At 1000 – 2000 k range, the colour temperature of the light emitted by candles is much different from that of any other sources of light. And this gives the subjects it illuminates a very warm feel making candlelight photography very popular among photographers, and the result is that many newer generation digital cameras have a built in candle light mode designed to optimize performance while shooting candlelight photos. In this article let us discuss some tips for photographing with candlelight as the light source.
|Photo by Difusa|
Tripod & Cable / Wireless Shutter Release
Candle light is very faint and most of the time will require the use of very low shutter speeds. It hold true even for situation where you use multiple candles to illuminate the scene. So get yourselves a sturdy tripod and also a cable / wireless trigger. In case you don’t have cable / wireless trigger you could use the timer function to trigger the shutter there by reducing the camera shake.
Cut out the Ambient Light
Candle light photography depends entirely on the unique qualities of the candlelight like the warming effect to produce stunning images. In order to get the most out of the situation you should try and eliminate as much of the ambient light in the scene, making candlelight the prominent if not the only source of light.
Shoot Indoors / Shoot on a Still Day
Even a slight breeze could make life difficult when photographing using candlelight. So either choose to shoot indoors where you have better control over these factors or choose to shoot on a relatively still day.
|Photo by Pietro Bellini|
Switch Off Your Flash
Use of flash especially the one that’s mounted on to your camera is huge no no for candlelight photography. You could use an external flash coated with warming gel or either red or orange to illuminate objects in the background. Bounce it off the walls or ceiling to illuminate the secondary subjects, mildly bringing in the details in the shot. While employing this technique use the flash exposure compensation feature in your camera to control (in most cases reduce) the output power of the flash unit.
Images captured with candlelight as the principle light source will have a warm feel with red and yellow as the prominent colours. So using either the Cloud or Shade white balance mode will help you enhance the saturation of these colours adding more warmth to the shot.
|Photo by Lisa Bettany|
Shoot In Raw
Always choose the RAW file type to shoot candlelight photos as you will have the flexibility to correctly set the white balance during post processing. Remember different settings gives different level of warmth to your photos and it is good to have your options open.
Use Aperture Priority (AV) / Manual Mode
For candle light photography Aperture Priority mode is convenient as you could choose the desired aperture value based on how much of the scene you wish to be in focus and the camera will automatically choose the matching shutter speed. If you are using a tripod then you need not be bothered about the camera choosing a slow shutter speed, unless the values go for multi second exposures in which case you will find it very difficult to keep the subjects / candle still. Using the manual mode in your camera gives you more control of your aperture and shutter speeds.
|Photo by Sean O Neill|
In candlelight photography most photographers are tempted to increase the ISO settings. But only do so when it is utterly necessary and if you are increasing the ISO values only increase as much as necessary. Else if you can manage to keep the shutter speeds at reasonable values while the camera is mounted on a tripod use the lowest ISO settings.
|Photo by Sarah Carroll|
Add More Light to the Scene
Try adding more light to the scene by either increasing the number of candles lit or by adding reflective surfaces off the frame to bounce in more light to the scene. You could also light some candles that are off the frame to add in some ambient light to the scene. While setting up your frame remember that white surfaces like white walls, ceilings, table clothes, and dresses and other reflective surfaces like mirrors, metal / shiny fixtures etc reflect more light than other things and will make the scene well lit.
Set your camera to spot metering mode and get your metering values from the main subject. Else camera will meter for the brightest light, in our case the lit candle and the resulting shot will be underexposed.
|Photo by Frenchy|
Composition Tips for Candlelight Photography
While photographing candle light shots, you have two options either to use the candles as a light source placed off the frame or to include them in the frame as compositional elements. When placing candles off the frame to light up the scene consider two things one is the number of candles, depending upon the strength of light required and the second is the spread of the light required. If you need concentrated light to coming from a single direction, creating harsh shadows; places the candles close together. And if you need an even spread of light to cover your subject; spread your candles.
|Photo by Jean Louis|
Play it Safe
Always keep safety your first priority in candlelight photography, watch out for substances that could catch fire, do not place candles near windows with curtains, or where they are unstable, this is truer while using multiple candles spread across the room. Have fun, but play it safe.
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