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Photography Tutorial: How to Photograph Fire and Flame
Manual Settings – ISO
Capturing images of fire and flame takes a bit of practice, especially with manual aperture (f-stop) and shutter speed settings. When taking photos of fire and flame, I usually start with manual settings around f9 and a shutter speed of about 1/1,000, and a higher ISO setting around ISO800. The higher the ISO, the more grain you will see in your images. With a higher ISO, you will be able to increase the shutter speed and capture less movement in the image.
Manual Settings – Shutter Speed
Play around with those combinations of ISO and shutter speed, though, because you may want to create a more fluid image with visible movement or spark trails using a lower ISO and slower shutter speed. Regardless of what type of image you are trying to create, try adjusting these three settings until you have fine-tuned the combination of light, shadow, and movement you are trying to create.
More Tips for Photographing Fire and Flame
Aperture, Shutter Speed, & ISO
Once you adjust the f-stop, shutter speed, and ISO, take a look at the images you are getting. Are the highlights in the flames blown out? If so, reduce your ISO or increase your shutter speed, or both. Are your images really dark, with just a little bit of flame? If so, you may need to increase your ISO or reduce your shutter speed. You can adjust your settings to create different effects, as I mentioned above, as well. Do you like long, trailing sparks in your shot? Then a good setting will have a much slower shutter speed in order to capture the movement of the sparks. Be careful, though, because if you don’t compensate with a lower ISO (like ISO200 or 400) and a smaller aperture (like f16 or even f22), you’ll easily blow out the highlights.
Fine Tuning Your Settings
Try adjusting one setting a little bit at a time until you start to hone in your flame photos. Also remember that ambient light and other conditions will force you to adapt your combination of settings, so there’s not one “perfect” combination of aperture, shutter speed, and ISO when photographing fire and flame. I took some of my flame photos (like the one below) in the middle of the day, but I shot others late at night in the dark. Each unique combination of light will require you to adjust and tinker with the camera settings until you get just the right combination for the type of flame images you are “shooting” for.
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