52 Pick Up: Candlelight – Finding the Light in the Darkness

One the greatest photographic challenges for me has been shooting in low light.  

Inevitably the subject was out of focus, the picture was too grainy or it was underexposed.

I started this personal challenge at Christmas with my girls.  To capture these images I turned out all of the main lights and then used only the decorative LED lights from the tree and garland for illumination. Cranking up the ISO and aperture and then lengthening the shutter speed, all I could tell them was, “Don’t breathe and stand as still as possible.  As you can see from the images, they didn’t turn out that bad, but they could be better.

I decided I needed to take a step back and get my settings to the point where I could shoot in full dark, while hand holding my camera.  I wanted to see if I could adjust the ISO, aperture and shutter speed so I would still get a crisp photo of something as elusive as a flickering flame and not end up with a grainy photo.  I purposefully did not use the tripod, so I could really get in close to the candles and a tripod also seemed like cheating for this challenge.  I then added one more element to the challenge by placing the candles on a glass surface so I could also work on capturing reflection as well.

Overall, I was quite pleased with my results.  Very quickly I discovered that I could balance out the three elements of exposure and get a beautiful warm, and most importantly, focussed image.  I am especially proud of the one where the flame is reflected in the liquid wax.  I loved how I was able to capture both the candle but also the unpredictable light glow that surrounded the flame.  Please note, the blurry images was done on purpose.  The light and colour was just so pretty when it was completely out of focus.

The settings for the above images: ISO 1000, aperture F4.5 and shutter 1/20.  The focal length was 70 mm.  The only post production work was to resize and add my logo.

Next, I plan on extending this challenge by capturing a subject by candlelight, without having to tell them to not breathe!


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