Having Fun With The Pixel Stick

The Pixel Stick Experience

The Pixel Stick
The Pixel Stick

I have had access to The Pixel Stick for the last several years. It is not something I use all the time but when I do the photographic experience is always fun and memorable. I think this is due to a few reasons.

  1. The Collaboration
    Working with The Pixel Stick is a collaborative process. It takes time to think of a concept and I personally enjoy working with others in executing the idea and creating an in-camera image that is sure to have people scratching their heads. I typically try and do some sort of behind-the-scenes video of the process so that I can prove to people that call “Photoshop.” I will admit some of the looks could be replicated in Photoshop and probably made to look just as good or better. However, I find the challenge of capturing a creative image in-camera to be the fun part.
  2. It’s Getting Late
    If you want to use The Pixel Stick in an outdoor setting then it obviously has to be late at night. At my current stage of life, I am typically in bed early and up just before sunrise. So when I plan a shoot with The Pixel Stick it typically doesn’t start until 9 pm and we end up shooting until midnight or later. I think this is part of what makes it a memorable experience. It might toss you off your normal routine and allow you to see and think about places differently. 
  3. The Finale
    Working with The Pixel Stick requires thought and practice. You not only have to think about your camera settings but you also have to think about how things are going to move in the scene to provide you with an amazing end product. Most times we shoot the same scene over and over again to get the timing and exposure correct. The end product is typically mind-blowing when you consider it was all done with one image in-camera.
March Madness
March Madness 2021

Loading up The Pixel Stick with content is easy. There is a converter on the website for file conversion or you can create your own .BMP files in Photoshop. Once you do it once you will start to see the possibilities, which are truly endless. The actual functionality of The Pixel Stick is my one gripe with the system. In the menu system, it can be difficult to navigate to the file you are looking for because of the limited characters that the file name displays. I found it helpful to create a little cheat sheet on your phone with descriptions of the files. If you only have a few elements loaded this is not necessary. You will obviously need a tripod and a remote trigger for your camera is helpful although I typically use the timer setting and it works well but might require another level of timing when it comes to choreographing the scene. I recommend bringing an additional flashlight or headlamp. You will be working in the dark and working with camera gear in the dark can be challenging. I usually pack a small headlamp in my bag so I can be hands-free and easily see what I am doing.

Below are a few of my favorite images using The Pixel Stick and some background context on how they were created.

Tent Party Christmas
Tent Party Christmas
Light Painting
Light Painting
Downtown Carmel, IN
Downtown Carmel, IN
Pixel Stick used indoors

Myself, @instadurr, and FPV drone racer Paul Nurkkala, @nurkfpv, set out to create a light-painted scene using Paul’s Tiny Whoop drone. 

Nurk and the drone
Nurk and the drone

To achieve this I had my Canon 5D MarkIV set to bulb with a trigger he set to hold at the start of the scene. I popped a Godox AD400 flash on Paul posing. After the flash, Paul walked over to The Pixel Stick and painted the fireball while I took the flash head of the stand and walked behind the camera. Once Paul finished painting the fireball he then flew a Tiny Whoop drone through the scene and Michael popped the flash again at the appropriate location to illuminate the drone. After that, Michael walked back to the camera and closed the shutter. We were very happy with how the two of us were able to achieve this scene in one frame.

Check out the BTS video below. We shot this video on an iPhone with the lights on so you could see how we made our moves. The final image was captured in complete darkness.

This is a fun video just to show how much fun taking pictures can be.

This was the image captured in the BTS video with the lights on. This shows how accurately we had this choreographed.

Another image I am particularly proud of is a collaboration I did with Daniel Woody. Daniel is an Indianapolis-based photographer and we have gone out shooting together on a number of occasions. With March Madness being held in Indianapolis we wanted to create a phone basketball-themed light-painted image. We used The Pixel Stick to print the basketball player and then once Daniel excited the scene I used my Litra Studio to illuminate the Indy sign to give is some depth and pop it from the background. There was a little bit of post manipulation with this image and that was the monument in the background. We were just getting set up when the lighted tribute started on the circle where the monument is. I managed to capture the flag projection on the building and a well-lit monument but that was composited over our light-painted image. This could have been all captured in-camera if we were set up and ready in time. 

As Daniel and I practiced the timing and lighting of this image people started to gather around us to watch. Almost as if we were street performers. When people saw the image on the back of the camera they literally gasped. 

Overall, The Pixel Stick is something I recommend any photographer who likes to collaborate with others should have or have access to. Light painting in general is an incredibly creative process and will likely bring you into a new realm of photography.

If you have questions on this process or about any of the gear used please contact me on my Instagram @instadurr or via email at [email protected]

Thank you for your interest in this content.

The Pixel Stick can be purchased HERE


Michael Durr
April 2022
Michael Durr
Indianapolis, IN

After studying broadcast journalism at Illinois State University, I began my career in Central Illinois creating commercials and on-air promotions for local television affiliates. From 2008 to 2012, I worked for The Marketing Store where I created content for clients such as McDonald’s, Coca-Cola, and Southern Comfort. From there, I worked for Maddock Douglas, an innovation consulting firm, developing an internal photo/video offering. I left Maddock Douglas to be a creative director at FÁS Chicago, where I worked primarily for Case Construction. In 2017, I relocated to Indianapolis with my wife and two sons and I have started Michael Durr Photo/Video, LLC. Currently, I work in partnership with Kevin Raber and PhotoPXL, creating video content on all things photography. In addition I work on other freelance projects primarily around the midwest. Throughout my career, talented friends and great mentors have surrounded me. I have been fortunate to wake up every day never feeling like I was going to work. The combination of my professional experience, personality and drive to improve has given me a unique perspective from behind the lens. It is a combination of work and life that inspires me.

Article Type: Reviews, Tutorials, Columns, MISC

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