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You probably saw these cool photos that show fire rings, sparks and fiery whirlwinds? Have you ever wondered how this type of photograph is obtained? Perhaps what you saw was a photograph using burning steel wool.

Steel wool. New ideas for lighting

Steel wool (iron wool, steel wool) is a bunch of randomly laid steel wires of a very small cross section. It is used as an abrasive for grinding and polishing, in appearance it really looks like a tuft of wool, hence its English name steel wool.

Taking pictures using burning steel wool is an unusual way to paint with light and thus create impressive photos in the style of light design. You can also learn to shoot like that. To do this, first of all, you need to know how to work with the SLR camera in manual mode, have some equipment and, of course, take certain precautions to protect yourself and everyone.

What you need to take pictures using steel wool

Digital camera

You will need a digital SLR camera with a manual control mode, because for photographing steel wool it is necessary that the camera can shoot at slow shutter speeds.


Obviously, when shooting at slow shutter speeds, the camera must be very stable, otherwise the image will be blurred. Therefore, you need a tripod!

Shutter release

Having a shutter release device is not absolutely necessary, but it helps maintain camera stability and eliminates the risk of inadvertent movement when you press the shutter button with your finger.


An ordinary stainless steel kitchen whisk (required without plastic or silicone) is required to place steel wool inside.

Lighter or matches

It’s necessary to set fire to it somehow!

Steel wool

Steel wool on sale is labeled according to classes depending on the thickness of the fiber. For light photography, try purchasing classes of steel wool such as # 0 (fiber thickness 0.050 mm), # 00 (thickness 0.040 mm) or # 0000 (thickness 0.025 mm). It is proven that they work best when shooting light photography with steel wool.

Steel cable or chain

A steel cable or chain will determine how big or small your inner circle will be. The length between the half meter and a half meters will allow you to take beautiful photos and keep you safe.


You will need a flashlight to set the focus in the dark before igniting steel wool.

Protective gloves

Be sure to use them to protect your hands from steel wool, which can lead to cuts.

Eye and head protection

A person holding and rotating burning steel wool (and everyone standing nearby) must protect his eyes and head from sparks. Then fit glasses and a hood made of thick fabric. In this case, one must not forget about the protection and the photographer himself, sparks can also fall on him.

Fire extinguisher

A must-have in case something goes wrong. Remember that you are literally playing with fire!

Prepare a photo shoot of light photography with steel wool

Shooting Location

This is a very important factor. With this type of photograph, there is a high probability of fire and damage to property, so it is best to choose a place remote from objects that could catch fire.

By the way, it’s good if there are ponds nearby, because you can get the additional effect of light reflection in water in your photos. It can be, for example, on the beach or by the lake, away from trees and buildings. It is also recommended to shoot after rain so that the surrounding objects are damp and not so flammable.

Of course, you will want to shoot in the dark to get the best lighting effects. “Blue Hour” creates an interesting blue sky, which is perfect as a background for lighting.


You definitely need an assistant for such filming, at least one person to rotate a burning steel wool during a photo shoot.


You and your assistants should wear comfortable, dark-colored clothing so as not to draw attention to the person. For safety reasons, long sleeves and trousers are also recommended; the fabric should be natural, for example, from very dense cotton so that sparks do not burn it.

How to photograph burning steel wool

Prepare steel wool

Securely fasten steel wool in the nimbus without tightening it, as air is required for proper combustion. Fluffy a little before inserting the shred into place, then you will get the best sparks. Attach a steel cable or chain to the corolla handle. Holding on to this cable, your assistant will spin, like a sling, a burning steel wool. Let him practice correct rotation of this sling before lighting the cotton wool.

Install camera

First mount the camera on a tripod and make sure that it is located far enough from the place where you will burn steel wool so as not to be damaged by sparks. Set ISO to 100 and aperture to f / 8 to f / 11.

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