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How to Capture Stunning Fire Photography (Safely)

Last updated: September 21, 2023 - 9 min read
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Fire photography is an exciting genre that can help you take powerful photos of fire, people, and landscapes.
In addition to photographing the beauty of fire, you can use something as simple as a candle flame. This will light up your subject, create atmospheric photos, or add a pop of color to a simple image.

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Important Safety Tips for Fire Photography

A fire hydrant attached to a green wall - fire photography tips
Fire photography is one of the most dangerous photography genres. This means you need to take all the necessary precautions before you even plan your photoshoot.
Here are some of the most important tips you must keep in mind before, during, and after your photo session:

  • Avoid locations with dry grass and other flammable objects.
  • If you’re a portrait photographer, never ask your models to get too close to a fire. Make sure their hair is neatly tied back and their clothes aren’t too loose.
  • Invest in a small fire extinguisher. Even if you’re a very careful person, it won’t hurt to have something to rely on in case a fire gets out of control.
  • If you’re an absolute beginner, experiment with small fires like candles and sparklers first.
  • Make sure you take photos in an area with lots of space and air.

How to Photograph Fire in Different Forms

Fire can be photographed in many ways. Whether you love capturing details, atmospheres, or beautifully-lit portraits, you can use fire to turn your ideas into powerful photos.

How to Take Sharp and Detailed Fire Photos

A fire photographed at night - pictures of flames
Even an f-number like f/4.0 will let you take relatively sharp photos.

If you know how to take sharp photos, you’ll be able to take atmospheric landscape photos and unique closeups of sparks.
To capture as much detail as possible, use a narrow aperture (a large f-number) like f/8. The larger your f-number, the darker your photos will be. This won’t be a problem if you’re simply photographing fire.
If you want to include other subjects in your photo, make sure you increase your ISO to add more light to your image.

How to Take Blurry Photos of Fire

A fire painting photograph at night - pictures of flames
The photographer used a shutter speed of 6.7 seconds to take this photo.

Photos created using long exposure photography will help you emphasise movements and manually create letters or shapes like the ones above.
To achieve this effect, use a slow shutter speed. The slower your shutter speed, the more time you’ll have to move your light source around. You can manually select your shutter speed in Shutter Priority Mode.
This will ensure that your shutter speed stays the same while the camera automatically changes all the other settings for you.
If you want to capture random fire movements, you can take photos of bonfires and fireworks. If you want to create your own shapes, you’ll need a sparkler and a model.
Avoid using lots of fire unless your subject is a professional fire dancer!

How to Photograph Flames With No Background

A single flame against a dark background - fire photography tips
There are two simple ways you can photograph a flame without a background. You can either use a black piece of cardboard or you can shoot in a dark room.
If you use a piece of cardboard, make sure it’s a significant distance away from the fire.
The safest and easiest method is simply taking photos in a dark room. If you want a simple photo of the flame alone, you can remove the candle in your editing program using the clone stamp or the brush tool.

How to Create Perfect Portrait Lighting Using Fire

A low light portrait of a child placing sticks into a fire outdoors
The background in this photo is relatively detailed, which means the photographer used a large f-number. If you want to separate your subject from their background, use a small f-number like f/1.8.

The warmth and brightness of a fire works well with portrait photography. You can use bonfires, lighters, sparklers, and candles to create moody, atmospheric photos of people.
The brighter the fire, the harder it will be to take properly exposed photos. This is why many photographers, like Julia Trotti, use small light sources like candles to add a touch of warmth to their portraits.
When you light your subject, make sure an even amount of light is on their face. For instance, if they hold a candle right underneath or above their head, the light will cast unflattering shadows on their face.
Knowing various light patterns will help you take the best possible photos of your models.

Powerful Fire Photography Ideas

Now that you’re familiar with the safety tips and techniques associated with fire photography, you can play around with different ideas.

9. Capture a Friendly Bonfire Atmosphere

A couple sitting by a bonfire on a beach at night - bonfire pictures
If the fire is too bright compared to your models, mute the highlights in an editing program. This will make the brightness less distracting.

One of the best ways to experiment with both fire and portrait photography is to take photos of a bonfire party. Since your models won’t be focusing on you all the time, you can use this opportunity to take candid photos as well.
If you want to add more light to your images, make sure you don’t overexpose them. If you accidentally underexpose your shots, you’ll be able to recover the shadows when you edit your results.
But if you overexpose them, your photos will lose a lot of image data and look unflattering.

8. Create a Mysterious Silhouette by Standing in Front of a Fire

The silhouette of a person in front of a large bonfire - fire photography
You can use the silhouette technique to take mysterious photos or photograph people who don’t want to show their faces.
You can create a silhouette by photographing your subject in front of a bright source of light.
A large bonfire is perfect for this. If you take photos at night, your silhouette will stand out even more.

7. Capture Details Using a Zoom Lens

A close up fire photography shot
It’s a given that getting too close to a fire will put you and your camera at risk. It’s also a given that closeup shots of fire are breathtaking.
The solution? A zoom lens.
A zoom lens will allow you to zoom in without getting too close to your subject. This is ideal for portrait, pet, and fire photography, where distance helps avoid either discomfort or danger.

6. Use a Wide Aperture to Create Bokeh

Two hands holding sparklers in low light - fire photography
Sparklers are great for creating small, sharp bokeh.

Bokeh will complement your subject and make your photos look dreamy.
You can create it using a wide aperture, also known as a small f-number. The smaller your f-number, the larger your bokeh will be. Examples of wide apertures are f/1.2, f/1.4, and f/1.8.
The higher you go, the sharper your photos will be.

5. Create Contrast With Lots of Candles

A tray of candles, half are lighting
The stark contrast between the lit and unlit candles makes this image stand out.

Fire can be used to create interesting conceptual images like the one above.
If you’re feeling extra creative, take photos of fire sources in different stages. This will challenge you to work with different color tones and exposures.
It might also inspire you to start a new fire-related photography project.

4. Take Photos of Professional Fire Handlers

A fire dancer breathing flames during a festival at night
Event photography is a fun way to experiment with subjects that may not be accessible in our everyday lives. If you have the opportunity to photograph a professional fire handler or dancer, you’ll improve the following skills:

  • Action photography – no one will wait for you to prepare your settings, so you’ll have to think quickly to take sharp photos.
  • Lighting – event lighting is unpredictable, especially when fire shows are involved. You’ll have lots of time to play around with exposure, ISO, and camera modes.
  • Portrait photography – you’ll get to experiment with different angles and poses without being able to give instructions to your model. This will also strengthen your candid photography skills.

3. Take an Adventurous Photo in the Dark

A dramatic and mysterious portrait of a man holding a flame under an arch at night - fire photography tips
If you’re a fan of adventure stories, you’ll love using fire as a prop in your photos.
For the best results, take photos in a location with beautiful, non-flammable architecture. If you shoot in the dark, most of the focus will be on your subject and the fire, which will make your results more powerful.
Make sure your light source is bright. If you use a small lighter, you won’t be able to put the spotlight on your subject’s surroundings.
If you use something larger, like a fire torch, you’ll be able to take impressive photos.

2. Use a Lighter to Create a Light Leak

A hand holding a lighter at night
You’re probably familiar with light leaks, bursts of color that sometimes appear in analog photos. As beautiful as they are, not every photographer can afford to experiment with them. Fortunately, there’s a cheap alternative to this.
Light leaks can be recreated with the help of a small flame. Focus on your subject and hold a flame in front of your lens, making sure you cover only a part of the lens.
Don’t get too close to the lens or else you’ll damage it. The wider your aperture, the blurrier the flame will look and the more it will resemble a light leak.

1. Look for Fire in Unique Places

Lanterns ascending during a Lantern Festiva - fire photography ideas
The next Lantern Festival will be on the 19th of February. This festival marks the end of the Chinese New Year and is an incredible event for photographers who love light and bokeh.

Though fire is often associated with bonfires, fireworks, and lighters, it exists in many other places.
If you want to experiment with fire safely, use sparklers to add a pop of brightness to your photos. If you want to create fiery bokeh, take photos during a lantern festival.


As long as you approach every photoshoot safely, there won’t be a limit to what you can do with fire photography.
Fire photography will encourage you to get to know your camera settings better, think quickly, and be open to a variety of creative ideas.
The more you experiment with it, the closer you’ll get to creating your very own powerful fire photos.

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