Halo 3000 in front of light painting it created
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Create Beautiful Light Paintings With a $50 Drone

The idea of using drones for art is not a new one. Intel has pioneered using hundreds of drones in coordinated light shows. DJI has teased at the idea of the Phantom X, that can be controlled using hand gestures to create “paintings in the sky”. We did something far less complicated and, in our opinion, much more beautiful than anything DJI or Intel have (or haven’t) done. We created fantastic long exposure light paintings using an inexpensive toy LED drone that you can get on Amazon today!

Intel light show compared to LED Light painting with a drone

While the Intel light show is an impressive feat of engineering, we think the light painting is a real piece of art.

Camera Setup

The concept is pretty simple. I set up my Sony a6000 mirrorless camera with a 30-second long exposure, a small f/22 aperture to keep everything in pretty good focus, and a low ISO 400 sensitivity to keep the bright lights from overexposing and keep the background nice and dark. Then I flew. Once I got started it was pretty addictive.

Spinning view of the Force1 Halo 3000

See the Halo 3000 from all angles as it transitions from day to night.

Picking a Drone

There is no doubt that the Halo 3000 is pretty ideal for this task. It has altitude hold so if you are looking up it is easier to keep the drone at roughly the right altitude. The real benefit of this drone is that the LEDs are clearly visible regardless of the orientation of the drone. We are very tempted to get the less expensive predecessor to the Halo, the UFO 3000.

Halo 3000 light painting

The camera was pointing up for this picture. Altitude hold can make it easier to keep your desired distance from the camera.

The UFO 3000 generally runs about $10 cheaper than the Halo but it doesn’t include altitude hold. The benefit of no altitude hold is that the pilot has complete control of the drone including altitude. This can be a real benefit, especially when capturing images from the side. No matter what drone you go with, make sure it has some really nice LEDs that can be seen from multiple angles.

Technique

I recommend you experiment with different camera angles. Most of my favorite images are with the camera pointed up and the drone flying over the camera. You can get different effects from the side, where upward-flying spirals and loops create interesting effects. I suggest you play around and find what you like best. As I mentioned before, I recommend a low ISO setting and a small aperture to get the best shots.

A spinning vortex light painting

This image was captured with the camera looking more on the side of the drone, not with the camera pointed skyward.

We put a video together showing video of the flights and we added a little humor courtesy of the painting master himself, Bob Ross. We’ve got him beat though. These light paintings were all finished in no more than 30 seconds. It always took Bob 30 minutes to crank out an oil painting with his knife and 2-inch brush.

A Few More Shots

Check out a couple more cool images I captured. You just can’t get the same effects by doing light painting by hand. I definitely recommend you try this. Check the latest price on the Halo 3000 with altitude hold or the original UFO 3000 that allows the pilot more control.

Drone flips recorded in a light painting

The camera was pointed up and flips are recorded with a cool helix shape.

Halo 3000 drone light painting

If you pause during flight or reverse course completely you can really make out the shape of the drone.

Arches painted by light from Halo 3000

Probably my favorite image. This one was shot from below with the camera pointed up.

 

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If you want to learn more about taking great pictures or flying FPV then check out our comprehensive guides on those topics. Also take a look at our articles on how to choose the right drone for great aerial photos or for getting started flying race drones. Learn more about drones and how to get the most out of them in our Drone Academy. In the Academy we also detail some of the advanced testing we do, including our recent addition, drone thrust testing.

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Half Chrome • November 28, 2017


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