Monday, August 11, 2008

Photography tips: Fire!

Fire depicts warmth, coziness, maybe even a romantic evening in front of the fireplace. It may also depict danger and destruction, as fire has destructive powers. Plenty of reasons to want to photograph fire. But how?

Fire is a light source
Apart from warmth, fire provides light. It is important to note that the light that fire provides is weak and has a pretty high color temperature. Lighting a room with just fire provides a dimly lit room in an orange flow. The amount of light a normal fire provides is so weak that you can even look or photograph right into it. This obviously depends on the type of fire, since the sun is in fact nothing less than fire, and you would not want to look directly into it, even if it is thousands of miles away. But we are talking burning wood here.

Cozy or blazing?
Like I said, fire has two faces, the warm and kind one and the destructive one. If you look closely at both types of fire, you’ll note that the cozy fire burns much slower. You can use this knowledge to make a blazing fire pic out of a cozy fire. Using a fairly long exposure (try 1/3 sec for starters, and use a tripod) will create motion blur out of the slow movement of the flames, thus suggesting that the flames burn much faster.

Shorter exposures (say 1/100 sec) will freeze the motion, thus suggesting a cozy fire. However, fire provides insufficient light to make a decent picture at such a shutter speed. This implies that you will either have to raise our ISO or use a flash. In the latter case, make sure to bounce your flash and set your shutter time to balance flashlight and the light from the fire. See my earlier articles on bouncing and flashing by daylight for more details. Too much flash will result in a dull picture without the warm fire glow, so make sure to balance your light sources.

More resources:
Photoshop fire tutorials

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