Photographing By Candle Light

This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license.
This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license. | Source

By candle light photography gives any subject a golden almost magical tone that is hard to match even with today's digital advances. This theme is quite complex but can also be quite simple to accomplish. The idea is to record images that are only illuminated by the light produced by candles.

How many candles does not really matter since they will all give out the same glow. However there are minor preparations that have to be made before taking your first shot.

If you are using film like I am, then you must use a tungsten balanced film otherwise you take the risk of making your images come out with strange tones, particularity in the skin. If using digital then set the controls for tungsten balance.

You can also digitally edit the images afterward to remove any unwanted color effects. This would be the same as if you used regular film and recorded photos under the light of a regular light bulb.

Most photography needs to have a much higher color temperature in the range of about 3000- 5000 K for the images to be properly exposed and since you can read from the previous quote the average for a candle is about 1000k, definitely not enough for a good exposure without some added preparations, although having more candles increase the illumination thus the color temperature.

You will need a tripod to hold the camera still while the shutter completes its cycle and to prevent blur from any movement. You should also use a mechanical shutter triggering mechanism to also avoid any motion. Avoid any other light source as this will compromise the scene and erase the "golden" candle light effect.

This doesn't mean that you can cheat a little bit. Using reflectors at 45 degree angles to the subject will reflect back much need light and will aid in cutting the shutter cycle's time. Don't have reflectors then use mirrors even aluminum foil.

Many very good and quite pleasing images can be obtained with the candle light technique but the best effects are done in a controlled environment such as that provided in a studio.

Keep in mind that you should only use a ratio of one subject at a time per candle or several reflectors with several subjects and less candles. The candle has to be close enough to the subject to produce a viable illumination and the studio should be void of any other light source. The candles will offer all the light you need to focus and set up.

Be aware of the fumes produced by candles and have some ventilation available. Simple props such as a plain wooden table and chair are mostly what you will need as any extravagant effects will be lost in the dim light, unless these props are your intended subjects in the first place.

The backgrounds will undoubtedly be black to very dark and again due to the dim light and this is what you should aim for anyway. Be also aware of the surrounding to prevent anything from catching on fire or candles being knocked out. Keeping a fire extinguisher nearby is a good idea.

The images should stand on their own without much intrusion from outside elements that can distract an audience's gaze.

The atmosphere of the scene can be varied and moody scenes are quite apt for the technique. Romanticism can also be portrayed quite well especially with a couple holding hands, kissing, or fixated upon each others eyes.

Depression, solitude, solemn scenes and so on can be easily recorded this way. Just be wary of the subjects selection and other elements; A solemn scene would be better recorded with dark to drab props instead of a shinny white table and red chair for example.

Be also attentive to the candle holder. The simpler ones work better especially if made from non shinny metals.

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This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license. | Source

For your first attempts try to keep the project simple and uses one subject and one candle, as your skills progress or you feel like experimenting then adding more candles and more subjects and making the scene more complex are sure to produce good images.

Keeping your first attempts simple will let you know if any changes need to be made or any adjustments to equipment or set up are required and a simple one & one set is much easier done and disassembled afterward.

Do close ups of the face and a good technique is to photograph the subject that has the eyes closed since it may be inevitable to record images while the subject is blinking due to the extended time needed for the shutter to open and close.

Still life can also be done this way but choose subjects whose color and composition will add to the scene; glass or transparent, rich colored or bright subjects are not ideally suited, better to use drab or muted colored subjects instead and plain ones even better.

Here is a challenge; position your subject near a window during the night hours, illuminate your subject by candle light and the aid of at least one reflector. Choose a location from which outside light such as those of the city can be seen, record the shot.

This works better if you are positioned in back of the subject and the subject is aimlessly looking to what is beyond the closed window.

Remember to set or calibrate your gear for the candle light illumination not for the outside lighting. This type of scene has many applications and is eagerly sought by photo stock houses.

Good pleasing images can be submitted to any of the many photographic stock houses as well as to many photo publications, calendar and postcard publishers.

"The hottest part of the flame is just above the very dull blue part to one side of the flame, at the base. At this point, the flame is about 1,400 °C. However note that this part of the flame is very small and releases little heat energy.

The blue color is due to chemiluminescence, while the visible yellow color is due to radiative emission from hot soot particles. The soot is formed through a series of complex chemical reactions, leading from the fuel molecule through molecular growth, until multi-carbon ring compounds are formed.

The thermal structure of a flame is complex, hundreds of degrees over very short distances leading to extremely steep temperature gradients. On average, the flame temperature is about 1,000 °C.[5] A typical candle creates 50 BTUs per hour of heat. The color temperature is approximately 1,000 K." Wikipedia

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© 2011 Luis E Gonzalez

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Comments 17 comments

Cardisa profile image

Cardisa 5 years ago from Jamaica

When we think of candle light we often think of romance. These photos are really great. We can do almost anything in candle light and it will look beautiful. Another nice project to practice with.

I'll pay you a chicken for the lessons....lol


LuisEGonzalez profile image

LuisEGonzalez 5 years ago from Miami, Florida Author

Cardisa: Thank you...curry chicken??


Daniella Lopez profile image

Daniella Lopez 5 years ago from Arkansas

Great and informative hub! Thanks for sharing your tips. Voted up!


LuisEGonzalez profile image

LuisEGonzalez 5 years ago from Miami, Florida Author

Daniella Lopez; Thank you


Jamie Brock profile image

Jamie Brock 5 years ago from Texas

Luis,

Your hub is very informative. Could a Sony Cybershot do this kind of photo with candle light or would that require a more fancy camera? I've tried it before but never could get it to come out right. Thanks again for this informative hub!


LuisEGonzalez profile image

LuisEGonzalez 5 years ago from Miami, Florida Author

Jamie Brock: Thank you and yes it should be able to record a good image but you will need to set it on a tripod and use reflectors aimed at 45 angles to the subject; the same as a regular SLR or DSLR


FloraBreenRobison profile image

FloraBreenRobison 5 years ago

Besides the romance Cardisa mentioned, candlelight often reminds me of earlier eras, such as Victorian England.


LuisEGonzalez profile image

LuisEGonzalez 5 years ago from Miami, Florida Author

FloraBreenRobinson:Thank you, it does reminisce of that era


Lynn S. Murphy 5 years ago

Candlelight makes everything look better. I need more practice with settings and remembering that I actually have a tripod. Hey have you done a hub on moon and eclipses????


LuisEGonzalez profile image

LuisEGonzalez 5 years ago from Miami, Florida Author

Hey Lynn; Thank you, yes I have but it's just waiting to be published along with about 32 others


Lynn S. Murphy 5 years ago

Then I guess I'll patiently wait *tapping toe* impatiently. lol!!!


randomcreative profile image

randomcreative 5 years ago from Milwaukee, Wisconsin

I agree that candles are definitely frequently associated with romance. Their presence can add a romantic element to many different types of shots. Thanks for the advice!


LuisEGonzalez profile image

LuisEGonzalez 5 years ago from Miami, Florida Author

Lynn & randomcreative: Thank you both


c1234rystal profile image

c1234rystal 5 years ago

Well written and well thought out. I can really tell that photography is one of your passions. Recently, I bought a nice Canon which is really fun to use and I'm in the process of learning more about it.


LuisEGonzalez profile image

LuisEGonzalez 5 years ago from Miami, Florida Author

c1234rystal: Thank you, enjoy your Canon


Loquacious Laura 5 years ago

Thanks for some tips. Here is one I took to highlight a watercolor painting I did shortly after the Japan devastation. In fact, that is what the painting is titled.

http://www.flickr.com/photos/wagthedog2010/5540615...

This one is called Pray for Me

http://www.flickr.com/photos/wagthedog2010/5540614...


LuisEGonzalez profile image

LuisEGonzalez 5 years ago from Miami, Florida Author

Loquacious Laura; Thank. I checked your photos at Flicker, very creative work

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