Why Beginner Photographers Shouldn’t Photograph Fire Performers

A really great idea for any wedding, special event or gathering of any type is to hire some fire entertainers. These guys can juggle fire, breathe fire, and pretty much survive on the raging flames that are their life and their source of income.

I have honestly never seen better entertainment than when I saw a fire juggling show last year in Las Vegas. I was so inspired by the show that as a professional photographer I started to take a ton of pictures to publish in a nice little set of entertainment pieces.

Well let me tell you that taking good pictures of fire entertainers is not nearly as easy as it sounds. Of course I was able to manage because I’ve been in the business for over 30 years now, but not everybody might have the same experience.

If you are a beginner, taking photos of fire performers probably isn’t the best idea because the pictures may not turn out very well, that is of course if you don’t follow any of these tips!

Fill Flash

One thing to remember is that if you are photographing fire, there may or may not be enough ambient light produced by the fire. It really depends on how much of the subject matter you are trying to catch. If you want to capture only the fire then you probably don’t need any fill flash, but if you want to see some of the things around the fire, such as the performers themselves then you may need to add some fill flash.

Most cameras today are really nifty because you can change the level of light that that flash puts out, letting you choose how much of the subject matter you can see in the picture, that is beside the fire of course. Keep in mind that too much flash will reduce the visibility of the fire itself. This is quite complex issue so getting the hang of it may take some time.

Getting The Shutter Speed Right

Another really hard part about taking pictures of fire is figuring out what shutter speed to use. Light takes a longer time to properly register on a camera and that means using a slower shutter speed, preferably as slow as possible. Using a faster shutter speed will turn the fire from a maze of colors and patterns into one big orange blob. The slower your shutter speed is the more details of the fire you will be able to capture.

A really bright light isn’t going to need to much time, but the dimmer the light is the slower the shutter speed needs to be. Another thing to consider is that fire moves very quickly, so a slower shutter speed may not be able to properly capture absolutely everything; this is pretty tricky and needs to be figured out by trial and error.

For something like fire performers it is ideal to use a medium speed shutter because you want to be able to capture both the fire and the performers. Once again this is something that can’t be described very well and can really only be mastered through months or even years of practice.

Steadiness is Key

Seeing as fire moves at a very high speed, it is essential that you don’t move at all. Shaking or moving in any other way will greatly distort the way that the fire looks. The easy way to fix this is of course to use a tripod to steady the camera.

On the other hand you want to be able to move around quickly when trying to take pictures of fire performers so having a tripod may possibly get in the way. The choice is really yours to make and to figure out.

Like with the other tips, it’s really important to get some practice so you can figure it out through trial and error; some things work well for some people and some don’t.

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