Stock Photo - Zen stones and yellow candles on a bamboo mat

When the colder months beckon, indoor photography is a popular option and the perfect scene for candlelight portraits. For a romantic “selfie”, try something different using the soft lights of a candle or more. Imagine the warm flickering flames dancing off your subject’s face, the results can be stunning if the technique is done right. Here are 5 tips to experiment with in creating an aura of mystery.

1. Turn Off The Flash

Yes, if you want to obtain the warm glow from the candles. Using a bright flash will blow out your image, and taint any ambient light in just one shot (or render your subject temporarily blind).  However if  you simply can’t resist, you could opt to use a warm red or orange-colored gel over your flash lens to dim the impact.

Stock Photo - candles in red orange and yellow transparent chandeliers

2. Increase Background Light

Well, you are taking photos with candles after all so extra help might be a plus in creating the perfect scene. Examples could be using more candles with a mirror to create more “light”, a dimmed lamp draped with a red or orange cloth or a white-clothed table for better reflection. Just like sunlight, moonlight could be your best friend when shooting at night (Candles in the moonlight, romantic no?) Think subtle, yet effective. After all, every slight adjustment counts when you’re shooting in low-light conditions.

Stock Photo - Adorable blonde woman among milions of candles

3. ISO settings

Now we are getting more technical here but increasing your ISO settings on your camera really works! Find the ideal number to adhere to if you can – under 400 if possible – to avoid the inevitable appearance of “noise” in your romantic shot. If you are fortunate enough to own one of those “big guys”, then a candlelight setting should solve your issues. Another option is using daylight balanced film, which will be your guide to maintaining that lovely orange hues of candlelight.

Stock Photo - Macro of aperture scale

4. Positioning Matters

Who doesn’t like looking good on camera? Well, you’re in luck! Candlelight can really flatter the human face so feel free to angle the candles around. For that mysterious touch, position the candlelight only towards one part of your subject, preferably the face while leaving the other parts shadowy. Don’t worry about looking creepy (unless you’re thinking Twilight), the shadows will naturally draw eyes to the lit part of your subject. Now to produce more shadows, bunch a few candles together or vice versa if you are thinking more light.

Stock Photo - Serious blonde sexy woman holding candlestick

5. Stay Still

It’s that simple. When shooting in the dark, using the zoom is sometimes inevitable. However, bear in mind that shooting with many zoom lenses will create aperture changes throughout the focal length range. So it might be best to keep your subject still and move in closer using a wide angle focal range than zooming. Another method is playing around with the shutter speed. Low light levels will require long exposure, thus a slower shutter speed will be essential. The best practice is 1/4th of a second in order to capture the perfect candlelight shot. Use a tripod if you have unsteady hands!


Stock Photo - spa still-life with candles, cosmetics, flowers

Before attempting this technique, do try out our 4 tips to shoot stunning portraits feature for a few practice rounds. What do you think? Would you try this unique spin on portrait photography?