love” como fazer?
    Por favor me ajudar eu tenho duvido como fazer gopro Ligth painting…

    1. If you want to write "LOVE" you may ned a longer exposure then the GoPro Hero3 offers.
      The new GoPro Hero4 has a new feature called Night Lapse that would make writing love in light


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