DIY Photography Hacks: use candles for sultry low-light portraits

DIY Photography Hacks: use candles for sultry low-light portraits

As our DIY Photography Hacks series continues, we show you a simple technique for using common household candles as your chief light source for dramatic low-light portraits.

DIY Photography Hacks: use candles for sultry low-light portraits

As we are now fully into the colder and darker months of the year, shooting inside becomes increasingly appealing, which is good for portraits. Candlelight portraits make a great subject.

The warm glow of candlelight can instantly create an aura of mystery or seduction, and give you flattering, focused and romantic looking images – so why not find a model, hunt out some candles and experiment?

DIY Photography Hacks: use candles for sultry low-light portraits

1 Get the light right
It’s all about the glow with candlelight, so use a daylight white balance to retain the warm, orange colour. It’s a good idea to underexpose your shots by 1-stop, too, to prevent the candle flame being overexposed.

2 Use a tripod
For this type of shot you’ll be shooting at speeds well below 1/30th second, so for a shake-free shot you need to ask your subject to be as still as possible, and definitely use a tripod. If you have a remote shutter release, use it.

3 Pick your widest aperture
Choose your fastest lens and use it at its widest aperture to let more light into your camera – a real help for both exposure times and accurate focus. You’ll be working with a shallow depth of field, so your focusing really does need to be spot on.

4 Experiment with your candles  
The way you arrange your candles will have a real impact on your shots. If you use one or more in a single position you’ll get harsher shadows than if you spread them out. More on one side gives a side-lit effect.

5 Watch your background  
Go for a clean, uncluttered background that won’t distract from your subject and the subtle soft lighting of the candle. A white wall gives the added bonus of reflecting extra light onto your subject.

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