How to take photos of fairy lights and candles on your phone

By EyeEm Team - -2 min read

Fairy light season is here! Especially after a difficult few years recently, we all want to make lasting memories with beautiful photographs. Here are 8 key things to remember when taking photos of fairy lights, candles and party decorations with your smartphone.

As the holiday season draws upon us, the decorative lights and cosy scenes may be sparking your creative imagination. If an expensive camera isn’t on your wish list this year, you have all you need to capture the festive spirit right from your phone. To help you snap those twinkling lights, flickering candles, and anything else that gives you a warm fuzzy feeling inside, here are 7 tips to level up your smartphone photography.

1. Cover part of your lens with fairy lights to create a dreamy foreground

The foreground is whatever is closest to your camera and can be used to add depth and colour to your photos. Because of the proximity to the camera they are often blurred producing a dream-like effect perfect for capturing the holiday spirit. To create a foreground, hold the lights in front of your phone camera, making sure not to completely cover it and enjoy the results. If you want to take things a step further, try setting up a light tunnel and then hold your phone so you’re shooting through the tunnel.

2. Use long exposure to capture moving light

When shooting in low light, the right exposure all comes down to shutter speed. Wondering how to change the shutter speed on a phone camera? Luckily there are plenty of apps that do just that. For iOS try Slow Shutter Cam or Average Camera Pro. For Android you can use Camera FV-5 Lite or Night Camera. These apps take multiple photos in a short time span to recreate the effect of a long exposure. The more movements your camera captures, the blurrier the results will be.

3. Reduce sources of movement when capturing candle light

Candles and Christmas come hand in hand. While you can’t control the flicker of a candle, you can get rid of any other movement in the shot. This is important if you want to eliminate distractions or blurring in your image. Some ways you can achieve this is by using a tripod to reduce any vibrations from the slower shutter speeds. Be sure there is no breeze in the room to reduce flickering.

4. Reduce other sources of light in the background.

You aren’t going to get any decent shots if your subject is being outshone. Removing other light sources will help increase the warmth and colour coming from the light itself and help create that christmassy glow. Turn off overhead lights, put away any bright electronic devices and be sure to turn off flash.

5. Make low light work for you

Although it’s important to reduce light sources near the subject to get a good shot, the reality is that shooting in low light isn’t easy. One way to counteract this is to utilise reflective light sources when taking photos of fairy lights or candles, such as mirrors or white backgrounds. Another option is to incorporate a small dim light source or light in an adjacent room.

6. Keep your shots stable with a tripod

This one may seem obvious but we’ve all been guilty of ruining the perfect shot with a shaky hand. If you don’t have a portable tripod handy then try balancing your camera on the hood of a car, a tin of Quality Streets or any other stable surface to hand.

7. Avoid flash

There’s no easier way to ruin a great photo than with flash. Flash has a time and a place but when capturing Christmas lights in all their glory the results of flash photography are often dull and lifeless.

8. Play around with bokeh

In photography, bokeh is the aesthetic quality of the blur produced in out-of-focus parts of an image. Think of these as happy accidents. These unique soft light reflections add a flare to the quality of the picture and make festive lights appear even more magical. On most iphone models you will have the option for ‘depth’ in the editing features. This allows you to modify the bokeh effect, making it as subtle or as defined as you choose.