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How To Get Creative With Fairy Light Photography

Last updated: November 12, 2023 - 6 min read
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Fairy light photography is all about aesthetically pleasing photos.

This genre is great for photographers who want to improve their lighting skills and take eye-catching, Instagram-worthy photos at the same time.

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The Benefits of Fairy Light Photography

A still life shot of a book and cup on a bed with fairy lights on the wall - fairy light photography

Fairy lights are usually used as indoor or holiday decorations. Many creative photographers have turned them into a fantastic way to light their subjects.

Fairy lights are unique in that they’re not designed for photography. Because of this, you have to be extra creative when you use them in your photos.

This can lead to a lot of fun photoshoots and new shooting techniques.

You can use fairy light photography to improve your nighttime photography skills. You’ll get better at lighting your subjects with unusual lights, and give your imagination a chance to roam.

Creative Fairy Light Photography Ideas

Take Dreamy Self-Portraits at Home

Atmospheric diptych of a female model taking a self portrait in the mirror - Creative Fairy Light Photography Ideas
Fairy light photography can involve several elements. If your fairy lights aren’t giving out enough light, use another light source to make your face more visible. During this shoot, I used a sparkler to add a warm glow to my face. This created a contrast between my face and the cooler tones in the background.

Before you take photos of other people or objects with fairy lights, practice in front of the mirror. Find creative ways to light your face and make your background more interesting.

These exercises will improve your self-portrait photography skills. They’ll introduce you to fairy light photography. And give you a boost of confidence before your actual photoshoot.

Create Stunning Background Bokeh Using Colored Fairy Lights

Atmospheric portrait of a female model with fairy light bokeh background
Fairy light photography is all about shapes and colors. To make this vibrant photo work, I made sure my outfit and makeup complemented the fairy lights.

Fairy lights come in all shapes and colors. This makes them the perfect backdrops for any kind of subject.

You can use them to add a boost of color to a dull portrait. Or you can fill up negative space in a simple composition.

For the best results, use multi-colored fairy lights. Make sure your subject’s colors or outfit work well with the lights.

This will ensure that your results aren’t overly colorful or loud.

Use White String Lights in the Dark for Perfectly-Lit Portraits

Atmospheric portrait of a female model holding a string of lights - fairy light photography

White fairy lights are the perfect source of light for glowing photos.

If you’re working with a person, ask them to hold the lights directly in front of their face. This will make their eyes sparkle and make them look flattering.

They can also hold the lights from both sides of their face for moodier results.

If they hold the lights above or below their face, they won’t look great.

Make sure to avoid that. Unless you have another source of light to get rid of unflattering shadows.

Cover Part of Your Lens with Fairy Lights to Create a Gorgeous Foreground

A creative outdoor portrait of a female model holding a string of lights - fairy light photography

Foregrounds are things that are closest to your camera. More often than not, this means that they’re blurred. The light at the bottom right corner of the photo above is an example of a foreground.

Foregrounds are a very important part of dreamy and creative portraits. They add depth and color to photos. This makes them perfect solutions for dull-looking portraits.

To create a foreground, hold fairy lights in front of your lens, making sure not to cover it completely. How big the blur, or bokeh, gets depends on your aperture.

The larger your aperture, the larger the bokeh will be. A large aperture like f/1.2 will have blurrier results than a smaller aperture like f/16.

Use Long Exposure to Take Surreal Photos of Moving Light

creative long exposure portrait of a man posing outdoors, with circles of fairy lights in front of him

You can take photos of smooth moving light using long exposure photography. Photos like this are very fun and easy to make.

For this idea, you need a sturdy tripod. Use a slow shutter speed (e.g. 5 seconds). The slower your shutter speed, the more movements your camera will capture. And the blurrier your results will be.

Once you’re ready, you can either press the shutter or use a remote to take photos from a distance.

Ask your model to stand still. Have them move the fairy lights in a specific way so that there’s a pattern of light in your photos.

Blur Everything for Visually Appealing Photos of Bokeh

blurry indoor portrait of a female model standing in front of a string of lights - fairy light photography

If you’ve spent even a little bit of time on Tumblr, you’ll know that it’s filled with photos of fairy lights, people, and bokeh. Many of these photos are blurred to create a dreamy feel.

You can re-create this look by simply blurring your photos. Use manual focus to focus away from your subject.

The more you focus away from it, the larger the fairy light bokeh will be.

You can add other subjects to your composition to make it look interesting. You can photograph a silhouette of a person, a vase filled with flowers, or a cup of tea surrounded by fairy lights.

Combine a Transparent Umbrella and Fairy Lights to Create Moody Photos

atmospheric silhouette of a female model holding an umbrella in the rain - fairy light photography

Clear umbrellas are ideal for portrait photoshoots in the rain. They can also be used indoors to create the illusion of rain.

Combined with fairy lights, they can help you take unique photos of your subjects.

Cover a wall with fairy lights. Sprinkle some water on the clear umbrella. Have your model hold it while standing in front of the lights.

This will highlight the “raindrops,” and add texture to your photos.

The fairy lights will make it seem like your model is walking in a busy city at night.

Turn a Kerosene Lamp into a Fairy Light Holder to Light Your Subject in a Unique Way

outdoor portrait of a female model holding a lantern - fairy light photography
You can experiment with fairy light photography both indoors and outdoors. For this idea, I recommend taking photos outdoors so that your model is just as visible as the lantern.

For this idea, the only additional prop you’ll need is a kerosene lamp.

Put the fairy lights in the lamp. You can use battery operated lights. That way you can move around without being limited to one space.

To make it seem like there’s a fire in the lantern, use orange or yellow fairy lights.

All the bundled up lights will create a bright light source. Make sure your model doesn’t hold the lantern too close to their face. This will help you avoid overexposure.

Conclusion: Fairy Light Photography

Thanks to popular Instagram photographers and Tumblr, fairy light photography has become a fantastic way for artists to express themselves.

If you want to have fun and become a better photographer at the same time, fairy light photography is ideal for you.

For more great tips, why not check our posts on ballet photography or fashion photography inspiration next!

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