4 tips for taking portraits with the Pixelstick

I recently received my pixelstick (LED light wand) and have been toying with using it for portraits and weddings. The need for several assistants, almost total night, and someone with great timing to lug the 6 ft light around makes it a rascal of a tool to use, but after an initial trial with some portraits, I am excited to see where this can go. Some initial thoughts on using the pixelstick for portraits:

1. Utilize the photo-realistic aspect of the LED.  The major advantage to the pixelstick over regular LED lighting is that you can load your own images (from geometric shapes to 8 bit graphics to photos). To my mind, for portraits, this creates a unique opportunity to really build layers of visual interest. In this case, a photo of the Minneapolis skyline at dusk. pixelstick portraits minneapoils at night

2. Engage you subject with the image. Having a photo floating in space or a fun graphic to the side of your subject is fun, but you could get a similar effect in photoshop. Bringing your subject and the pixelstick into interaction together is a huge way to build layers of interest. In this case, I liked the graphics supplied with the pixelstick to create a wall effect that my model could look at. It almost creates the effect of her being in a cell. Below utilizes an image of fairy lights, wrapping around the model. pixelstick portraits minneapoils at night

pixelstick portraits minneapoils at night3. Hold very very still. There are certainly lots of artifacts in these super long exposures. Finding a subject and stance that can be still for the whole time in very useful. Also, while the flash I used on rear-curtain sync “freezes” the action of my subject, any movement while the pixelstick is passing behind will show up in a shadow on the pixelstick imagery. All of these images are taken between a 3 and 5 second exposure.

pixelstick portraits minneapolis at nightpixelstick portraits minneapoils at nightpixelstick portraits minneapoils at nightpixelstick portraits minneapoils at night4. Play with something weird. You can’t know where the edges are if you don’t try to push through them. This pixelstick image is actually enlarged bokeh from a previous shoot, mimicking the effect of very blown out background lights but at a scale at odds with the laws of physics.

pixelstick portraits minneapoils at nightpixelstick portraits minneapoils at night

If the saying is true that “when you have a hammer, everything looks like a nail”, I think that “when you have a pixelstick, every dark space is screaming for a wall of light” – we will see how true that holds in the bustle of weddings.

Anyone else playing with the pixelstick for portraits?

4 notes + Add comment
  • William Keiffer

    on September 30, 2014  8:18 pm

    Becca,
    Hello, we are wedding photographers from Clarksville, TN and we have just purchased the pixelstick. We were admiring your pixelstick portraits at:

    http://beccadilley.com/2014/08/19/4-tips-for-taking-portraits-with-the-pixelstick/

    We were wondering...how do you get your model to look so bright while using the pixelstick? Our problem is we are not sure what lighting to use on the model since we are keeping it dark when using the pixelstick.

    Thanks for any advice on this.

  • Minneapolis Wedding Photographer | Becca Dilley

    on September 30, 2014  8:40 pm

    Well, the subject (as I mention is section #3) is lit with a flash. There would be no other way to freeze the movement of a model for the long exposure required to utilize the pixelstick. It is almost like thinking of two photos that are happening simultaneously - one is the long exposure light painting, and the other is the long exposure subject with flash.

    TLDR; lots of trial and error.

  • Sheri Baker Johnson

    on October 10, 2014  11:13 am

    I was looking for examples of the pixelstick in use. I just ordered one yesterday. I like the photos you shared. How did you light your model in these shots?

  • jc

    on July 6, 2015  5:04 am

    (facepalm)