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How to take quick and easy photographs of fire

There is something deeply compulsive about fire.

It is almost a primal urge to be fascinated by it. Yes, it is fun to photograph it too. Fire provides all sorts of patterns, colours tones and light intensities. Here are some quick tips and tricks with a method to help you start experimenting with fire.

Three problem with fire…

1. Of course there is an issue with health and safety. Any bare flame is a danger. So try to be very careful to isolate your fire work area so you are not likely to catch anything alight near were you are working. I would advise working outside, or at least on a concrete-floored outhouse so you do not threaten your home, or set off alarms. Do not allow children near you when working with bare flames.

2. The main problem with fire for a photographer is that the fire creates its own brightness. You need to expose your shot for the direct brightness of the flame itself. This will allow the fire to be exposed correctly. However it leaves the surroundings very dark as they are not a light source. So, normally we would not point our camera directly at a light source. Ideally, we need to create a situation where the surrounding of the fire is actually dark, with no detail that we want in the picture. Then we can set our camera to take an exposure using only the brightness of the flame. No additional lighting is needed.

3. Fire spreads! So make sure that you have a fire extinguisher available if you try this exercise. Better safe than sorry.

On with the video

While I am a great believer in using your camera in manual mode most of the time there are ways you can use auto-mode too. In this video watch how he uses the ‘P’ mode (program mode). He takes a few exposures using the program setting so that he can get a reasonable idea of the settings the camera considers appropriate. Then, once the camera has helped him set a base line he can start working with manual to get the exposure he wants.

One other point before we get to the video. It is darkness which makes this shot work. Make the room completely dark while doing the shot. You will notice that the photographer has set up the background with black matte board. It is possible to use other subdued colours. However the black creates a very high contrast which is ideal for shooting a light source like fire.

Enjoy the video…

Video provided by LearnMyShot on Apr 22, 2010 [http://learnmyshot.com] Presented by Robert Grant.

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