Saturday, 25 August 2012

CandleLight Photography - How to Photograph In Candle Light

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.

CandleLight Photography - How to Photograph In Candle Light
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.

CandleLight Photography - How to Photograph In Candle Light
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.

White Balance

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.

CandleLight Photography - How to Photograph In Candle Light
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.

CandleLight Photography - How to Photograph In Candle Light
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.

CandleLight Photography - How to Photograph In Candle Light
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.

CandleLight Photography - How to Photograph In Candle Light
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.

CandleLight Photography - How to Photograph In Candle Light
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.

In the next article we will discuss about Photography - How To Photograph - How to get better digital photos in Low Light without using Flash

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