Photo Challenge

Candlelight and fairy lights

This week, you can take a picture of anything you like – however you should use either candlelight or fairy lights to illuminate your scene. Both types of light have a wonderful warmth to them which you can use with great versatility in your photography.

You can use some fairy lights as a backdrop to the main subject of your picture, as in this portrait. It doesn’t have to be a portrait, the same technique can be used with a macro subject. It doesn’t matter whether or not you have an SLR – this technique works with any camera. You just have to make sure that the fairy lights or candles are quite far back from the main subject.

That’s an example of “how” – and this is an example of what you can achieve with candlelight alone.

Hint: If your camera lets you set the aperture (look for Aperture Priority mode, usually denoted A or Av) then set the aperture as wide as possible (smallest f-number). Not only will this let in more light and allow you to make the most of your dimly-lit scene, it also increase background blur and enables you to achieve the out-of-focus highlights that are commonly called bokeh.

Hint: if your camera lets you set the white balance manually, set it to daylight, tungsten or incandescent rather than auto. If you let the camera set its own white balance, it will try to correct for the yellowness of candlelight and end up with a drab, pale photo. By forcing it to use a manual white balance, your candlelight will retain its rich colour. The same applies for fairy lights (or any other coloured light you may use in the future).

So armed with technique, inspiration and some hints, go out and have fun with candles or fairy lights. If you have any questions – just post in the comments.

Please send your entries in by noon on Tuesday 17th December. Good luck!

Author: Jonathan

Challenge Admin, I enjoy taking photos mostly of landscapes and architecture - but I will try anything! I mostly shoot film and I spend a lot of time in my darkroom trying to get the perfect print. I'm a sysadmin for a living and I also enjoy cycling and music technology.


  1. Thank you for the tutorial! I enjoyed playing with the settings. =)

  2. This started off as a nice Christmas scene, with a snowman in front of fairy lights. It turned out as something more sinister. Bad Snowman

  3. I took this one quite literally, lack of inspirations and yet again being the first challenge I’ve done in many many weeks! It’ll do, I guess!