Light is one of a photographer's greatest assets and, when used effectively, can transform otherwise dull scenes into photographic masterpieces. Candles offer a unique source of light which can produce stunning results if used creatively. In today's Quick Tip, we're exploring a few techniques for making the most of candlelight photography!
Step 1 - Remove Other Light Sources
Candles produce light with a warmth that is rarely found from natural sunlight, a bulb or a flash, so it is important to try to optimise its affect. Try removing all other light sources from the room - this will not only enhance the affect of the candle's light, but will also help you understand the strength of the light and how it behaves in the room.
Step 2 - Camera Settings
There are a number of difficulties involved with photographing candles, namely the low light. With this in mind, be prepared to knock up the ISO, select a low f-number and a fairly long shutter speed, but don't be afraid to experiment to get the shutter speed as quick as you can. A longer shutter speed will inevitably lead to problems with camera shake, so either find something to lean against, or preferably use a tripod.
Another thing to consider is the movement of the flame. If there is even a light breeze, the flame will flicker at it's own pleasure. Although this can be used to your creative advantage, if you're going for the still hopeful flame vibe, then get rid of the draught!
Step 3 - Use a Candle as a Light Source
Candles are often used as the focal point of an image, but you might also want to consider using them as a light source for your shot. You may want to light a subject in darkness, but with a particularly warm light, which a candle could provide.
Try using a single candle to start with, experiment with proximity and also the angle in relation to the subject (without getting too close!). You may then want to add more candles to the scene, in or out of shot, to enhance and adapt the light.
Step 4 - Candle Composition
When using candles as the subject for your shot, there are few compositional elements to consider. Firstly, the angle at which you approach the subject. Many candles are round, but look at how the wax is melting and whether there is anything of particular interest or distraction in the background.
If you are using a single candle, think about how to maximise the affect of singularity - the lone flame in the darkness - and whether you want the shot to be predominantly light or predominantly dark.
If you are shooting multiple candles, look at how they are arranged. Is there a pattern or layout from a certain angle? With a low f-number, you may also want to consider the focal length, looking down a line of little flames with only one in focus can be very effective.
Have Fun, and Play Safe!
Photographing candles is not always easy due to the low light situation but they provide a great opportunity for creativity and will hopefully help you to understand more about light. Don't be afraid to experiment - spend an hour in a dark room with a few candle flames and I'm sure you'll be surprised at what you can come up with.
Finally, play safe, be careful with candles in your home and remember to always blow them out before you leave the room!