Candlelight Photography

I recently did a photo session where we experimented using one or more candles as the primary light source. Here is one of the resulting candlelight photography images:

woman lit by the candle she is holding
The beautiful Samantha Jo. holding a candle.


First: safety. When we did the photo shoot, we had a fire extinguisher nearby, just in case something went wrong. Also, because we are working with fire, we also have to think about temperatures. Soy wax candles burn at around 115-119°F and the wax makes a good hand lotion. They also burn cleanly, so there are fewer health issues associated with breathing in the same area where they are burning. Paraffin wax, which is used in traditional candles, melts at between 115 and 154°F, so it can be much hotter. And, when paraffin burns, it tends to produce chemicals associated with lung cancer and asthma with long-term exposure (CNN’s similar information). Finally, not a safety risk, but also worth considering is that soy wax is a renewable resource, whereas paraffin comes from petroleum.

Light (or lack of it)

The primary issue associated with candlelight photography is that candles are dark. Our eyes adjust, so it is less noticeable to us. However, the low light means one or more of the following:

  • Exposures are longer. This means no moving, including breathing. It also means that the camera has to be on a tripod. Since I normally prefer hand-holding the camera, this is not my favorite way of working. However, as you will see, the results are probably worth it.
  • The sensor ISO setting has to be higher, leading to more sensor noise. I shoot with a full-frame camera that has good low-light capabilities, but the noise goes up with the ISO for all cameras (digital and film). Also, with higher ISO settings, the image sharpness drops. To some extent, these can be handled with post-processing, but you cannot make data where there is none to begin with. The result of a higher ISO setting is that prints might have a smaller maximum size. Since my normal maximum is around 2x3ft, this is not a big deal.
  • The exposure needs wide apertures (low f-stops), which leads to shallow depth of field. Since many boudoir, sexy, and glamor photos have a narrow depth-of-field, this might be OK. However, it is something that I have to be aware of as I create the images.

Light color

The next issue is that the color of light produced by a candle is very red-orange-yellow (warm) compared with most other light sources. This means that white balance is important, even if I decide to keep some of the warm colors in the final image.

Light character

One advantage of candles is that they tend to produce soft light, especially when several are combined to produce the light. When I took the photo at the top of this post, not only was the dual-wick candle you see in the photo at the top of this post burning, but there were several others burning nearby. I had lit them at the beginning, because some candles get brighter after they have burned for a few minutes. They added some extra light to the image. Here is an example:

a woman's torso lit by 10 tea candles
Using several candles both provides more light as well as providing very soft light which tends to be more flattering for most people. This is the beautiful Samantha Jo.

Blended light sources

Another interesting thing to do is to not rely on the candle as the only source of light. This requires setting the exposure so that it shows the candle (as mentioned, not a bright source of light) with the other light. It also means that the different sources of light need to be similar in color. Simply adding in daylight or a flash will mean that the image has a very warm light from the candle and daylight and flash are much cooler (bluer). Mixed light sources can cause shadows to have a color cast, something that can be a real pain to deal with. Blended candle light will be the subject of a future blog post.


After taking care of safety, candles produce a warm, soft light that makes for beautiful photos. However, because it is not very bright, it also brings with it some challenges. I look forward to doing more candlelight photography in the future. Contact me to schedule a candlelight photography session!

Lighting and shadows show shape

Here is another example of why having a professional take your photos is better than a selfie or a friend with a cell phone camera. A professional will make use of light to show good parts of your shape and minimize parts you do not want shown.

Professionals have experience with lighting, and they often have lighting equipment to shape the light to what they want. What this means is that they can control the light to highlight what they want to show (your best features), and minimize what they do not want to show (any flaws). Careful lighting means that your shape is visible when that is what should be shows. Shadows define shape, and a careful, soft shadow can do wonders at showing your curves. For example, look at this photo of the lovely DaKarra:

woman looking into the distance, with soft light showing her shape
Notice the shadow on her right breast, how it slowly goes from light to dark which conveys the shape.

Notice that her cleavage is really obvious. This is due to the shadow on her right (away from the camera) breast. It slowly goes from a highlight to dark, showing the shape. You can also see similar shadows showing the shape of her cheeks and the curve of the side of her body.

As another example, here is a beautiful backlit photo:

backlit woman silhouette showing her lovely shape
You can see the wonderful shape of the model in this silhouette.

Her shape shows because the light is used to create a silhouette. Since she has a great shape, I used the back light to highlight it.

What this means is that by working with a professional, you will get better photos. Pros use lighting to create shadows to highlight shape when it is a good thing to be showing.

Lighting is one of my best skills, so maybe you should contact me to schedule your boudoir session.

A phone camera snapshot vs a professional photo session

You have decided you want to have some sexy photos of you.  You can take selfies in a mirror.  You can have a friend use their phone to take photos.  What makes these photos different from the photos you might pay someone to take?  There are several differences, some of which we will discuss in this blog entry: image quality, lighting, poses, camera angles, editing skills, and photographer experience. In other words, let’s do a camera image quality comparison. This is a longer post than my normal, but I needed the space to show all of the photos for comparison.

The photographer takes the picture, not the camera

The first, and most important factor to remember is that the camera does not make the picture, the photographer does.  I use professional equipment, but the camera does not choose when to fire the shutter.  It does not chose the lighting or pose.  In my case, it does not even make many decisions relating to the exposure.  My experience guides me in picking the lighting and poses that will show you at your best and minimize the areas I do not want to show.  I compose and light an image with a plan of what I what the viewer to see and think as they look at the photos.  I know how I want their eye to move as they look at the photo, where I want it to linger and where I want it to move past.  I am the one who removes zits.  All of this makes me smile when someone asks me, “what camera do you use?”.  In reality, the camera is but a small part of what went into producing the final image you see.  And, there are other cameras made by different companies that will produce photos that look just as good.

Better cameras record better images; a camera image quality comparison

Having said that, I do use a professional camera and lenses.  It produces very sharp images (when that is what I want), and it allows me to produce images that can be printed large, 2×3 ft or more. These large images will look good even when you look at them up close.  If you do a side-by-side comparison of a photo taken with a phone camera, my photos will look better every time. Here are some examples. My apologies to the lovely AzariaZia, because these first photos do not show her true beauty.

All three photos were taken at the exact same location in the room. The point-and-shoot and the DSLR photos were both mounted on the tripod at the exact same location. I held the cell phone right above the tripod so the location would remain constant. The cell phone has no optical zoom, so it shows more of the room than the other two.

First, my cell phone, a Samsung Galazy S3 (8MP):

woman on a bed holding a sheet
This photo is straight out of my Samsung Galaxy S3
woman holding a sheet in front of her
I adjusted the brightness levels of the photo to produce this image.

While these might look more-or-less OK, when you look at them in more detail, you see that they are grainy and not sharp:
dark, grainy photo of a woman's face
This is what the cell phone photo really contains
grainy photo of a woman's face
This is what the cell phone photo really contains, but with the brightness levels adjusted.

OK, so the cell phone is not so good. How about a point-and-shoot camera (Canon SX30-IS)? It has a built-in flash, but on-camera flash tends to be poor light:
woman holding a sheet in front of her
A photo, taken with the flash enabled, on a point and shoot camera

And here is a natural light (no flash) photo:
woman holding a sheet in front of her
A photo, taken without the flash (natural light), on a point and shoot camera

By the way, notice the color difference between the two photos. We will return to that in a moment. For now, look at the full-resolution extracted parts of the image:
This is a full-resolution extract of the flash-enabled photo taken with the point and shoot camera.
This is a full-resolution extract of the flash-enabled photo taken with the point and shoot camera.
This is a full-resolution extract of the natural light photo taken with the point and shoot camera.
This is a full-resolution extract of the natural light photo taken with the point and shoot camera.

Again, they are really grainy and not sharp. Compare the photos up to this point to the photos from my Canon 5DmkII and using off-camera lighting (you can click on it to see it larger):
nude woman holding a sheet in front of her
This is what it looks like when you use a higher-quality camera to take the same photo.

Here is what a 100% extract looks like (note that you can see her pores on her cheekbone and forehead):
beautiful woman's face
This is what a small portion of the full-resolution image looks like
The photo shows her face closer because my DSLR has more pixels in an image than the cell phone and point-and-shoot cameras do. Which would you rather have?

Professionals produce photos with good color

All of my equipment from the camera through the printer is color-calibrated. Before I start taking photos,  I test the color of the light.  This means that your photos will not have a color cast from the lights.  Many cameras have what they call “automatic white balance”.  What this means is that the camera is picking the color correction that it thinks you will want.  It turns out that few cameras get it completely right, and their photos can have a color cast, making you look a bit green, blue, yellow, or red.  Did you really have an orange tan from the salon, or was it just the lighting?  When I take your photos, the images you get will have colors that make you look your best. Here is an example showing AzariaZia holding the white balance card before we started a photo session:

woman holding a color standard
Before we start, I use a color balance card to ensure that the colors are correct.

If I produce prints for you, I work with professional-quality printers, ink, and paper.  They produce better prints that what you can produce at home.  Because all of the equipment is color calibrated, neither you nor I will be surprised when we see the result.  Your local discount store saves money by not doing the calibration, nor do they use the highest-quality papers and inks.  The result shows in their photos.  Set up an appointment, and I will be glad to show you the difference between the printing options.  Side-by-side, the quality is clear.

What all of this means is that, when you choose me (or any qualified photographer using quality equipment), you get better photos.  In other words, you get what you pay for.  Be cheap and you get cheap results.  Buy quality and be happy with what you get.

You can contact me to get your own high-quality, sexy photos taken. Why put it off any longer?