DIY Portraits Backgrounds – Painting with Light using Olympus Live Composite or Bulb Shooting Mode

In this DIY Photography video, I am going to show you how to create DIY portrait backgrounds by painting with light using the Olympus live composite feature or by working in Bulb Mode.

This light painting tutorial will walk you through the live composite mode of the Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark II and how to create these cool portrait backgrounds in real time, in-camera. In Live Composite mode the Olympus camera shoots a series of images continuously using the same exposure time. All the images are combined together into a single composite, in camera. The first image is used to record the ambient light. After the first exposure, only the brighter pixels in any following images are used. If nothing becomes brighter in the scene, nothing changes in the picture.

I can see that confused look on your face – so let me walk you through the steps. I have my E-M1 Mark II and the M. Zuiko 45mm f/1.2 PRO lens mounted on a tripod. To make the process even easier, I’m working tethered to my laptop using a TetherPro cable from Tether Tools and the Olympus Capture software. This allows me to set the computer up behind my subject like you see here and then control the camera and watch the image build as I am moving the lights around.

To set the camera up in LIVE COMPOSITE mode you must work in Manual exposure. So before I enter LIVE COMPOSITE Mode, I will decide on the aperture that I want to work at and select a shutter speed ranging from half a second to 60 seconds. For my studio portraits I use the camera’s base ISO of 200.

Next, by dialing the shutter speed all the way down past 60 seconds I will find the LIVE COMPOSITE setting and by clicking the menu button at this point I can tell the camera what exposure duration I want to work with.

Olympus Live Composite Tutorial:

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Olympus Visionary Mike Boening:
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Olympus Visionary Frank Smith:


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Chris Kotsopoulos says:

Great video as always! Has anyone ever told you that the way you speak if very similar to fellow YouTuber Steve Perry. Not so much the voice (although that is close) but just your delivery/speech pattern.

Rupert Hauser says:

Great !!!!

Facundo Peralta says:

Nice video! 😀 You are the best!
Saludos desde Argentina! 😀 ♥

Dave Dialect says:

@ 3:55 “I use the setting of ‘5’ seconds” haha, slight glitch in the matrix 😛 Great vid as always though!

Jack Spade says:

I can only assume the 4 people who “thumbed down” did so by accident while they were falling out of their seat. I’m a Fuji S5 shooter, we’re the Fonz of the photography world; we’re too cool to show emotions. (HaHaHa)

Vasiliy Ivanishvili says:

WOW! The OPTICAL Photoshop? 🙂

Photo-Me-Ike says:

Amazing and super creative. Expected nothing less from Joe!

TASPP Alex Schwarz says:

Great Work!

Mike Boening says:

Fantastic ideas Joe. Going to give a couple of them a try soon!

Xinwei Li says:

Great video! My Pentax (well, yes, Pentax) has almost the same composite mode which brings A LOT of fun, but I have never tried it in portraits. I have to find a chance to try it!

Afif Cherif says:

great job. i use canon so have to practice

Spyros Heniadis says:

Great video Joe! I love the Live Composite on my em5 mk ii.

The Emo Emu says:

Awesome function that I envy you and your Olympus. The Olympus cameras are so underrated it’s almost criminal.

Jason Porter says:

That is a REALLY great idea Joe!

Giulio Sciorio says:

NICE Joe. Didn’t know you could use Live Composite while tethered. BTW the overdub at 3:55 cracked me up.

Rob Trek says:

I did a similar video, but didn’t consider the auto-focus and auto-white balance settings! Great tip!


I really like the way you teach secrets of photography, keep on do it, you are the best.

Sagar Indian says:

You are fantastic, Joe. I always enjoy and learn by watching your videos. Great job done!!! Just keep it up.

Pateau Maxime says:

Great video Joe ! People need to know how Olympus cameras are magiK 😉 ! Check out my lightpainting album, all the latest pictures are made using Olympus OMD-10 mark III :

Quick Phix says:

Hey, Joe! Absolutely love your work!

Vijayg Ganesan says:

Nice video

Trevor Baldwin says:

Another excellent tutorial.

Boris Mitendorfer says:

Cool idea, thank you!

david photography says:
I was sent an email from olympus and look who’s name turned up does any one know who he is – hehehehehe

devdas Devdas says:

Awesome as usual

Dave Donnelly says:

Great images and explanation – yet another Olympus innovation

Michael Hains says:

Another great video, with Joe thinking outside the square – again. Love it.

John Critchley says:

Ever hear the saying “Thinking outside the box” then along comes Joe Edelman, he seems to have just thrown the box away altogether.

Jose Diaz H says:


Petru Asan says:

Thank you

Wataru Maruyama says:

This was the most helpful video I’ve seen on live composite. I’m going to give it another try now.

MuertoInc says:

I was wondering when would you get creative with this fantastic feature created by Olympus. I did a product shot using a tiny, cheap flashlight I bought at Amazon. I had to mask multiple exposures but it was my first attempt shooting in the dark and although it was a post production challenge, I had a lot of fun when shooting and the experience opened a new horizon and is like having a new tool for your image making factory.

Thanks for the video, Joe. I’ll definitely give it a go with a human (LOL) It never occurred to me I could use flash to freeze my subject on the first frame and than play with light in the dark to fill those “empty” pixels.


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