Fire breathers

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Name
Phil Sage
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#1
Good afternoon, I've been asked to do a photo shoot of "fire dancers and breathers"
It will be at 18.30-20.00 so not dark.
Has anyone had experience of this.
I've a general idea of camera settings and lenses to use but you cant beat real life experiences.
Any advice will be greatly appreciated !
 
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648
Name
Kell
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#2
I'm not an expert (or even a talented amateur) but I went to a sports event recently and they had those giant shooting flames during the day.

None of the shots I had had the correct balance of exposing flames at the same time as the rest of the shots. Either the pitch was correctly exposed and the flames were just white in the centre or the flames were correctly exposed and the rest of the pic was dark.

In the end, I figured the flames were less important than the rest of the picture so if they weren't perfect, maybe it didn't matter so much. So I spent ages in post darkening down the flames, to give them texture as they'd completely blown out.
 
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Phil Sage
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Name
Phil Sage
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#3
I was thinking of using a flash to highlight the performer and use i smaller aperture to stop the flame being blown out.
 

Nod

Krispy and Kremey
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32,673
Name
Nod (NOT Ethel!!!)
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#4
Have a look on Flickr etc. to see what others have done and used in the way of settings.

I would shoot wide and crop into the images.

IIRC paraffin gives more visible flames than most of the other fuels used and is "safer", although it can cause pleurisy if/when inhaled.
 
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Name
Dougie
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#5
I'd be using spot metering on the fire breathers.

Depending on situation and venue, you could also grab a nicely exposed pic of the general area / background and introduce the subjects in post.

Dougie.
 
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648
Name
Kell
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#6
I'd be interested to see how you get on. It's almost easier to do at night. As you can rely on the fire lighting the rest of the scene.

Here are a couple of examples. Neither is amazing, but, clearly, I thought the second one was worth perservering with.

One pretty much SOOC. I kept trying to manage the highlights in the flames, but then the rest of the image got too dark.

IMG_7254
by Kell Lunam-Cowan, on Flickr

And one where I tweaked the levels a bit (a lot in the flames) to bring out some texture.

IMG_7255
by Kell Lunam-Cowan, on Flickr

It does look a little like I've inadvertently created a drop shadow around the two right hand flames, but it's just a trick of the eye.
 
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Simon
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#7
I've done this - both the fire breathing and the photography.

It will be effectively dark if you keep your shutter high low enough to freeze the flame and capture some detail in it. If you want to light the performer use a CTO on the flash.

An aside: most fire breathers, even insured pros, don't actually understand all of the risks. I understand more than most; I no longer firebreathe, nor will I photograph fire breathers. I've seen it go wrong twice and had a lucky escape once. Never again.

In particular, you can't do too many repeated blows in the same space if it's still. Firebreathers normally only do a couple before pausing so are often unaware of this, but you may end up doing a lot more as part of a shoot. One danger is that there is hot uncombusted vapour hanging around which gets drawn in to the lungs and then reaches flash point as it is expelled again.
 
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Name
Ken
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#8
I'm involved with The Beltane Fire Society and run the local Fire Club every Monday.
First off - fire safety. If you are close to fire make sure you are wearing natural fibres - wool or cotton. I don't let anyone play with fire if they are not suitably clothed. That goes for being close to performers too. Clothing melting into your skin is not pleasant.
When I'm taking pictures and not playing :) the best option is low ISO (100 or 200) aperture about f10 or f11 and shutter speed around 1/2 a second.
I adjust aperture and shutter speed to account for differences in flame temperature and performance speed.
Some props burn brighter than others- it's a case of trial and error.
Performance speed - some performers move their props faster so fire trails can be captured at shorter shutter speeds. I probably wouldn't go faster than 1/4 second though.
Too high an ISO overexposes the fire, but cooler props might require a slightly higher ISO maybe up to 320 or 400.
The fun starts when you are trying to balance ambient light with fire prop light :) Trial and error again. In my examples below it was pointless raising ISO too high as there was no ambient light to speak of - I had my other camera set to 6400, I think, for non fire / no flash photography.
That's the first part of your exposure!
On to flash (just treat as seperate exposure).
I generally use manual flash for Fire Club, rear curtain sync, set to 1/4 or 1/8 with some compensation to get it right and depending on the distance. I'm used to taking pics from a certain distance and everyone knows me so performers are used to facing me and know they and I are safe.
At Beltane it was different as distances vary so much between performer and photographer. It's best to use TTL for flash in this case.
When you edit your images just lift the shadows and then maybe the exposure. Highlights can be brought down if the fire is a bit too white.
I tend to shoot a bit wide most of the time and crop in. Peformers and props move as in first example - I didn't expect her to go that high!
A couple of examples from Beltane
Beltane 2019
by Ken, on Flickr

Beltane 2019
by Ken, on Flickr

Another thing to look out for is when a fire trail covers the performer's face - it happens a lot! Just something you (mainly) get used to. Watching a performance gets you used to where the fire trail will be. Adjusting your shooting height from kneeling to standing can give you a clear shot depending on the performance or performer's height.
One from Fire Club.
Fire Club
by Ken, on Flickr

Hope this helps.
Edit: looking back at my first efforts is embarrassing, but I'm getting better :)
 
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