Candlelight's not just for romantic dinners or for finding your way when the power goes off. Candlelight creates a unique atmosphere perfect for taking portraits in.
A good portrait lens is a must. If you use a lens that's too wide you'll end up with distortion. A 70-200mm at around 135mm will work well.
As there's not much light around you'll most likely be using a slow shutter speed which increases the chances of camera shake ruining your shot. To combat this you need to use a tripod and using a remote trigger or the self timer will also help. A good point to remember is really slow shutter speeds will pick up the slightest movement so make sure there's no drafts causing your candles to flicker. When photographing brides, grooms, boudoir and fine art nudes start at 1/30th sec and work from there. Increasing the ISO can help in dark settings but this can also increase noise.
Obviously the biggest challenge a photographer faces with candlelight is the lack of light and this means slowing shutter speeds, raising the ISO and playing around with exposure until your scene looks right on your screen. You can use extra candles/small lamp in or off the scene to help but try to stay away from flash as a burst of light can ruin the ambient glow of candlelight you're looking for. If you opt for using a large selection of candles, unless you're looking to create dramatic shadows make sure you spread them out evenly although having a few more on one side than another can add a nice light to the face.
When metering, use the side of the face which has a shadow then after assessing the image at 100% adjust the ISO to achieve the shutter speed (f/4, 1/60th sec). Your camera may want to underexpose due to the spots of bright light coming from the candles. If this happens, try overexposing the shot slightly.
The appeal of candlelight portraits is the warm, almost romantic glow they have and this is something you don't want to lose because your white balance setting was wrong. Trying the different white balance settings, using something like a colour balance lens or shoot in RAW and then adjusting the final colour temperature to taste in post production.
If you're working on close ups, uncluttered and simple backgrounds are best but with wide shots in candlelight, a good setting with appropriate props can really add to the atmosphere of the image.
A final but vital point to remember is health and safety. It's dark, you're using flames and things can be knocked or fallen over easily. Be more aware of your surroundings and be careful with your props.
Words and Pictures from Chris Hanley
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