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Photography/Glow in the dark photo



I have a small business where I customize sports balls.  We would like to showcase a ball that glows in the dark.  I have tried cutting off the lights and using a LED flashlight, but the results was not clear.  What is the best way to take a pics that will show the ball and the glow in the dark text?

Thanks in advance.

ANSWER: Hello, Tina,

Interesting question, and for me, difficult. I don't quite have enough information, and it's not the type of photography I routinely do. Does it glow when it is in the presence of, say, ultraviolet light, or do you charge the ball with light, and then turn off all light, and it glows?

It seems to me that an LED flashlight would just light the ball, not make it glow.

Decades ago, I learned that I could take the green filter from an oscilloscope (this was available at the time; you'd have a dickens of a time finding one now), put it over a white light so that there was only green light coming through, and place a day-glo type object that normally glows red, and it would glow red. An ordinary red object would just look black. But because of lack of accessibility to a filter, this is probably not an option. You might be able to find one somewhere, but I wouldn't begin to know where to look.

Certain things are a requirement for a sharp picture in the dark. You have to have a tripod and a cable release, and use a very long exposure. You would be talking an exposure of minutes. You have to stop down your lens. That means an f stop of at least 22, or higher if you can get it. The f stop is the diameter of the hole the light goes through in your lens, as a fraction of an inch. This is especially the case because a ball is round, and you will be shooting close to the ball, so you will have depth of field problems.

In addition, you have to use a low ISO. I wouldn't go any higher than 800, and 200 or 400 would be better. And this also lengthens the necessary exposure. The ball must be absolutely stationary all this time. If you are using anything other than a DSLR, you probably won't get good results. In other words, it requires an expensive camera. A cell phone camera won't do it, nor will a cheap digital camera with a fixed lens.

If you do not have the background knowledge for this explanation, or the equipment, you may have to hire a photographer. If you have any questions, please don't hesitate to ask.

---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------


QUESTION: I have attached a pic of my project for your perusal.

Hello, Tina,

Your picture is underexposed. Try a longer exposure and see if the lettering is sharp. In order for it to be effective, you would need to be able to see the ball as well, and it is unlikely you will get enough light from the letters to do that; I'd say virtually impossible. I don't have time for more right now, but try a longer exposure and see what happens. Then get back to me.


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Pat G


I can answer questions about the artistic aspects of photography, and tricks for shooting landscape, scenic, macro, and animal photography. I am familiar with Pentax SLR cameras, both film and digital. I have also done work in urban photography and creative photography, and I am familiar with creative uses of filters and lenses. I am familiar with composition and color theory, and know how to make use of light. I can answer questions about things like lightning photography and moon photography. I spend time studying the techniques of the well known photographers. I work exclusively in color. Although I travel anywhere and everywhere in pursuit of landscape and scenic photography, my main area of expertise is the American southwest, and I am familiar with many scenic areas. I also have familiarity with the plants of the Sonoran Desert, having studied not only their appearance but also their uses, including ethnobotany. See my educational credentials for other art that I do.


I have spent the last ten years as a semi-professional photographer, selling my work on the internet, and having won international honors. The gallery of my most recent work, where I usually post frequently is I will take questions about how I did various photographs.

The first prize I won for my art was when I was in third grade. I have a bachelor's degree in art from Ohio Dominican University, where I learned mainly ceramics and glaze calculation. I have also done various kinds of fiber arts. In addition, I do digital landscapes, abstracts, and fractal art.

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