What is a Pixelstick? How to use it for light painting?
Abstract Photography Product Photography Landscape Photography
April 5, 2019

The combination of magic and a creative art form can be really enthralling. Photography is a creative art form and light painting can be the magic you can introduce into the images. So what actually is light painting? It is nothing but a type of long exposure photography in which the light source is used to paint patterns while the camera shutter remains open. With the camera operating on slow shutter speed, you need to use the light source to make the painting in front of the camera lens. This pattern gets recorded on the camera sensor. This is the basic concept of light painting. The light sources used for light paintings have seen several developments over the years. Latest in that line of developments is a gadget named Pixelstick, designed by Bitbanger Labs. Let us take a look at this gadget and how it can be used effectively in light paintings…

Image courtesy: www.thepixelstick.com

There are two methods of doing light paintings. The first one is called the kinetic method since the camera is used to paint the lights. The camera itself is moved while being operated with slow shutter speeds. Zoom burst in an example of this. The second way is the more traditional way in which a light source is used to paint the image. Pixelstick is used in the latter.

The Pixelstick is nothing but a very advanced light source. The biggest advantage of using this gadget is the customization factor. You can replicate any sort of pattern since it is programmed to operate with customized BMP files. All you need to do is to import the BMP files into an SD card and then slot it into the operating system of the pixelstick. The presence of this operating system in the pixelstick makes it a very smart light emitting device. Let us take a look at the various features of this gadget…

The size and structure: The full length of the pixelstick exceeds 6 feet. This makes it quite bulky. However, the design allows it to be broken down into the half. Even then the pixelstick cannot be termed as something easily portable. Weighing close to 2Kg, the pixelstick is not very light as well.

The design: The pixelstick has a strip of almost 200 LED lights following the RGB pattern. This results in a total combination of almost 16 million different colors. LED lights are not the most durable in case of any physical mishaps and hence are protected by aluminum casing. Pixelstick operates with 8 AA batteries. The brain of this device is called the controller which has got the battery pouch. This attaches the stick with the cables and is used to control whatever light patterns you want to replicate.

Image source: Photo by Dylan Crawford


Light painting with the pixelstick:

Choice of location: Choose a location with the least amount of lights. It is preferable to shoot a light painting at night. Since the shutter speed is going to be considerably slow, you don’t want a lot of ambient lights to peek in. The painter should preferably wear very dark colored clothing so that he/she doesn’t show up in the frame.

Exposure triangle parameters: Keep a shutter speed of around 10 seconds or less. This will actually depend on the kind of painting you are about to make. The bigger the painting the more amount of time it will require to be painted. The aperture will depend on the depth of field you want. Use smaller apertures to have the background objects in sharp focus as well. 

The focusing: Keep the pixelstick within the frame and focus on it manually. You can also use the autofocus with the autofocus continuous option to track the movements but with the lack of light, the camera might hunt for focus at times. Manual focus onto the light source and keep it that way.

The procedure: With the focusing and exposure settings, it is time to trigger the camera with a remote shutter cable. The self-timer of the camera can also be used. Start the painting with the help of the pixelstick and continue to do so till the camera shutter is open. Check the result on the LCD screen.

Advantages of pixelstick: The pixelstick actually makes the light painting easier. It is quite difficult to actually paint complex patterns. Some patterns are already present in the pixelstick although custom made designs actually bring out the best of the gadget. Customized patterns can be made in Photoshop and need to be recorded in the form of BMP files. These are then loaded in SD card and slotted to the pixelstick. The pattern can be easily replicated by the pixelstick. There are however certain things that you need to keep in mind while carrying out this process:

The continuity of the task: The light must be kept flowing. Be absolutely thorough with the concept in your mind. The design should also be practiced beforehand. You should use the pixelstick like a paintbrush and make sure it keeps moving. Uneven movements can damage the painting.


Composition: Composition of light painting is crucial. Think about whether you want to repeat certain patterns in the image to bring in a sort of reflective feel to the images. Repetition of patterns has become a lot easier with the artificial intelligence of the pixelstick.

The X-factor of pixelstick: The pixelstick has artificial intelligence since it can replicate the lighting patterns which we load into its memory. This can be used very effectively in product photography. You can input the company’s logo into the memory and this logo will be painted throughout the frame with the product in the middle. This is where the pixelstick actually runs way ahead of other simple light sources like strobes etc.


The pixelstick, as we have seen is a highly modified smart source of light. The ability to replicate stored images makes it one of the attractive gadgets in the world of photography. Try out the pixelstick to change your light painting game!





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