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Candles, Oil lamps and Flames

When we start covering various light sources that falls under the “Available Light” Category we are basically coming down from the 5000 mark on the Kelvin scale. Let us see how light at the lower end of the spectrum behave. And to get started we will start from the lowest value – (1500 - 2000 K) – its Candle Light territory.

Remember as the values reduce in Kelvin scale the light actually gets “Warm”. So we are now dealing with very warm light sources that produce a richly attractive golden light. Although some tinkering with your camera’s white balance setting will be necessary, never compensate enough to entirely take off that yellow tint from your picture. People expect and appreciate that strong degree of yellow present in shots taken using these light sources.

candle light photography
Photo By Amy Dianna

Candles, oil lamps and flames from fire produce almost similar light. Only difference being flickering firelight. As firelight flickers in wind the fanned flames and the glowing ambers will actually produce different light. Flames fanned by the wind produce a slightly higher color temperature than the glowing ambers. If used with extended shutter speeds, it causes soft, diffused light; producing a very different light suitable for portraits which convey mood.

One thing to remember while using these light sources for photography is that they are single light sources and if only a single unit is used to illuminate the subject, then they could cause harsh shadows and bright highlights. If it suits your need, use it. Else use multiple light source (a bank of candles placed at some distance from each other) could create a unique soft glow with soft shadows.

candle light photography
Photo By A.Ddiction

Using multiple candles helps solve one other important issue with candle light photography. “Not having enough light”. Usually light from a single candle will not be sufficient and may require insanely long exposures or very high ISO; introducing both blur and noise in your digital photos. It is always advisable to use a tripod and a remote shutter release when shooting with candle light as your light source.

All the three of our light sources namely candle light, light from oil lamp and fire light has rapid light fall off with most of the light falling on close quarters from the source and very little making it to the distance abiding the Inverse Square Law. Depending upon the subject and the look you aim to achieve you could use the rapid light fall of property of these light sources in two ways. You could either expose for the highlights to be properly recorded (discarding shadow details). Expose to record shadow details (highlights will be blown out glares). It is good to practice both techniques and use the one that better suits your necessity at the time.

In the next article we will discuss about Incandescent Light

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