Candlelit rooms convey a romantic or sentimental mood
for your images. All you have to do is steady the camera, trip the
shutter, and play from there.
The thing with candles, however, is that the light they cast on your
subject is often more interesting than the candles themselves. After
all, how compelling is a little flame of light? You can add a little
oomph to these images by using a star-effect
filter, which takes a normal candle flame and turns it into a blazing
star, as illustrated in .
Figure 1. Candle flame without and with a star filter
This little bit of photographic trickery is accomplished by tiny
etches in the glass that distort the light. If your camera accepts
filters, you can pony up US$25 and start to play right away. One
brand of creative filters you might want to take a look at is the
Cokin System (http://cokinusa.com), which has star effects,
gradual density, and special-effect filters. Cokin has adapters for
every type of camera and lens, and it even has a special mount for
cameras that don't even have filter rings, such as
your digital point and shoot. I've played with the
Cokin Star Effect #056, A Version, and have had good success, even on
a Canon Digital Elph S400, which
doesn't have a filter ring. shows how this rig looks.
Figure 2. Cokin filter attached to a Canon S400
You can also make your own star effects by taking an old UV or
skylight filter and etching it with a glass cutter. I recommend you
use a crosshatch pattern for your etching. This of course provides
you with the opportunity to create unexpected results.
I tend to like the effect of these filters when the light source is
smaller, such as the Christmas lights in . I've noticed quite an
improvement after I trim the candle wick, thereby reducing the size
of the flame. Points of light produce sharp rays of light, emanating
from the source. Larger light sources, such as a light bulb or
untrimmed candle wick, produce softer, less detailed effects.
Chandeliers can be quite impressive too.
Figure 3. Small Christmas lights with star filter
I've had the best luck mounting the camera on a
tripod and using the self-timer to trip the shutter. This helps me
avoid the blurring effects of camera shake. Usually, I find that if I
use -1 or -2 on the Exposure Compensation dial for
close-up shots, I get better rays of light. Experiment until you get
the effect you want.
Rows of candles shot with a star filter
can be impressive. The room is transformed into a magical place, part
of some other reality—not bad for an old UV filter with a few
etched scratches in it!