Creating a Galaxy in a Bathtub

I’ve always loved black light photography. It lets you play with vibrant colors, without having to resort to over saturating your picture in Photoshop! I wanted to try it out, but didn’t really know where to start. What do you use to get that glow? Will any type of paint work? If I buy a bunch of glow sticks and cover a friend’s face with them, will that work? And who would even let me do that?

My friend Ylimay. That’s who.  And so, on a Sunday evening, I came to her house with a bunch of cheap glow sticks I purchased at the Dollar store and my camera.  Yli is a dreamer, an artist and a lot of fun to hang around with, so when I wanted to do a photo shoot involving things that look like galaxies and stars, I knew she’d agree!

I had a hard time finding black lights. The reason, or so I was told, was that it was right after Halloween, and they sell out. So lesson #1- buy black lights before Halloween!

We started doing the photoshoot in Yli’s living room, but problems aroused immediately. The first problem was that there was a window that let too much light come in (it was nighttime, but streets are pretty well lit!) The second and more important problem, was that the glow stick liquid, being cheap, would stop glowing on Yli’s body after about 3 minutes. We were splashing the paint on her in the bathroom because we didn’t want to get her living room all messy, and this did not give us much time to get decent shots. Add to the fact that my camera performs extremely poor in low light, and this was not going well.

So after thinking about it for a little bit, we decided to put Yli in the bathtub, and use the wall as a canvass (I had previously already splashed the crap out of the walls with glow stick light while trying to get it on Yli) This proved to work a lot better, as we had more time to play around and the shots just looked nicer!

Camera issues: Of course, the problem with my camera, is that it doesn’t take in light as quickly as I would like, which meant that Yli had to stay still anywhere between 5 and 10 seconds per shot. The problem with this was that while Yli’s body was very dark, the  lights from the glow sticks where pretty bright! So I was getting an underexposed model with over exposed lighting around her…and on her!

My Macgyver solution to this was to use the light from my cellphone (the backlight, not the actual mini flash that comes with many of them) and illuminate Yli for a couple of seconds at a time. This way, she would actually show up in the pictures as opposed to just blending in with the universe (though that’s not such a bad idea!)

This worked better than having no light at all, but if you’re going to try this, think about having enough light on your subject! Again, it’s tricky because if you put even a little bit of light on her, the colors and brightness from the Glow stick lights vanish…

This would be a good time to thank Yli for helping me out and letting me splash neon lights all over her, her windows, her walls, the floor, and a little bit on the ceiling (no idea how lol) It was a really fun shoot to do, and it gave me a lot of ideas on how the next one could be done better!

For anyone interested, I used a Canon xti, iso about 800 (any more and my camera just destroys the picture with graininess As it is I had to do some serious Photoshopping to cut it down), a 50mm, and a 10-22mm lens, and generally 5-10 second exposures, which of course didn’t help the blur, but Yli was very good at staying still!!

All in all, it was a fun experience. I wish I had better gear, as this is definitely a shoot where having expensive toys actually helps out, but I’m happy with how things came out!

Ylimay has her own WordPress page which you can check out right here!


3 thoughts on “Creating a Galaxy in a Bathtub

  1. Gorgeous photographs! Despite the setting they have a very magical quality to them. Also, out of curiosity, how does one pronounce “Ylimay”? The name looks very nice, but I can come up with several pronunciations.

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