It’s autumn, and winter isn’t too far away. Soon we’ll be spending our nights indoors by the roar of a fire, enjoying the flickering of candles. Have you ever wondered how to take pristine pictures under candlelight when you don’t have that much light to work with in the first place? The following tips will help you setup your camera so you can capture the mood you’re looking for.
There’s one thing all great candlelit photos have in common. They were taken with the flash off.
Why is that important? When you use a flash, your camera emits a very powerful light that will counteract the light coming from the candles. It’s simply too much. But when you turn off your flash, you allow the candlelight to define the shot. It suddenly takes center stage.
A Tripod And Your Camera’s Self-Timer Are A Must
If you haven’t already guessed, you’ll need to use some fairly slow shutter speeds. In order to avoid having camera shake issues, that means setting up your tripod. You’ll also want to use your camera’s self-timer. I know. You’re wondering how that’s going to help if you’re taking a picture of someone else, but bear with me.
Every time you press down the shutter button, your camera moves ever so slightly. With the self-timer enabled, you press the shutter, wait a bit, and then your camera takes the picture. This eliminates that tiny bit of extra camera shake at the beginning of the shot, giving you a little more clarity and sharpness (which is extremely important when your only source of light is a few candles).
Use More Candles, And Place Them All Over The Room
You can’t have enough candles when you’re taking candlelight photos. Any extra bit of light you get from them will help you take shots that are less blurry. Just make sure you don’t put all of your candles in one place. Spread them out around the room so the light is more even.
Also consider the type of shooting environment you’re using. What color of paint is on the walls? Are there a lot of mirrors? If you have white walls, some mirrors, and even white linens in your shot, you’ll notice that your photos are a little brighter. That’s because white things reflect light. This can really come in handy when you’re squeezing as much light as you can from the candles you’re using.
Tell Your Subject To Hold Still
Like I said earlier, you’ll be using some pretty slow shutter speeds (I usually go no lower than 1/15s). If your subjects are moving during the shot, they’ll be blurry in the final image. There is one foolproof way to get your subjects to stay still for longer. Have them them rest their chin on their hands while they stare into the camera. As long as they are holding a comfortable position, it shouldn’t be too hard to stop them from moving.
If your subjects are a little more adventurous, you can turn this into a game. Tell them to try holding a few positions for a fun shot, and then show them the LCD when you’re done taking the picture. Some people enjoy challenges like this, and you’ll get some interesting shots.
Increase Your ISO Speed Ever So Slightly
An increased ISO speed will allow you to do more with a poorly lit room. Just be careful no to increase it too much or your photos will look very grainy. I usually increase my ISO to the second or third highest setting on my camera, and I don’t go over that. This is just enough to get a little more mileage from the available light without making a noticeable impression the image. Usually 400 or 800 ISO is plenty.
You’ll also want to change your camera’s white balance settings. If you don’t do this, your images might not have that romantic feeling to them. I prefer the “indoor” setting the best when taking candlelight photos. You can also manually adjust your white balance by taking a picture of a white piece of paper while it is illuminated by candlelight. Your camera will then set the default white to the picture you just took, creating a setting that’s very similar to “indoor” mode.
Whatever you do, be patient and enjoy the process. Keep looking back at the LCD between images. If your photo is too dark, you’ll need to decrease the shutter speed. If it’s too blurry, you’ll either need to use a tripod, or you’ll need to get your subject to stay still. If none of these options is working, consider adding more candles or increasing your ISO past 400. You’ll have this figured out in no time.
And if you do have it figured out already, I’d love to see what you’ve come up with. Just upload your candle masterpieces to our Candlelight gallery, and I might feature it in a future article.
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