6 Tips on Photographing Hanukkah Candles

To all those who celebrate Hanukkah, Happy Holidays! Today, Sarah Ra’anan , a portrait photographer in Israel, is teaching you how to capture beautiful candle light from a menorah as well as other candle light.

I absolutely love photographing our Hanukkah candles, and over the years I have experimented with different methods. Here are some simple tips that will instantly improve the look of your images:

1. Fill the frame

I talk about this a lot in my workshops and I cannot stress enough how important it is to your images. Get up close to your subject, in this case the candle or candles, even if it mean cropping off some of the Hanukkah, it doesn’t matter. Some of the most visually pleasing images have been tightly cropped to fill the frame.

2. The first light

Don’t wait for the last few days of Hanukkah to photograph your candles. A single colored candle or flame can look really dramatic and effective. The simpler the background you can set them against, the more dramatic the effect will be. Background may add to your image if it is relevant to the story you are telling, but otherwise it is just an unnecessary distraction.


3. Capture the glow

The best way to photograph the candles is with as little external light as possible. We want to capture the glow from the candles themselves, not from your kitchen light-bulb or your flash! You are looking to portray the warm fuzzy atmosphere that the Hanukkah lights give off, and you cant get that with interference of other light sources. If you’re not sure how to turn your flash off, consult your manual, but most cameras have an option with a picture of a lightening bolt with a line through it. Photographing without a flash is a bit more complicated than this, something I will delve into another time, but see how it works for you without flash and experiment with your different settings e.g., night time, fireworks mode etc.

4. Capture the flame

This can be tricky to manipulate on a point and shoot but by no means impossible. In order to properly capture the flame without overexposing your image, you will need to play around with your ‘wheel’ on your camera and see what all the different settings give you. See which one gives you the most pleasing effect and really shows the vibrant colors of the flame.

5. Warm it up!

What better time to tweak your White Balance settings than Hanukkah!? You want your candle images to have a warm cozy feeling, so try setting your camera’s WB setting to ‘cloudy’.

6. Angles

Try approaching your images from a different angle than usual – get up high, get down low, photograph from the sides, tilt the camera a little. All good fun, and you will be so surprised by the difference it can make to your images.

Jodi Friedman, MCP Actions

Jodi Friedman is the founder of MCP Actions. She designs popular Photoshop actions and Lightroom presets that make editing faster, easier and more fun.

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    While turning off all other lights can give you some beautiful photos of the flames, leaving the lights on can help you capture some of the other beautiful things about Chanukah — the menorah, the dreidels, the happy children. I suggest trying things both ways.


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