How to Create Candlelight Photo Effects

Written by alvaro roque
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How to Create Candlelight Photo Effects
Add candlelight to your photos. (candle image by Jakub KulÄ...gowski from

Candlelight can be a unique way of lighting a scene. Unlike a camera flash or daylight, candlelight can soften edges and bring warmth into photos where the photographer wants to highlight and enhance the original photo. Photoshop has allowed photographers to either enhance the look of candlelight or completely add it to their photography. Some prefer to add this candlelight digitally since the low shutter speed required for the candlelight may make the photo blurry. Some basic Photoshop experience may be needed though.

Skill level:

Things you need

  • Computer
  • Photoshop CS3 (earlier versions and CS4 should still work, but you may need to do some searching since menus change)
  • Photo files (Preferably one with a candle and one with a person who is closer to the camera)

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  1. 1

    Drag both photos (the one with your person and one with a lit candle) onto the Photoshop icon. This should automatically open up a document with that picture's specific size.

  2. 2

    Click on the lit candle picture and select it, flame and all, by tracing it with the Lasso tool (The third tool down on the tool bar). Copy this selection. Close this picture without saving it and click on the picture of your person. Paste the candle picture on this picture. Scale it up or down if needed by going to Edit>Transform>Scale. Double click this layer and call it "candle". Double click the person layer and call it "person," for easy recognition of the file.

  3. 3

    Add a new blank layer (double click on the layer and call it "flame") and outline the flame on the candle with the lasso tool.

  4. 4

    Fill the selection on the flame layer with white and apply a Gaussian blur. Go through Filter>Blur>Gaussian blur with about 25 pixel blur.

  5. 5

    Change the blend mode for this layer to Color dodge. Add an outer glow through the layer style.

  6. 6

    Create another layer above the flame layer and fill it with black. Double click this top layer and call it "Lens Flare."

  7. 7

    Add a lens flare to this black layer. Go through Filter>Render>Lens Flare. A window should open. Select 105mm Prime, 100% Brightness. Move the lens flare crosshairs to where the flame is. Press OK.

  8. 8

    Change the Blend Mode to Hard light and change the Opacity to 55%. You should have a pretty convincing candle by now.

  1. 1

    Notice where the candlelight is and where the light source should then be coming from. When candlelight hits the face from the side, the other side is slightly darker. Use candle lit pictures as reference.

    How to Create Candlelight Photo Effects
    Notice the highlights and shadows in this picture. (hands@brown candle image by Marina Subocheva from
  2. 2

    Copy the Person layer by dragging it to the "Create New Layer" icon next to the trash bin icon. Call this new layer "Shadow Person" and drag this on top of the Person layer if it isn't already.

  3. 3

    Change Shadow Person layer's levels. Go to Image>Adjustments> Levels. Grab the grey tab between the black and white tabs in the Input Levels. Drag this tab all the way right (.10).

  4. 4

    Change the Output Levels to about 61 in the box under the white tab. Leave the Black tab at zero. The idea here is to barely see your individual.

  5. 5

    Brush in highlights with the eraser making sure the dark copy is selected. The brush size depends on the picture, but drop the opacity of the brush to 34%. It is going to look strange for now.

    Drop the Opacity of the layer lower than 66%. This again depends on your preference. You are done.

Tips and warnings

  • You can now put a soft blur on the photo by applying a Gaussian Blur onto an adjustment layer above all of these layers and dropping the opacity. This would give your photo a dreamy look.

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